Q&A with Lily Paulson-Ellis

You have created some wonderful rooms for children. Where do you start and how do you adapt as they grow?

The layout is so important for children’s rooms so I make sure we get that right first. For baby rooms I prefer a cot bed to a little cot because the baby can be in it for a good 3 years before you need to change them up. I favour a chest of drawers with a changing station on top over a specific changing table because it continues to provide useful storage when they  later outgrows the nappy stage. But do make sure you get a high one because otherwise you will get an achey back from stooping over. And then a really comfortable armchair. I don’t love specific nursing chairs because they are hugely expensive and not something you are using for long. It should be comfortable with arms and a high back for those night feeds but once they are older you can read bedtime stories together in them. I like to leave space in the room because they will play on the floor for years. Don’t be tempted to over furnish it. And then of course there is the scheme itself. I love a whimsical wallpaper and they don’t have to be babyish to be inspirational and magical. Cole & Son and Juliet Travers do this so well. With a bold patterned wallpaper I make sure to keep the blind more simple, perhaps a textured linen but with a contrast trim or band. And adding some fun feature handles to wardrobes and chests from somewhere like Anthropolgie is a cheap way to add a bit more magic.

The layout is just as important for older children and even more so after our experience of homeschooling. The bed and curtains are probably your most expensive pieces other than any joinery so I make sure they are not items that will date. And I always suggest getting the same quality mattress as your own because so many parents end up being booted out of their own bed by a little person after a nightmare!

We particularly love your ‘ice cream palettes, and the way you make kitchen so sunny! How do you achieve this?

We definitely make sure we can get as much light in as possible when we are looking at the interior architecture so skylights and big doors onto the garden. This is the room that we spend more time in than any other so it can’t be dingy or dreary. Kitchens are generally the biggest area of the budget on any project so my clients tend to go for a neutral and light colour on the cabinetry that won’t date. As well as looking beautiful I find the marble look quartz out there are the most practical. Whilst granite is really tough and durable I do find that food splodges can go unnoticed on a dark work top – that is my Monica clean obsession there! You’ve got the neutral cabinetry and the white worktop which makes up the biggest elements of the kitchen visually so I like to ground it all with lots of texture whether that be timber or stone floor, brick & critical, antique brass ironmongery & taps, light fittings and I love to bring in colour or pattern (or both) on bar stools or blinds. Again as the room you are going to live in most it shouldn’t be too clinical and sparse, make it homey and lived in.

You’ve always been in favour or working with what’s already there, where possible and practical, rather than rushing off to buy new. Can you tell us more about this?

Yes absolutely. It is so great to see what we called at Christie’s “brown furniture” back in favour. It had a moment of being quite unpopular but the way it is now mixed in with contemporary pieces and patterns is so timeless that I think it is here to stay and not just a trend which is great. And in the same way I like to reuse old or existing pieces where possible – how much better to give something a new lease of tlife than consign it to landfill. The chair in this picture is about 30 years old and was covered in a faded orange fabric but it is so well made and so comfortable. We covered it in a wool (cosy and easy to clean) and then added an ultrasuede piping to link it to the wallpaper. The chair in the Hallway here was second hand sofa.com chairs purchased from Facebook SW6 Mum’s group and picked up by the (admittedly quite annoyed) husband who was dispatched try and get them in a car! But I love how they look in this bold Blithfield print. And for this nursery chair we recovered it in a simple soft green linen but added a really fun trim along the skirt. We often find too that we can replace a lampshade to make existing lamps tie in with a new scheme so its not a case of everything new. Client’s are definitely more motivated to waste less and they love to see their existing item given a new lease of life.

Lily Paulson-Ellis