Anouska Lancaster and her design language are one and the same: bold, full of personality and fearless. She is the founder of Noushka Design, a brand that is leading a new wave of Interior Design that encourages creativity, imagination, and that motivates everyone to think outside the box. We sat down with the self-proclaimed rule-breaker, to get to know the woman behind the designs. And our conclusion is simple: Alice got it all wrong, this is wonderland...
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ever since I can remember, I have always been passionate about art and design. My earliest memories as a child are of me drawing cartoons and illustrations. 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.
I grew up wanting to be a cartoonist. I was totally obsessed with shows of the 80's - 'Rolf's Cartoon Club' and 'Hart Beat' with Tony Hart. Tony Hart was my hero. Rarely would I be seen without a pen and paper. I would doodle away whilst glued to the TV, trying to recreate the exciting and vivid images on the screen.
Art is in my veins; it always was, and always will be. I think you are born with natural artistic flair; I don't think it can't be 'taught'. You either have it or you don't.
Q: How would you describe your interior style?
I have a design style that is unique to me, but if I had to describe it; I would say that it’s all about creating a brave and bold room that is a visionary feast for eyes and which reflects the individuals’ unique style and personality.
My goal is always to design a space that is exciting, enticing, and that has huge impact. Most importantly, every room I design must tell a story. My home is a colourful celebration of everything that we as a family love; and our story so far. It is a total reflection of mine and my family’s individual personalities - our travels, our memories, our passions. A successful interior is one that you don’t want to leave; a personal sanctuary.
Q: How was Noushka Design born? Did you always know you wanted to open your own design studio?
Getting into Interior Design was a natural progression for me. My art and design passion remained with me growing up, but entering new phases of life such as buying a home and having a family threw me into unknown territory. That’s when I called on my key skill set for a new and challenging phase in my life.
I decided to found Noushka Design as I was bored of seeing nondescript interiors. Interiors that were lifeless, dull, and that didn't tell a story. I often use fashion as a parallel when it comes to explaining my philosophy on Interior Design: You should dress your house, like you dress yourself. I rarely see anyone going out top to toe in grey cotton, without an accessory or even a handbag. What you wear speaks volumes about your personality, your individuality and your sense of style. Your interior should do the same.
Another reason for setting up Noushka Design was to break down some of the stigma behind Interior Design. Interior Design is one of those phrases that automatically creates a sense of snobbery and exclusivity. The common misconception is that it's purely for the rich, famous or wealthy. I don't know about you, but for as long as I can remember, the words 'Interior Designed Scheme' evokes images of super yachts, penthouses and weekends in Monaco (….I wish!). Interior Design is not something that should be class related or wealth related. It is something that everybody should be able to embrace and be involved in.
Q: What would you say makes a house, a home?
For a house to be a 'home', it needs to reflect your style, passions and personality. That is the ethos of my brand - I want to create homes not show rooms. An individual will only be 'at home' in a space where they are content and surrounded by the things that bring them joy - be it colours they are drawn to, or personal possessions. In my work, I find it essential to spend time getting to know my clients on a personal level, to understand their story and their lifestyle.
For example, art is a fantastic starting point when it comes to creating a room. A client choosing a piece of art will instantly give me an idea of their vision; their personality and the colours that they are instinctively drawn towards.
Q: What 3 items would you chose to describe your interior style?
Most definitely a flamingo, something monochrome (ideally black and white stripes), colourful and fabulous artwork!
"Every room I design must tell a story. A successful interior is one that you don’t want to leave; a personal sanctuary."
Q: What is your favourite design trend of 2017, thus far?
Personally, I don’t follow trends - and I encourage my clients to do so too! Trends come and go. They may seem fun at the time but they soon disappear, resulting in a scheme looking dated within 6 - 12 months. I will often use fashion as a parallel - You wouldn’t choose the latest outfit off the catwalk to wear every day, you’d choose an outfit that suits you and your personal style. Interior design works in the same way.
That said, it is of course essential to keep an eye on the newest and latest products and techniques in the design world. I then ‘cherry pick’ what I like and what fits in with my own personal style. It is important that my clients are not ruled by the trends, but that the trends are ruled by them.
I am a huge fan of metallic, and always use them in my designs. 2017 has seen the rise of more brass and gold tones. What is great about a component that you regularly use becoming ‘trendy’ is that it gives you more options. I would have had to look high and low for a brass coloured wallpaper a couple years ago - now it’s readily available!
Q: Your fireplace is stunning! What are your top 3 tips for decorating a fireplace mantel?
1) If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, make this the focal point of the room. 2) Hang a piece of art that you absolutely love, or choose a wallpaper to adorn your chimney breast/fireplace wall. See your fireplace as a statement to the world! It is your personal stage to sing 'this is my style and this is who I am'. 3) I always layer items on my mantelpiece. Candle holders, tealights, jars - you name it. I would say to adorn your fireplace with items that have meaning to you and display them creatively using various heights, materials and textures to create interest.
