House Tour: At home with interior designer Sarah Jane Nielsen

Sarah Jane Nielsen has been named as one of the UK’s finest interior designers by Vogue magazine. She graduated in design and fine art, and her projects have included refurbishing private homes, boutique hotels, restaurants, bars and holiday retreats across the world. She is now based in the beautiful Lake District, where she has a studio and showroom. We asked Sarah to talk us through some of the choices she’s made for her own home – first, because we love some inspiration and, secondly, because there’s nothing like seeing the inside of a designer’s home, is there?

‘In my mind every interior is unique to its environment,' says Sarah. 'More often than not the first task is to bring in outside influences and any natural light possible. I then produce a tonal backdrop, or canvas of colour, to build up layers of tone, texture, pattern and sculpture, which is dictated by location. As my work is now mostly northern I like to develop warmth through shades of grey, camel and ivory – very rarely white, which can often be too cool and stark without the sun. I select accent or contrast colour through patterned fabrics, textiles, hard finishes and loose pieces of furniture, ornament, lighting and decoration.’

We love the way you’ve incorporated the wall in this room. Can you tell us a little about how to make a similar statement?

‘The tonal backdrop to the house is shaded white and I have used Morris & Co’s Bullrush as my contrast colour on this wall. I love the relationship between these tones and the natural wood texture of the boat rudder. Its dimensions and shape produce extra impact, but not a stark contrast, which would be more difficult to live with. To follow this method and make a similar statement, choose your own contrast wall colour and then personalise by identifying any loved artwork, wall-hanging, or exciting shape or form that can be fixed to the wall.’

This dining area feels very serene, but there’s plenty going on. How do we replicate this atmosphere?

‘Serenity projects from the main image. You can feel its calm due to the water and the image’s colours and tones. The selection of colour and ornament in the dressing of the bookshelves creates interest, yet at the same time everything 'lives' together. The oak of the table, the coarse texture of the rug, and the neutral pod seats blend to allow positive accents like the sculptural pendant to contrast. The pendant also has the effect of placing a warm glow over the room.’

Can you let us into the secrets of creating fabulous multi-purpose room schemes?

‘Interiors reflect the way we live. We are all unique in our lifestyle, family and characteristics, however the use of space fundamentally needs to be easy, low maintenance, and comfortable. The finishing of any space needs to be considered –flooring particularly needs careful selection, while surfaces, fabrics and furniture should be practical, but coordinating. Personality then comes out through your selection of accessories, artwork and furnishing.’

We'd love to chill in a space like this. Tell us about the colour scheme you’ve picked for the bathroom...

‘Your bathroom is a personal haven. I have chosen the tile colour for practicality, warmth and atmosphere. The smooth, matt dark brown works with the rest of the house as a whole. The Farrow & Ball Joa’s White on the woodwork co-ordinates with the grout, the accent pattern in the wall coverings, towel selection, and dressing items to complete the scheme. The contrast of white sanitary fittings is crisp and clean and the use of mirror creates space and accentuates the lighting.’

This cloakroom has some gorgeous textures. Can you tell us a little about the process of choosing and putting them together?

‘The cloakroom has no natural light, and I chose to accentuate rather than disguise this by creating a very earthy, fairly dark, tactile space. I have always loved grass cloths and once I found this colour scheme I was hooked and searched for a tile which would offer me the same colours and matt texture. It’s the perfect backdrop for my African masks and driftwood pieces.’

Photography: Lee Garland

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Sarah Warwick, Guest Editor

View all posts by Sarah Warwick, Guest Editor