Sarah Fortescue is a British interior designer, who’s work ranges from beautiful English country houses to Hong Kong cocktail dens. While her commissions may be global, her work is immediately identifiable and always finished with an unexpected twist. You can see more of Sarah’s design here: www.sarahfortescue.com and email Sarah at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In collaboration with The Chosen Club, she talks us through the unique life experiences that shaped her approach to design and why she’ll never be defined by just one style or region.
“The first project I ever did was my family home in Cornwall, England, called Boconnoc (www.boconnoc.com). My father had spent 12 years bringing this derelict shell back to life, I took on doing the interior design.
It’s an estate alive with history. The first owners were recorded in 1268, King Charles I spent the night in what is now the King’s Bedroom and during the Second World War it was used by American troops.
As a child, growing up in Cornwall, I had a thirst for discovery and would spend hours in our gypsy caravan in the garden, conjuring up potions and making sloppy mud pies.
I was always rummaging in drawers to see what piece of excitement I would discover. Be it loose buttons, a lipstick from the 1980s, scraps of colourful fabrics, or anything that sparkled and glistened! They were all treasures for a little girl’s collection.
Nature and my travels have inspired so much of my design. I still vividly remember touching down in Cape Town, at the age eleven- it was the first time my design eye surfaced. There is truly nothing like those wild landscapes of South Africa. The patterns and textures of the Fynbos vegetation, the colors of the sky, and the warmth of the sunshine continue to inspire my design work today.
Boconnoc is certainly an ode to nature. Surrounded by vast and open parkland, its woodlands are bursting with ancient oaks, while there’s a stream running down the valley and no shortage of sheep grazing outside. On Sundays, a single bell sounds in the church beside the house. It is a melting pot of tranquillity, nature and an indulgent removal from our normal hectic and busy lives in London.
My inspiration for the design scheme was all nature’s palette in springtime – the rich pinks of azaleas, scarlet reds of the camellias and rich blues from hydrangeas that adorn and illuminate Cornish Gardens. This is what sparked the inspiration for the pink toile de jouy of the fabric on the bedroom walls, and the warm and igniting fabrics on armchairs, headboards and the drapery.
Outside in the park, pheasants squawk and dart across the park, inspiring the beautiful bird fabrics and wall coverings I used in one of the bathrooms. Never be scared to experiment with colorful, rich fabrics, including bright silks and velvet.
At the time of the project, I was about to move to Hong Kong, which certainly influenced my choice of an oriental toile in what is called the Victorian bedroom. I think the exotic finish gives the look a unique edge, it can be a fine balance though, combining all the unique and beautiful details in the design to enrich the all encompassing history of the house.
When designing a space, I implore you to look closely at nature and dissect it. Hone in on the contrasts in color tones in the leaves on the trees, for example, and you’ll see everything from vivid limes, emeralds and chartreuse to mint or sage. It’s fun and amongst this you’ll find an array of textures. I love the colour tone of barks….beaver browns, chestnut, chocolate or cocoa, mustard, burnt umber or something silver, like Birch. All this can feed into your design..
A trip to a friend’s game reserve in South Africa inspired my first fabric line called Keep it Tropical. Waking at dawn in our tented camp, as the sun rose we headed out on a game drive and tiny puffs of colour would dart amongst the undergrowth, hunting, feeding and exploring their territory. These were the beautiful and almighty lilac breasted roller birds. These magical delights have seventeen different tones of colour to their plumage! I was 24, gripped by their beauty and the spark of joy these birds would ignite inside me. It was these birds, amongst an array of tropical palms, that influenced my fabric designs, drawing in the vibrant palette of jungle palms and the roller bird’s vivid colour tones.
Your style is so much about what you have experienced in life that’s why I never stick too rigidly to a tradition. For me, color, texture and creating a sense of peace and harmony are vital. There’s enough grey in this world, so never ever be afraid to use color and texture that ignites the senses and keeps life interesting.”