Pretty lamps, floral patterns and cheerful colours should be on your radar for a summery refresh of your home. Penny’s top tips are to keep things comfortable, welcoming and true to the character of each room

 I have always been obsessed with the feel of a house. Even when I’m staying somewhere else, I can’t help mentally redecorating or appreciating a lovely room. It stems from my upbringing; I grew up in South Africa in a home that my mother loved decorating; she wanted everything to be light, pretty and perfectly placed and this led to me to develop a keen interest in my surroundings. 

At 24 I designed my first house – sketched on a piece of paper and given to a surveyor to work out – and I was thrilled with the result. Sadly, I got divorced shortly after and moved to London, where I worked as an estate agent and then as a decorator and property developer.  

Since becoming an interior designer, I have worked on a broad range of projects, from a boutique beach hotel in St Barth’s to large country houses in the UK, via London apartments and town houses – and am currently building a house for myself in Portugal. But regardless of the type of property I’m working on, the architecture and character of a home influences how I start forming ideas. I’ll be inspired by the size and height of rooms, the number and size of windows. In essence, I think each house dictates, to a certain extent, how you should be led to retain its atmosphere. 

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Similarly, when it comes to lighting, wall coverings, flooring and accessories, I believe the properties of each room should lead the design. For example, a small, dark room usually looks best if done all in one colour, so use wall paint or wallpaper and woodwork all in the same hue. You can sometimes use a dark colour in a dark room, especially if you use gloss paint, which has become fashionable, and then add good lighting to create a moody and cosy feel.

Lighting is always important – lots of lamps are a must, as well as down lights in the corners of a dark room. When it comes to flooring, work with what you’ve got: If you have pretty wood floors, just add rugs – or use matting and rugs to cover up less good floors. Pretty tiles in a hall or bathroom look fantastic; there are amazing encaustic tiles available and there is such a wide range of large ceramic tiles which are fairly economical and can be used very effectively to achieve different looks.

Personally and professionally, I don’t subscribe to a particular design theory except that every room should be really comfortable, welcoming and fresh-looking. I certainly veer towards the eclectic and love mixing lots of different textured fabrics with old and new furniture, plenty of pictures, good lighting and flowers. And I always add a few unexpected decorative elements.

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A good deal of my design inspiration comes from books on far-off places – India, Morocco, Turkey – and my fabrics are mainly inspired from Turkish and Anglo-Indian designs, though I also look closer to home, particularly English country houses. When it comes to sourcing new talent, I get so much inspiration from Instagram and seeing what new products and designers are on there.

The pandemic has undoubtedly impacted our approach to interiors – it has driven people to focus on redecorating, I guess because they are spending more time at home and so are beginning to value improving their homes. Plus, people have spent less money on things such as holidays and leisure, so have more to spend on interiors. In terms of trends, I think outdoor living has become much more important as we are restricted to staying at home, so gardens and terraces are being improved. Consequently, outdoor fabrics are becoming really popular in the UK and now most fabric designers are introducing outdoor or performance fabrics to their ranges. These textiles are great to use indoors too – especially in family rooms where pets and children abound as they are much easier to clean than regular fabrics.

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For Wildflower readers looking to revamp their homes for spring, I’d recommend a new paint colour on walls, updating loose covers on chairs and sofas and buying pretty cushions and lamps or lightshades, all in light colours that cheer you up. For a seasonal refresh for your furniture, consider pieces in wicker and cane, which look just as attractive indoors as out.

I feel enormously lucky to have a career that I love so much and is fun to do but when I’m not working, I love gardening, fiddling in my greenhouse with seedlings and houseplants, cooking and entertaining – especially when we can eat outside in the summer.