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16th October 2020, by
Ask the Expert: Anouska Lancaster
16th October 2020

Ask the Expert: Anouska Lancaster

Anouska LancasterWe recently caught up with  Anouska Lancaster, Interior Designer and owner of two of our very different cottage experiences from our sister company, John Bray Cornish Holidays. Anouska owns Hillside Cottage and Rose Cottage located in Port Isaac, North Cornwall.

How long have you been an interior designer, and what inspired this career path for you?

I’m not formally trained in interior design, but always had a flair for art and creativity. I started dabbling in interiors in 2010, working on friends’ houses and projects. People liked what I did, and it grew by word of mouth and recommendations, really.

I had such a passion for it I then did various courses at the Design School in Chelsea, how to run a business, CAD drawings, and making a bridge between art and interiors. Quirky and something different was how I wanted to stand out, and colour and design were so important in my work. I started to win awards, which really helped my confidence, and I’m a huge believer that a house should show the personality of whoever lives there, not just creating a show home.

Hillside Cottage, Port IsaacThe quirky and individual interior designs have lovely seaside and local influences, was this always the vision you had?

I wanted to reflect the Cornish heritage but with a contemporary twist – there’s lots of places doing the white and blue colourways, with boats and driftwood, and I wanted a nautical feel, but something quirky, and with colour.

I was very mindful of the tradition of the village houses, so I was a bit more cautious than I sometimes can be! My trademark is the strong use of colour and pattern,  so I wanted to keep this as my theme, but tied in with the nautical, seaside vibe. I love using playful and vibrant wallcoverings full of zingy colourful coral and sea-life, lively stripy blinds and individual cushions complete the look.

The cottages have beautiful soft furnishings and decorative pieces, did you shop local and where do you find these treasures?

Absolutely! As much as I possibly can, I like to make sure the designs feel authentic and are from the local area.  I contracted local tradesmen, artists, and fabric designers.

You’ll find me in local antique and charity shops, looking for quirky objects to find a home for. I was at an antique market in Lostwithiel and stumbled across some old lifebuoys and oars – I buy these things up and store them in my garage until I find a home for them. Of course, driftwood & rope and shells are bountiful in Cornwall, my challenge to myself is to use and display them in a different way.   

I also employ local carpenters, joiners, plumbers and upholsterers.  Wherever you are in the UK, you’ll find many talented craftspeople nearby, and it makes perfect sense to use their skills on your project.

Hillside Cottage, Port IsaacWhat top tips would you give to decorating novices who are unsure about adding a splash of colour to their home?

Think about it as though you are working on a painting.  Start neutral, then add layers of colour, perhaps a wash, then maybe a secondary accent colour.

Aim to deliver the wow factor, and to make people smile. Above all, it should make you happy, and reflect your personality.

There is enough grey and beige in the world, be brave and try something! After all, it’s only paint and paper and can always be redone.

What do you think makes a great holiday home?

We all want to wake up in the morning on our holidays and feel happy.  A playfully decorated home can achieve that. It’s all about creating an atmosphere from the moment a guest arrives at the cottage, making them feel welcome and curious about what their holiday will bring.

It can be a real escape from normality and our every-day stresses and strains. Its’ all about little touches too, things that make a guest feel you’ve really thought about their stay and how to make it special. My aim is to create a space that is joyous and relaxing, somewhere different from your home environment, perhaps even something that makes you chuckle!   

The location is also a key factor – my two cottages are close to the sea, and that is so evocative and powerful for me.  You may have somewhere in a quiet valley, perhaps near a lake, or a river, that immediately gives a feeling of tranquillity.   That said, if you create a haven indoors, you can transport your guests to another world!

Hillside Cottage, Port IsaacAnouska’s Design Tips

  1. My main tip would be fall in love with something – a piece of art, a photograph, a wallpaper, or a fabric, then use it as the main feature and work backwards from there.   For example, you find a floral wallpaper you love, then perhaps bring out, say 3 different colours from the wallpaper into blinds, cushions and lamps.

  2. Be brave and go for the impact – even consider colours which would be seen as clashing (like pink and orange).

  3. Let each piece breathe and stand-alone – try and move away from wanting a match of cushions, and curtains, you’re looking for a complementary feel and if you’re very daring, a clash here and there.

  4. Consider mixing patterns. Perhaps a floral pattern with a geometric one, perhaps 2 wallpapers or a wallpaper and a fabric. The effect can be stunning.

  5. Scour the flea markets and antique shops, finding something quirky and authentic can be a real focus for your room. It really brings with it its own history, has a story to tell and is so much more interesting than having everything brand new.

  6. Upcycling old pieces of furniture perhaps by painting them with vibrant colours that match your scheme is another great way of being original and different.

  7. Your room should tell a story about you, your personality, where you’ve traveled and what you love in life.

  8. My trinity is Art, Fabrics, Wallpaper.  They give me that initial inspiration, and everything else follows.

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