Q: Your interiors really make the case for ‘more is more’ - how do you keep it from being too much?
Getting the correct balance of items and colours in your interior is absolute key. It may often look as though an interior has been radically thrown together by chance, but there is an almost mathematical strategy behind creating the perfect space. This formula isn’t written into a rule book – it’s just about making the scheme pleasing to the eye - and even better - making it memorable! This is most easily done by building the scheme as if you were painting a picture - adding colour and pattern layer by layer, stepping back, observing, then adding more or taking away. It’s about trial and error, taking risks and not being afraid of trying things! For example, I will always use more than one accent colour, and I’ll use these accent colours in varying proportions to create the perfect balance. For instance, red is a very powerful and effective colour so I’ll only use it in small doses to add an injection of vibrancy in the form of a cushion or a plate on the wall.
Masterpieces are created by removing the fear and following your intuition. You’ll know when the balance of your scheme is right because it will make you happy, and that’s all that matters.
Q: Your wallpaper is one of our favourite elements in your home! How do you go about choosing it?
Pure and simple - I choose wallpapers that I love and that I cannot live without! It is the simplest formula and one that I live and work by. If you love it then you must have it! Nine times out of ten, I will design an entire room around a wallpaper or a piece of art that I have fallen in love with. It is a fail proof way of knowing that you or your client will be thrilled with the result, as the wallpaper has already captured your heart!
Q: What was your favourite space to decorate, and why?
I absolutely love decorating hallways and landings. Funnily enough, these are the areas that most designers hate designing! I think that they are so often overlooked as simply a 'walk way' or a 'passage'. To me, a hallway is the prologue of your book - it's the first impression of you and your style - the first glimmer of what the rest of your house will look like. Furthermore, you can go crazy with the decor as it's an area that is normally used for small periods of time and therefore it can be as loud and as overpowering as you please!
I have a different brightly coloured and madly patterned wallpapers on each and every landing in my house. You can never see two of them at the same time so they don't need to flow, they are the focal point of each floor. Wallpapers in small areas bring interest and personality to each space, spaces that would not have a purpose without them.
Q: The gold mannequin lamp is absolutely fabulous! What’s the story behind it?
I am the Interiors Editor for a magazine called 'Estila'. I asked my Editor in Chief if I could write an article on 'luxecycling' as I've been a fan of 'upcycling' for some time. I had come across a very talented lady called Zoe Pocock on instagram, and she was making the most beautiful pieces of 'luxecycled' furniture for her shop 'Mucknbrass'. I met with Zoe in her shop and instantly fell in love with the gold lamp, it literally had to come home with me that day! My husband thinks I am crazy as he never knows what I will come home with next!
Zoe and I are completely on the same page when it comes to our taste and style so Zoe will often make bespoke pieces for me and my clients. It really helps when you can work with someone who is completely on your wave length and has the same vision as you.
Q: The umbrellas hanging from the skylight in your kitchen are just magical! How did you come up with the idea?
There is a funny story to the umbrellas; they were my second choice! My first choice was to have a colourful carousel horse hanging from my skylight. I spent months going around antique fairs trying to find one, and eventually found a very talented carpenter who commissioned these horses and agreed to make one for me. I chose the size and the colours (she even had a name that would grace her neck like the original horses at the fairground), I had done all my research! But there was to be a problem. When John came for a site visit, he disclosed that the horse was to weigh 35 kilos and informed me that my lantern would be unable to take the weight, and that my skylight would most definitely smash into a million pieces under the strain! I was devastated. The skylight looked so dull and boring after my expectations of a horse, so I had to come up with a colourful and dramatic alternative (that didn't weigh 35kg!).
Q: What would your home feel empty without?
My home would feel empty without colour. To me, colour is the language of the soul, it's personality and expression personified.
Q: And finally, what advice would you give to someone looking to enter the interior design industry?
Be prepared to work for very little. In the beginning, I worked for free so that I could gain experience and create a portfolio of work. Don't be selective about the work you take on. Accept anyone who is willing to pay you or give you an opportunity!
Be patient and positive. These things take time and do not happen overnight. I have had as many no's as yes's in my career. Work hard and be passionate about all you do – it will definitely show in your work. Believe in yourself, and others will believe in you.
Research and educate yourself. Go to as many exhibitions, shows and galleries as possible to absorb other people's work and gather inspiration. Travel is also key to personal inspiration for me. Take photos and compile albums of things that excite you - read books and magazines and follow other designers’ work online. I am always learning and always educating myself.
Network and meet people. Set up accounts on social media. It is a great way of networking as well as collecting ideas. Join a small business club, and enrol in a 'business starter course'. I have done numerous additional courses at the KLC in Chelsea on 'how to run your own business'.
And most importantly, recognise your weaknesses and work on them! Don’t ever let them hold you back.