LOOKING around the beautiful and eclectic home of Paulette Stephens, you could be forgiven for thinking she blew a fortune on making it look fabulous. It’s a glamorous showcase for the interior designer’s talent in styling the homes of leading movers and shakers in the media, finance and creative worlds.
But Paulette has used every trick in the trade — upcycling, junk shop finds and even reinventing cushion covers as artworks — to create a luxe look without breaking the bank.
She and husband Nick bought their five-bedroom Arts & Crafts house in Willesden Green 12 years ago. ‘We wanted a family house that wasn’t a wreck but that we could make lovely,’ says Paulette, mum to Spencer and Eve.
The elegant panelled entrance hall sets the tone. A Designers Guild Harper wing chair in tangerine velvet sits next to the original period fireplace, contrasting sharply with a funky Amalux Lighting African printed shade lamp which Paulette says brings character to the space.
‘I wanted to stay true to the period of the house so the wall colour schemes are fairly neutral but you can change things up by experimenting and layering colour in.’
Paulette kept the industrial-style frosted glass cupboards and recycled worktops in the kitchen and family room but added floating shelves and designed a cocktail cabinet for the space where the fridge used to be.
‘It’s a nice way of changing the mood,’ she says. ‘If we’re having friends for dinner, it opens and lights up, giving us a touch of glamour. I also had the chopping board made which pulls out to give me more workspace when entertaining.’
A quirky I Love You print sits above the modern sofa nestling between a period reupholstered armchair — a canny junk shop find — and a vintage Egg chair. ‘The old armchair was on its last legs. The shop was throwing it out so I rescued it and recovered it. If you’re after something specific, do your research online. 1stdibs.com is great, but high-end vinterior.co is excellent for vintage and if you have plenty of time and patience, eBay still has some reasonably priced finds.’
She is loathe to get rid of anything, preferring instead to reinvent a piece by recovering it. ‘I don’t feel comfortable chucking stuff out when you can give something a new lease of life with a fresh set of covers,’ she admits. ‘It’s much cheaper and unless you really hate something, these things all come back into vogue anyway so it pays to be patient.
‘The 1980s American wooden easy chairs in my living room are on their third set of velvet covers from Linwood, while the George Sherlock sofa is on its second set. And don’t underestimate cushion power; changing your scatter cushions breathes fresh life into a room. Try to include a hint of one colour that might be in a picture above and don’t be afraid to mix stripes with a different pattern in the same colour.’
A mid-century footstool spotted in Golborne Road completes the look in the kitchen, along with a piece of carpet cut, bound and made into a rug that was just the right size for the enormous space. ‘It was far cheaper to customise a piece of carpet than buy a huge rug and I get a lot of compliments on it.’
Paulette created an office nook at the foot of the staircase using Milanese artist Piero Fornasetti’s Theme & Variation wallpaper behind a dressing table from Made which doubles as a desk. Art is her passion — a Rags To Polyester Harland Miller print hangs in the living room, as does an imposing black and white triptych of the Guggenheim, which sits majestically above the fireplace — and she has a great eye for a bargain.
‘I found two punctured Lucio Fontana Holes pieces at Alfies Antique Market,’ she says. ‘I was with a friend who works in an art gallery and they said, if you don’t buy them, I will, so I snapped them up. I’ve had them authenticated and restored — they’re signed and numbered and were exhibited in Rome.
‘If you don’t have the budget for good and celebrated artists, go for their numbered and signed prints instead, which have value. My Queen picture, decorated with tiny buttons, is by Ann Carrington, whose cutlery sculpture graces the Chiltern Firehouse. She was commissioned to make artwork for the Queen’s centenary.’
The effortless mix of styles creates an easy, comfortable vibe with classic pieces like the Eames lounge chair in the shape of a baseball mitt, originally designed for Billy Wilder, sitting happily on a rug from West Elm. But it’s the striking vintage Murano glass light in the living room which is Paulette’s favourite piece in the house. ‘I paid about £650 for it from Alfies 12 years ago and I think it’s probably worth a lot more than that now. I never thought I’d get to the point where this house was “done” but now all I’ve got room for when I go hunting around vintage fairs is a vase and a water jug.’
Upstairs, the loft space has been cosied up with a stylish 1960s Mah Jong Roche Bobois sofa in deep shades of purple, pink and mustard. And in the master bedroom, Paulette had an ottoman cleverly adapted to hide away the TV, designing the headboard herself.
‘It means I can put lights in it and build it as high as I want,’ she explains. ‘Pairing it with a simple divan gives me lots of storage and it’s much cheaper than buying a fancy bed.’
The Lucien Freud nude artwork isn’t all it seems either. ‘It’s a cushion cover I bought from his foundation that I had framed,’ she reveals.
‘Hanging a picture light above gives it a sense of fun!
Paulette’s top five haunts for picking up a stylish home bargain
Alfies Antiques Market
Great bargains to be had in this four-storey Art Deco building in Marylebone, where nearly 100 dealers offer everything from furniture to ceramics, glass and silverware. alfiesantiques.com
Ardingly International Antiques and Collectors Fair
A truly cosmopolitan affair in Sussex, with up to 1,700 stalls selling fine antique furniture, delicate ceramics and more. It has a reputation for quality European decorative finds. iacf.co.uk
The Great Wetherby Racecourse Antiques and Collectors Fair
This famous fair not only offers fabulous antique furniture, art, clocks and other vintage homewares, but you’ll also get a warm Yorkshire welcome. jaguarfairs.com
Eridge Decorative Living Fair
It is 12 years since this annual event in Kent started and it’s a firm favourite for anyone looking for beautiful things for their home and garden. Great for quality French finds. eridgepark.co.uk
Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Park
Loved by set designers and prop buyers, this quirky bi-monthly market is always an adventure — serious shoppers get there for 6am to get the best vintage deals! sunburyantiques.com
The bigger the cushion…
A cushion as compelling as a canvas, this Abstract Face design is inspired by 1970s American west coast pottery. The embroidery brings the hand-drawn design to life. £25, made.com
This pink and black abstract landscape cushion is not only great value — it’s also made from sustainable cotton and offers instant décor change — as each side has different designs. £4.50, ikea.com
Inspired by mid-century art, the Bodhi cushion with textured cotton is screen printed with organic shapes in bang on-trend tones of teal and pink. £19, made.com
This colourful Kandinsky inspired Abstract World cushion is handmade in Kashmir by craftsmen using a century’s old chain-stitch technique for an original artistic touch. £39.95, contemporaryheaven.co.uk
Paying homage to the Italian postmodernist artistic movement of the 1980s, this Memphis cushion features characteristic use of lots of colours and graphics lines. £20.27, sopillow.com
Bank on it
This Banksy inspired Graffiti cushion, featuring a colourful impression of supermodel Kate Moss, will give any ailing interior an instant injection of colour and fun. £33.99, wayfair.co.uk