The idea of moving with a young family can be the stuff of nightmares to some, but thankfully for the interior designer Anna Haines and her husband Vivian, it was a positive jump. The previous homeowners had maintained the Acton home well, so all that was needed was a cosmetic overhaul to make the home feel like their own. “We fell in love with it immediately. It was an easy sell!” says Anna.
After setting eyes on her dream home in East London, Anna quickly got to work creating mood boards for the project which allowed her to see how colour schemes and textures would work alongside one another.
The biggest, and almost only, challenge was that the kitchen floor was laid with flagstones, on a lower level to the adjoining living area. The flagstones were removed and the floor was raised on a screed. Reclaimed oak timber was fitted to match the rest of the house’s timber and then, along with the existing flooring, was sanded and waxed. The kitchen, now with timber flooring, is now unified with the living room which allows for flow.
One of Anna’s top tips for decorating around kids (and even big kids!) is to incorporate plenty of storage. “It’s not just about things looking nicer, even though it does, but it just makes life easier!” she explains. The inclusion of hidden storage in the kitchen and living room meant that Anna’s children could tidy away their homework and hobby equipment and the space could function for cooking and entertaining. Accessibility is key in Anna’s book, and even though the kids’ things are out of sight, they’re still easy to reach.
Along with the kitchen remodel, the six-month overhaul also saw the sanding-down of the walls throughout the house. Along with this, decorative mouldings were replaced.
“I always want to be sympathetic to the period and style of the house.” Anna’s house dates back to 1890, so that dictated the décor for the home. The chest of drawers came from came from one of Anna’s favourite places to pick up pieces for both her and her clients; Sunbury Antique Fair in Kempton.
Along with early morning starts at antique fairs, Anna loves to mix in contemporary finds also. She names Conran as among one of her favourite spots, hailing it for its “iconic, fool proof designs”. French homeware company Caravane is also one of Anna’s go-to spots for bedding and textiles.
Further afield, Anna loves using Beni Ourain rugs, handmade high up in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, for almost all of her projects. “They’re unfussy, unpretentious and easy to clean.”
When asked what her number one tip for decorating a family home is, Anna warns people not to rush into anything. Instead, take the necessary time to see how you and your family function within a space. This is something that can only come with time and experience in a space. “We realised that we prefer to have a comfortable space for reading, tucked away in the corner. So we set up an area with a good light and side table to set a cup of tea down on. And then we have a smarter room for entertaining in the evening.”
“It’s difficult to know how you’ll use a space until you spend time in it. So instead of making rash decisions in terms of buying furniture and installing lighting, really take you time.” She continued. Speaking from experience? Indeed Anna admits that she failed to take her own advice when she fell hopelessly in love with a 1920s sofa from France. “It was so uncomfortable, we ended up just sitting on the floor instead!”. Could it be that early nineteenth century France didn’t consider Netflix binges when they designed their seating?!
Anna accepted the fact that it was time to cut her losses and replaced the French beauty with a more practical option from Loaf.com. It’s a company Anna says she likes to use often for clients and recommends it for its quality and stylings, not to mention its reasonable pricing.
However, although praising online shopping for its user-friendliness, Anna claims that the overwhelming amount of online imagery can often blind homeowners. “People often hire me to rediscover the style that they’ve lost. They become so drowned by ideas that they forget which ones they actually like. It’s so important to stick to your gut when decorating for your home, though magazines and websites can be a great way to see how your personal style can translate into interiors.”
Words: Louise Dockery
Photos: Michael Paul/Living Inside