Creative Space: Duncan Neil, Creative Director at Earthed

Earthed is the latest brand addition to spring from William Clarke & Son last year. Earthed textiles will always be inspired by the natural world and the legacy of linen.

Duncan Neil, Creative Director at Earthed bw

This brain child of Duncan Neil, creates a furnishing brand fully utilizing the colour possibilities digital print allows, while helping to keep UK textile manufacturing alive. After sitting down with him last week to find out about his latest products (Read the Q&A here), we wanted to find out what places he finds inspiring and why.


So Duncan, where is your creative space? 

During the summer I had the pleasure of visiting good friends in Tuscany, a personal favourite part of the world due to the beautiful geography of the area, the artistic flair of Florence and the abundance of lush vineyards and delicious food. I have always had an obsession with grand homes of the past, wondering at the time and skill involved in building such creations, truly slow design.  Tuscany is filled with such properties with Castles and Manors nestled on seemingly every hill side in the region.Castello_di_Sammezzano_dneil webI weas grateful to be taken on my second visit to the Castello di Sammezzano, a truly stunning piece of architecture set in the Tuscan hills about 40km south east of Florence.  It is thought there has been a house on the site since Roman times, with many influential families holding seat here – at one point it was actually owned by one of the Medici’s. It was not until the mid 19th century that Ferdinando Panciatichi Ximenes d’Aragona, an influential but somewhat forgotten figure of Florence, transformed and expanded the Castello into the spectacular space which now resides on the hillside. 40 years were spent planning and realising Ferdinando’s creation.

Walking up towards the main entrance, the exterior is a beautiful sight to behold, with the central clock tower and double façade, sitting above sweeping balconies overlooking the grounds. The traditional Tuscan walls are laced with Terracotta detailing with a Moorish feel, the first signs of the wonders that await inside.

TheWhiteHall_image_credit_Pixeljoy webImage: Pixeljoy

Ferdinando was obsessed with the Orientalism style that captivated much of Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries, bringing influences all the way from the Middle East to South East Asia in the form of art and architecture. This is immediately obvious upon entering through the Castello’s imposing front doors. The entire interior is reminiscent of a Moroccan palace with every inch covered in exotic tiling, stone, paint and woodwork. The Moorish influence carries on through each space, leading visitors from one wondrous cavern to expansive hallways and reception rooms.

PeacockHall_image_credit_ReflexLife webImage: ReflexLife

The emotive influence that colour has on our lives has always been of great personal interest, and seldom have I seen this realized in such beauty as in Castello di Sammezzano. Intricately detailed and coloured stained glass floods the galleries above the halls creating another worldly air. The use of colour, and in particular colour change throughout the building is breathtaking. From the Peacock Hall where the ceiling resembles rainbow peacock plumes to the White Hall, a light open intricately carved stone space you can feel your emotions alter as you traverse the hallways and rooms. Patterns of traditional Islamic design gives this building an air of wonder; a geometrical explanation of the cosmos and natural world with the symmetry associated with this style, giving a completely balanced aesthetic and energy to Castello di Sammezzano.

RainbowVault_image_credit_ReflexLife webImage: ReflexLife

This was my second visit to this memorable location, the first in 2009 while it was still entirely closed. Now tours do run occasionally and we were genuinely privileged to stand in awe of this wonder of architecture and interior design. 

Contact Earthed by William Clark

About Kate Nannery

Kate is a freelance writer for Design Insider. She thinks that the beauty of design comes from great craftsmanship and has a masters degree in tea-consumption. If you would like to appear in Design Insider, please email
View all posts by Kate Nannery →


  • Kaufman t

    Could you help me visiting the castle in Castello di sammezzano .thanks in advance