Anouska Lancaster on interior design and her guide to festive decoration
PUBLISHED: 12:19 13 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:19 13 December 2016
From flamingos to wedding memories, Christmas decorations needn't cost a fortune, Anouska Lancaster tells Claire Pitcher
“Ever since I can remember, I have always been passionate about art and design,” says interior designer Anouska Lancaster, who lives and runs her own business in Crowthorne. Billed by Vogue as the UK’s most influential interiors expert, she’s appeared on television and written columns for various newspapers and magazines.
Anouska, her husband Greig and four children moved to the area in 2014: “We had been looking for a house for some time and we fell in love with this one as soon as we saw it. It’s a three-storey Victorian house on a gravelled church lane with heaps of character. It was a huge project – we gutted the entire house from top to bottom and restored it to its former glory, adding on a large kitchen extension. We’ve recently built an annex in the grounds for family to stay in. The house has masses of character and charm, and it’s the most perfect home I could ever have wished for to raise our children. The décor is quirky, as you’d expect, and embodies everything that we are and that we love as a family. It tells our story. It needs no words.”
Berkshire has always been home for Anouska. She was brought up in Finchampstead and the area has always been close to her heart: “It’s the perfect combination of country and city living with the M3 and M4 making London easily accessible, which is essential for our work commitments.”
Weekends are spent walking Otto, their cocker spaniel, around the local woods or along the river, followed by a pub lunch somewhere. “We’re spoilt for choice in Berkshire for great restaurants and pubs. I’d have to say that one of my favourites is The Winning Post in Winkfield. The Sunday lunch is to die for, and the setting is divine.”
Young and talented
Monday to Friday is spent pursing another of her favourite past times, interior design. She’s always been artistic: “My earliest memories as a child are of me drawing cartoons and illustrations,” she recalls. “My mother and father were hugely encouraging of my talent early on, and would enter my drawings for competitions and put them forward for local events.”
Anouska grew up wanting to be a cartoonist: “I was obsessed with shows in the 80’s such as ‘Rolf’s Cartoon Club’ and ‘Hart Beat’ with Tony Hart.”
But her career didn’t lead her to becoming the next Tony Hart. The first foray into interior design came when she met her future husband. “He was a nightclub owner and he needed help refurbishing his new club in Leicester Square.” Anouska was thrown in at the deep end, but she loved it and soon realised she had found a new outlet for her artistic flair.
She launched Noushka Design in 2007 after successfully going on to design three nightclubs in central London. “It was a natural progression, she says. “To me, designing a room is very much like painting a picture. I start with a blank canvas and apply layer after layer of colour, pattern and texture. In a similar way to a painting, I want my interiors to evoke feelings as much as I want them to look visually pleasing.”
As time went on, Anouska realised the challenges of working in the leisure industry were harder than any artistic ones she’d faced. So she moved towards residential interior design, as the hours were more suited to her lifestyle and worked around her family.
She also hoped to break down some of the stigma surrounding the industry: “It’s one of those phrases that automatically creates a sense of snobbery, of exclusivity, and the common misconception that it’s purely for the rich, famous or wealthy,” she points out. “For as long as I can remember, the vision of an ‘Interior Designed Scheme’ evoked images of super yachts, penthouses and weekends in Monaco (I wish!). Interior Design is not something that should be class or wealth related. It’s something that everybody should be able to embrace and be involved in.”
Designed for you
Anouska believes that “You should dress your house, like you dress yourself. What you wear speaks volumes about your personality, individuality and your sense of style.” That doesn’t however mean you should be a follower of fashion, think more along the lines of a classical look. “I don’t follow trends personally. I’m not influenced or pressured by the latest collection. I encourage my clients to look past trends and follow their own instincts to create a room that is relevant to them at that period of their life.”
Bringing Christmas home
This Christmas will be a lot calmer than last year for Anouska and her family as it was only last year she married, on 20 December. “It was the greatest Christmas of my life; but it was also the craziest,” she laughs. “As well as decorating my home for Christmas, I was designing the entire scheme for my Winter Wonderland Wedding. It was absolutely magical. We literally turned the ballroom at Danesfield House in Marlow into a candlelit Winter Wonderland with sparkling trees covered with glitter and feathered birds. The lovely thing is that this year these wedding decorations will adorn our home and will recreate the magic of our special day.”
The festivities will involve a large family gathering at home: “We live opposite a huge church in the village and it’s a picturesque backdrop for Christmas. There will be lots of laughter, bubbles and food, as well as card games and family movies. Christmas is a magical time for spending quality uninterrupted time together as a family. I’m excited just thinking about it!”
Anouska’s guide to festive decoration
“I start collecting Christmas decorations as soon as they hit the shops. I can honestly say that I am a little addicted to decorations. I see them as jewellery for the house. More is definitely more – it’s all about making an impact with as much bling as possible.
“I don’t go for traditional decorations; I choose colours and themes that are not Christmassy or conventional. Last year I went for a flamingo theme and my house was covered in pink birds and neon coloured tropical fruit. I like my Christmas decorations to get people talking and spark imaginations. Personally, I think seeing the same red, green and silver baubles gets pretty tiresome. Christmas is a time to smile and be happy and I like my décor to do just that.
“If you can’t find the decorations that you would like in your colour scheme then simply spray paint them. Last year, I collected candlestick holders from car boot sales and charity shops and spray painted them all in different colours to work within my colour scheme. This way you can achieve an enticing and eclectic look, while sticking to a minimum budget. In a similar vein, collect items from the garden such as logs and pine cones and spray paint these, too. By doing so, you will achieve the most authentic Christmas look but with a contemporary and unique twist.
“I also like to fill cheese domes, vases and jars with Christmas items such as candy canes, clementines, holly and mistletoe. You can even personalise these and use them as place settings. I’m always thinking of ways to think outside the box and create a unique focal point that hasn’t been seen before.”
See more of Anouska’s designs and how to get in touch at www.noushkadesign.com