MIXED BLESSINGS

Anouska Lancaster certainly had her work cut out to transform her new house into a comfortable home to share with her children Kai, 10, and Miabella, seven.

‘It had been rented out to tenants over the years and was in a very neglected state, with furry mould on the ceiling, cracks in the walls and peeling wallpaper everywhere,’ she recalls. As an interior designer, Anouska is used to tackling all sorts of decorating dilemmas and her aim on this occasion was to completely redesign the property. ‘I like to take on challenging projects and was excited about breathing new life into the old place,’ she says.

The Lancasters moved into the house in December 2012 and the heating system broke down soon after. ‘We had snow and ice that month and it was like living in a freezer, so I bought lots of electric radiators and we confined ourselves to one room to keep warm,’ says Anouska. ‘My first priority was to have a new boiler installed.’ Then Anouska hired a team of contractors and decorators to carry out a top-to-toe refurbishment in time for Christmas. ‘It was all systems go,’ she adds.

Removing the existing old-fashioned, heavy draped curtains and the dark and dreary wallpaper immediately changed the whole character of the interior. ‘Sunlight suddenly poured into the house and it seemed to breathe a sigh of relief,’ recalls Anouska. ‘I wanted to take away the darkness and give the rooms an individual feel, so I stripped all the deep- mahogany fireplaces and painted them white.’

Working to a tight budget, Anouska decided to keep some original fixtures and fittings and refresh them herself, including the traditional oak kitchen units. ‘The cabinetry was too dark and not to my taste,’ says Anouska, ‘but as it was still in good working order I painted it a light grey shade to help brighten the room.

I also removed the shelves from the glazed wall cupboards and painted the insides fuchsia pink. Now I use them as pretty display cabinets instead of storage, because they tended to look very cluttered and untidy before.’

A neutral background of soft caramel tones runs throughout the house and each room is characterised by unusual and vibrant furnishings and statement pieces. ‘I don’t like catalogue- style interiors where everything matches — being bold and brave can put a different spin on a room,’ insists Anouska. ‘I have designer pieces alongside cushions from Primark or junk-shop finds.’

It was important to Anouska that Kai and Miabella were involved in the decorating process — putting their stamp on their bedrooms in particular. ‘They picked out wallpapers and had strong opinions about the overall look of their personal spaces,’ says Anouska. With the decorating completed, Anouska has plans to build an orangery, along with an extension above the garage to create a sixth bedroom.

‘There are no rules with interior design and I encourage people not to go for the stylish and safe option, because you’ll never feel comfortable in that space. Instead go for unique pieces that add interest and have real individuality, reflecting who you are.’

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