Maybe it’s Michael Minns’ fluid design style that provoked the start of 47PARKAVENUE, an online concept store for those desiring the entirety of a look by local artists and artisans. Between this and his location agency, this former art director’s enthusiasms are quite the enticing ones.
photographs by michael minns / interview by ciara bird
Can you tell us in short: who you are, where you are from and what you do? Who am I? I’ve been thinking about this, and I suppose, after deliberation, I’d say that I am a person deeply involved in creating spaces and telling stories through my work. I’m from Hull, a northern city in England. I’ve had a long career in Art Direction, but now I run my own location agency business shootfactory.co.uk with my partner Jonathan
and I write a successful interiors blog where my new online store has recently launched.
Tell us a little about yourselves: I was born into a small, close-knit family. I’m working class, so I didn’t grow up with wealth or privilege but my early creative impulses were always encouraged and supported, even if my ideas were not always understood.
I never really followed any particular movement, and I still don’t actually. Everything comes from my gut. At school my teacher said that I would either be a designer or a window dresser. Well, I became a window dresser at 16 in a local department store.
I learned so much in those early days, but I always knew that I would go somewhere else, that I would venture out. So London was the place and Oxford Street was where I ended up. I loved my work. Creating a world in miniature. I found it very fulfilling. Gradually and quite naturally it lead me to my next career in art direction.
Your home is filled with so many great pieces of art. Any advice on collecting and places to look? Buy the things you love. Don’t buy it because it has a name associated with it or for status. Go for love. Also, look local, not only exhibitions and new artists, but all your local flea markets and antique shops.
Prior to launching your online concept store you had a career in interior design and art direction, tell us about that. Window dressing and Art Direction are so similar really. Many of the same processes take place. Again, the primary impulse is to create a world, a lifestyle, an image. Only this time I wasn’t using mannequins but real people and working with photographers. It’s a gathering of inspiration using a fine through-line of synergy; it’s curating, collaborating, compromise. My career was fast-paced at this time. I progressed from working on projects, to managing a department to finally art direction for the whole company.
How long have you lived in your home? We, myself and my partner Jonathan, bought our home in 2011. We have three dogs. Charlie, Oscar and Jacob.
Was it love at first sight? What condition was it in? Yes. It was love at first sight. I knew the moment I walked in the door. The house was in excellent condition, the previous owners had really taken good care of it and had spent a lot of time restoring original features. The decor and various reconfigurations were all that had to be tackled.
Did you immediately know what type of changes you wanted to make, or did that come about over time? I knew that I wanted to reconfigure certain rooms. There are five bedrooms but I knew that we would never use them all. I wanted to utilize all that space, so dressing rooms appeared together with a master-suite. In terms of decoration, I knew that I wanted to keep the beautiful wooden doors and window frames natural and unadorned and I’ve always loved a pure black and soft white palette. You can’t go wrong with black and white. It’s the perfect uncomplicated backdrop.
Do you often change your décor or does it stay the same? I never think of my home as finished. It’s an evolving, ongoing project, utterly reflective of time and my creativity. I may fall in love with a new vase, bring it into the home, move it around. Gradually it finds its own place, creating a myriad of changes as it goes.
What are you most proud of in your home? I enjoy my dressing room. It has a sense of resting in itself. I play music here as I get ready, it’s my own personal space and I think it reflects me quite deeply because it feels more complete than any other space. I also feel very happy with my home office. Again, it’s a very personal space, I spend all of my day there and it has to inspire me. It does; it’s turned out really well.
Best recent acquisition for your home: My pink George Smith sofa. It was expensive but that is a true reflection of its quality. It’s timeless.
Next acquisition: I’m still working on the master suite, searching for a paint colour for the ceiling, and I’ve also just ordered some brick slips samples as I’m thinking about using them behind the sinks in the en-suite. I’m also looking at patterned tiles for under the bath, to create a sort of ceramic rug, fabric from Liberty for curtains in the bedroom and a four-poster bed.
Who were your early design influences and your current design icons? Faye Toogood (fayetoogood.com) inspires me, her house in The New York Times was extraordinary; she’s a creative genius. Also, Ilse Crawford’s (studioilse.com) work is very influential to me, working a traditional backdrop with the totally unexpected.
Dream client/collaboration: Andre Saraiva. I love his work, his creativity.
Favorite resources: French House (thefrenchhouse.co.uk) or the Lincolnshire Antiques Fair (asfairs.com) that runs every other month.
This interview was conducted early 2014.