From state rooms to a meditative state of mind: the MD of leading international design company, Oliver Laws, shares his online interior life.

Guy Oliver is the owner and Managing Director of leading international design company Oliver Laws, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. The firm is known for the restoration and redecoration of the state rooms at 10 Downing Street as well as the refurbishment of London’s Connaught Hotel and Claridge’s.

Having first been a Royal Naval Officer, Guy cut his design teeth at Colefax and Fowler before taking over Oliver Laws – then known as David Laws – in 2002. Since then, he has worked alongside Andre Balazs, created Michelin starred restaurants, private homes, aircraft and yachts as well as designing exhibitions at the Louvre, The Chateau de Versailles and Clarence House. He has recently completed the redesign and refurbishment of Ireland’s most iconic hotel, The Shelbourne.



Here he tells us how the Connaught’s chef extraordinaire Hélène Darroze changed his social media life when she insisted he photograph a plate of food and why Michael Moritz will always be his online hero.

My favourite website...

Youtube. I like that I can type in the description of the memory of a scene from a film or a song and find it quickly. For me it is a great design and music resource.

My favourite app...

Instagram is a visual diary of my life, a gentle way of keeping up with friends and colleagues and helps all of us to improve our photographic and composition skills. I also like Shazam when my memory fails me about the name of a song or a piece of music, and Zap Map to recharge the car.

My favourite blog...

Scribophile to help improve my writing skills, and Private Eye because satire and humour are important, non-confrontational ways to expose corrupt practices or inappropriate behaviour.



My Internet hero...

Michael Moritz, a self-made man who has been central to the development of online culture. He and his wife are generous philanthropists, with education at the core of their giving.

My favourite podcast...

Recently Carole Annett interviewed me for the Country and Town House podcast, The House Guest. I have enjoyed listening to the stories of fellow designers there.

My favourite YouTuber...

Randy Rainbow’s political satire with high camp musical theatre always cracks me up.

My most recent buy online...

Compost and terracotta plant pots to ‘pot-on’ a neighbour’s delivery of seedlings which would otherwise have died on their doorstep while they are on lock down out of London.



Last book you downloaded or read...

I recently re-read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. It is set in the deep south and reminds me of not dissimilar experiences during a period of my life spent in South Carolina.

Favourite tweeter...

Not my favourite platform. I have an account but I don’t really use it. I am generalising, but it seems like a lot of disgruntled people in an echo chamber

Favourite Instagrammer...

I love @thelesliejordan and another (with the most obnoxious name but beautiful images), @graciousopulence.

Favourite tech gadget...

Magnifying glass.

The most useful gadget/item on your desk...

Pencils and sketch book, followed by my Roberts Digital Radio and my Bose noise cancelling earphones.

Most useful digital resource (website/app etc) during lockdown...

Zoom.



Most inspirational digital resource (podcast/blog/website/instagrammer for example) during lockdown...

Graydon Carter’s Air Mail.

First thing/app you look at on your mobile when you wake up/in the morning...

The clock.

Last thing you binge-watched...

Absentia on Amazon Prime.

Favourite brands you have discovered online...

Konik’s Tail Vodka, Rivian Cars which makes electric adventure vehicles and the beautiful Willer.

Social media allowed me to meet...

A comment on an Instagram post led to a project restoring a beautiful vintage yacht

The best digital advice I've been given...

Think before you respond to an email and check who is in copy. Call and check details before making a bank transfer.

My screensaver is...

A French 1960s Abstract Tapestry.

My standout online memory...

My first Instagram post, when Helene Darroze made me download the app and take a picture of a plate of food.



My pet online hate is...

Angry anonymous people and keyboard warriors.

Do you have any online rules or resolutions (such as a time your religiously switch off devices, for example?)

I mediate every morning when I wake up and that is my most peaceful time. My phone is normally always on silent/vibrate. I feel it is important to be ‘present’ with friends, colleagues or clients in meetings or when in a restaurant or private place. If I am expecting a call, I try to be discreet and step out of a room or a train carriage. My favourite thing used to be long flights with no internet, which was a perfect time to gather thoughts and work peacefully. This has changed now, so I have to pretend……

The Internet. On balance, a force for good or ill?

It’s a bit late for that. I think that our life experiences mirror a lesson that we have learned or need to. We ask, the universe aligns things and, in my experience, the internet speeds it all up. So, on balance, it is a force for good.

By Nancy Alsop
May 2020

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