Robb Reader: Anouska Lancaster

The interiors visionary on why rule-spurning design language is a window on the soul.

How do you see the current global crisis affecting tastes?
I think that people are desperately looking for something that they can be in control of. So much has been taken out of our hands this year; there is so much more that we have no control over. People’s homes, more than ever before, are somewhere where they can find peace and solitude and feel secure. People are now craving a home that they’ve moulded and shaped to reflect their needs – a place they can have fun and entertain, but also feel comfortable, safe and protected.

A holiday home in Port Isaac in Cornwall. “The brief was to create a colourful yet calming room, with a modern nautical twist,” explains Lancaster. 

How do you go about making clients co-creators, rather than simply clients?
It’s really important to me that my clients are co-creators, as that’s the only way that they can end up with a space that is as individual as they are. I don’t roll out the same design again and again like many designers do. The space I create with a client has to be totally bespoke to that person’s style and their individual needs. I spend a lot of time talking to my clients and getting to know them before we start the process.

Many of my clients have actually become good friends of mine over the years as it’s a very personal journey – one that takes honesty, trust and respect: all the qualities you’d look for in a friend. It’s imperative that my clients like me and that they’re relaxed in my company, as it’s only when they let their guard down that I can truly read them and understand them.

A cocktail bar in an Edwardian home in Berkshire. “The client wanted a kitsch feel that was vibrant and fun for entertaining.” 

Is trend something that you avoid – and why?
Totally. As I’ve said, my designs are totally bespoke to the individual. They’re created organically, by learning about my client’s life. Trends come and go. A great design is one that lasts a lifetime, not a season. I feel that trends, be it in fashion or interiors, are fake and fickle. We’ve all seen those outfits on the catwalk at London Fashion Week and said, “Who’d wear that!?” Fashion and interiors are very similar.

We’re so programmed to feel the need to follow trends, to be cool, to please others, to feel secure in our decisions when the only person that needs to love the design is yourself. It doesn’t matter whether the design editor at Elle Decor likes it or not! A successful design is one that sets your heart on fire and means something to you.

A renovation of a Victorian house in London. “The client is a collector of art and wanted an ‘art gallery feel.” 

What’s an example of healthy rule breaking?
My only rule in interior design is “Break the rules”! My design icon and muse Kit Kemp once said, “A successful design is a memorable one”, and that has stuck in my mind throughout my career. If your design can stand out and be remembered, then you’ve done something right. There are plenty of ‘pleasant’ grey interiors out there, which are appealing to the eye, but they all look the same. They’re cold and soulless.

I believe that “more is more” and anything less is a bore! I have a full-size vintage carousel horse on my kitchen island called ‘Del Boy’. It’s in perfect working order, and he can be ridden, and often does get ridden (quite often on a Friday night). It makes no sense whatsoever, and is quite honestly bonkers, but I love it. And do you know what else… no one forgets my kitchen!

A Victorian townhouse in Lambeth, London. “The client wanted a neutral backdrop with vivid pops of colour.” 

How important is narrative to Interior Design?
Narrative is essential to Interior Design. Your home should tell YOUR story. It should be an instant snapshot of who you are – your memories, your passions, your travels, your aspirations and your dreams. It should be a space that inspires you and makes you feel alive – with art that reflects your personality, objects that tell your stories, and photos that take you back to the happiest days of your life.

Choose patterns and colours that excite you and hang art and artefacts on the walls that you’d sit in a gallery all day to look at. Don’t compromise on any detail. Your home should be a scrap book of everything you are, and everything you want to be.

A one-bedroom apartment in Central London. “The bedroom was small, so it needed to be packed with personality.” 

Do you feel strongly about inclusivity when it comes to interiors – eradicating the snob factor? And why?
I feel very strongly about inclusivity, which is one of the reasons that I set up my own business, ‘Noushka Design’ There’s so much stigma related to interior design – the idea that it’s only for the rich and famous or you need a certain ‘type’ of house. Interior Design should be accessible to everyone – whoever you are, and whatever your budget.

It’s about giving people the tools and the confidence to create their dream home, whatever that may look like. I personally love working on a tight budget with a client, as it requires more creativity and imagination, and this only makes the journey more exciting and rewarding.

A converted former factory/warehouse in Marylebone. “The brief was to embrace the apartment’s industrial heritage, whilst giving it a modern twist.” 

What advice do you have for young creatives these days, trying to forge ahead?
These are my top 4 tips:

  • Follow your heart and your instincts. Don’t let naysayers derail you by putting down your ideas or telling you that your ideas will never work. I’ve had plenty of decorator’s frown at me as they’ve opened up a tin of paint or told me I’m crazy – but they all compliment me when they see the finished design. Believe in yourself and your decisions.
  • Research and grow. Go to as many exhibitions, art galleries and design shows as you possibly can. Soak up every opportunity to be inspired and learn.
  • Work for free to gain experience. I had to create a portfolio when I started out, and the only way I could do that was by working for free. See voluntary work as a gift to show off your skills and get noticed. You must start at the bottom of the ladder and work your way up. You’ll get noticed on the way.
  • Work hard, be positive, be passionate, and love what you do.

Instagram: @noushka_design

“A landing area in a project in Berkshire that needed purpose and personality. Landings are the perfect place for experimenting with colour and pattern.” 


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