Holiday delights

Joanna Buchanan is known for her luxury home-décor goods, designed in her Wilton studio and sold around the world. Now, she offers WAG a glimpse into her creative process.

Joanna Buchanan is known for her luxury decorative goods, designed in her Wilton studio and sold everywhere from Hoagland’s in Greenwich to Harrods in London.

Her products range from tabletop goods to cocktail accessories; from home goods such as candles and pillows to a bit of jewelry, for good measure.

Though she’s known for a sophisticated style that’s found throughout her collections — reflecting an understanding of color, texture and pattern honed over some 20 years in the fashion retail business — she does seem to excel in unique offerings for the festive season.

And that’s not surprising, as the brand traces its roots back to holiday designs. As Buchanan says on her website, “I have always believed that life should be decorated and joyful.”

Despite the hectic pace of this busy season, the designer took the time to answer some questions from WAG, which we share here:

Even the most casual scrolling through your website reveals a creativity that flows throughout your work. Can you tell us first a bit about yourself — your background, training and how you came to this field?

“I grew up in Hong Kong … so from birth I was surrounded by a very different aesthetic to the West. From a very young age, I was making my own clothes and building and decorating houses for my collection of tiny stuffed bunnies. I loved to create, make and see product come to life and build environments. I went to design school for five years where I focused on fashion clothing … and worked in apparel and then fashion accessories for many years.

“When it came time to start my own business, I was really excited to start with Christmas ornaments … Sounds so random, but it was something that had such strong memories for me as a child. A feeling of heritage, family and tradition … I wanted to bring that to life in product. We have found that our customers truly become ‘collectors’ of the brand. And I imagine our customers pulling out the same decorations year after year and remembering who gave them to them, which year … and any special memories about that particular holiday.

“I always believed I had something to offer in the world of home … so when it felt that the timing was right … I wanted to start a business that reflected all my thoughts and experiences.”

Your collections are so diverse, from holiday décor to tabletop goods, bar accessories to home accents (from pillows to candles to treasure boxes) and even jewelry and accessories. No matter the piece, though, there is a definite sensibility. How would you sum up your approach and your “look”?

“Whilst my design philosophy is whimsical and colorful … quality is of paramount importance. I think that quality can be felt in every piece that we do … of stone, of design, of beadwork, of linings … It all matters when creating beautiful pieces. And I hope that there is a ‘lightness’ and yet ‘richness’ to our ‘look’… an eclectic take on traditional.

“I believe design should be considered and have a longevity to it. I am not a big believer in disposable. I think if you can make something beautiful, then why not? I don’t have a lot of ‘things’ but what I do have, I love.

“And trend is not super important … I very much work from instinct and like to pull from my visual memory. If that happens to be in sync with (what) the rest of the industry is doing… fantastic… but I try to keep those influences loose and not too specific.

“As one’s business develops, it’s hard not to be swayed by the ‘best-selling’ pieces and only go down that path … but I do like to try new ideas and new ‘looks’ based on instinct and feeling at the time … so hopefully the collections will always feel fresh.”

What are your key design influences — and how do they play out in your work?

“I find color and texture very inspiring. That really is a driving force. And my garden is always full of shapes and colors that I respond to. However, I am definitely not ‘rustic’ in my approach … and do like things to have a certain polish.

“I am also very inspired by vintage/heirloom jewelry pieces and by emerging techniques in jewelry. It’s so exciting to see what is being done now and I like to marry the two.

“Our home is decorated in the way I see the collection and is very much an incubating space … If it works in the house then it belongs in the collection.”

For some, the holiday season is filled with stress … No one likes to give a gift that seems like it was chosen without thought. Are there some categories or specific items that really are the proverbial “crowd pleasers,” something you can give when you’re not sure what to get?

“I always think that I am a terrible gift giver … so I am trying to help people like me. I think the barware — especially the cocktail picks and bottle openers — are wonderful gifts. A lobster bottle opener is not something you would necessarily buy for yourself … but it’s so fun and when given as a hostess gift can be used immediately.

“I also think the Christmas ornaments make a wonderful gift. Again, can be popped right on the tree the moment they are given. I always remember the people who have given me ornaments.

“And if in doubt — a candle. Ours are super over-the-top with fabulous packaging and a jeweled bug on the lid. The vessel can be used afterwards for ‘bits and bobs’ or as a pen pot … so it does feel like it will last longer than the burn time.”

Can you share a bit about living — and working — in Wilton. What makes it special to you?

“We didn’t really know Wilton existed before we saw the house here. It’s such a lovely, low-key town … and the people are super chilled and friendly. We love having the outdoor space and garden and being so close to nature. We get so much joy from the birds and the critters and the changing seasons … It truly is beautiful at all times of the year.

“Working here is easy … I can be in the city for meetings and still be home to see the children for homework.”

And finally, does your family have its own favorite holiday tradition? And if so, can you share a few details?

“Whether we are in Wilton or at my mother’s in Norfolk, England, we like to have a small drinks party for close friends a couple of nights before Christmas. The season can get so hectic — and, in the midst of present-wrapping craziness, you (or at least I) can forget to connect with people — which is actually what is so lovely about the holidays.

“I think trying to focus on the people and not the presents is something we are trying to teach our children. A few thoughtfully curated gifts and time spent with those we love … perfect.

“But it’s really all about the food. I am not a wonderful cook but my one task for Christmas lunch is the bread sauce … and I make a big production of my only job. Kitchen has to be cleared … I need a sous chef … and several assistants … and then someone to remind me to take it off the stove.

“And, of course … we have to have our Christmas crackers at Christmas lunch. Everyone needs their paper hat for the food to taste REALLY good!!!”

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