After a history degree at Bedford College, London University, she worked in an architects firm and for the Architects Journal before being chosen as the launch editor of Elle Decoration and then the short-lived Bare magazine. In 1998, she left to work for Donna Karan, soon moving on to designing interiors, and setting up her own design studio, StudioIlse, in London in 2001. In 2000, Crawford founded the Man and Well-Being department at the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. In 2003, she established the interiors firm Studio Ilse, which designed the Soho House club in New York, Babington House, the Electric Cinema, and the Hong Kong restaurant Duddell’s, as well as pieces for Georg Jensen and IKEA. She worked on the Soho House in collaboration with Harman Jablin Architects. While keeping the exterior and backbones of the 45,000 square foot building, Crawford worked to redesign the warehouse into a funky club, with 24 hotel rooms, a restaurant, three bars, a private screening room and more. The Soho House was featured on Sex and the City. Crawford was profiled in the first season of the Netflix docu-series Abstract: The Art of Design.
She was appointed MBE in the 2014 New Year Honours.
She has published books including:
- Sensual Home: Liberate Your Senses and Change Your Life Photographed by Martyn Thompson(1997, Quadrille publishing, ISBN 978-1899988174)
- Home is Where the Heart is? Photographed by Martyn Thompson (2009, Quadrille publishing, ISBN 978-1844006052)
- A Frame for Life: The Designs of StudioIlse (2014, Rizzoli International Publications, ISBN 978-0847838578)
- Rattray, Fiona (3 July 2005). "Woman of Influence". Observer Magazine. p. 50. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- Medford, Sarah (11 August 2014). "Inside Ilse Crawford's Design Firm". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
- Muhlke, Christine (2008-09-25). "Profile in Style: Ilse Crawford". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
- Keeps, David A. (2014-11-01). "Designer Ilse Crawford on the Power of Dimmers and 'The Shining'". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
- "Oh so Soho: Ilse Crawford translate London's Soho House for the Meatpacking District". 2003-09-01.
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