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Home tours: Interview with Mairead Turner

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Ed Hawes
Home tours: Interview with Mairead Turner

Mairead Turner, an interior designer and stylist, who’s work and home has been featured in the Observer and Homes & Antiques. 

We love Mairead’s style, so we toured her home to see how her personality and individualism is reflected throughout her interior.

 

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into interior design?

M: I’m a late comer to interior design, spending most of my career as a producer in Contemporary Dance –  but, I think all those years analysing movement has really shaped my visual brain and appreciation of pattern and lines in space. 

I renovated our home and friends loved it, they asked me to do theirs, which I thought was a dream job, so I jumped at the career change – I also wanted something more flexible around my young children. I’m a real one for learning on the job, so I’ve thrown myself into lots of projects to gain as much experience as possible.


Q: How would you describe your style?

M: Bohemian, relaxed and fun. 

I love pattern, colour and layering; my style is very warm, hopefully even witty. I want to create interior spaces that make you feel like you could enjoy a party in them. I love hosting and think strong interiors help create an atmosphere and ambiance whereby guests feel at ease and happy. My favourite spaces are homes, hotels, restaurants and bars – that says it all, really. 


Q: What would you say is your biggest triumph in your home?

M: Well, it’s a close competition between my hall and living room. The hall is a bit bonkers, but people love it - it kind of took on a life of its own as a lockdown project. 

The living room has just had a refresh with a new Model 03, in a beautiful vine green, and a dash of wallpaper which I chose to compliment the Swyft sofa. As a result, the room has taken on a more retro feel, but there are still a lot of industrial elements in the space too. In fact, it’s the perfect room for hosting and having a party in – it’s a huge light room so it has a real natural ‘wow’ because of the beautiful, large wooden windows we installed. When we bought the house, it was originally three rooms so we put in steels to create a big open living space. 

 

Q: Do you have any renovation projects planned for your home? Can you tell us about them? What’s your next project?

M: I would love to tackle the second small sitting room and knock through the fireplace into the adjoining room (my office). I’d create a hanging circular fire for some real ‘wow’, which would link the two rooms and encourage us to use that side of the house more.  

Think 70’s ski lodge, only in North Wales. 


Q: Tips on how to renovate or decorate with a budget?

M: I’d say paint is incredibly cost effective.  A room can be totally transformed by redecorating, especially if you’re willing to put the work in. It’s a great way to learn about what colours work; mistakes do not matter, just paint over and try again.

Ebay is the best invention ever, it’s incredibly simple to use and is extremely cost effective, especially for large pieces of furniture. All of our wardrobes were bought from Ebay. In fact, even our kitchen is from Ebay (this is not a plug for Ebay, other online auctioneers are available!). I’d always take a slow approach to buying furniture to find those pieces that will last a lifetime – practice letting go, so sell things that don’t fit so you can afford things that do. 


Q: What’s the easiest and cost effective way to add personality to a room?

M: When you say personality, I immediately think of wallpaper; it gives so much bang for its buck.  Even wallpaper that I used to think was eye wateringly expensive I now think is reasonable because of my appreciation for it. There are some brands that are very reasonably priced and beautiful. 

Q: Talk us through how you’ve styled your living room and how the Model 03 fits this look.

M: So, this room started out very industrial and, in many ways, represents my husband’s love of restaurants. He’s a restaurateur, so it has many socialising and eating spaces with an open kitchen area, oversized industrial lighting, hand poured concrete and vintage items.  

Over the years, this room has softened a lot as I’ve developed the styling. A material like the velvet used in the Model 03 is a real softener and signals luxury in any scheme – I love mixing velvet with harder materials like metal because it gives this lovely interplay. The Model 03 is boxy and modern in its lines, with right angles everywhere, so it looks quite design-y or architectural which I think suits our very modern space.  

I decided to change the teal wall colour when I knew I was getting a vine green sofa; I didn’t feel they would sit well together, so I chose some very unusual wallpaper. The wallpaper is taken from a baroque pattern which was uncovered in a National Trust property in Wales. I’ve never seen this wallpaper used before (i.e. on Pinterest I could only find styled shots from the maker), which is always a bonus as I like to try to be original – although, I’m sure loads of people have used it! 

I’m pairing the wallpaper with an unusual coral highlight colour, which I want to slightly clash and be a bit unexpected. The sofa itself really doesn’t need much styling. Usually I’d put loads of cushions on a sofa, but the Model 03 is so sophisticated it doesn’t need much. It’s a bit like a simple dress that is beautifully cut and doesn’t need jewellery, so I’m having to re-distribute my cushions elsewhere and show some restraint.


Q: What’s your favourite room in the house and why?

M: My daughter’s bedroom. It’s incredibly traditional and is a very sweet, small cottage room with a sash window, a fireplace I reinstated even though it doesn’t do anything, and a view over the garden.  

I’ve papered most of the room in a floral painterly wallpaper and used vintage furniture and painted wooden floors. In a way, it’s like a fantasy of what a kid’s bedroom can be, it’s very reminiscent of bedrooms past, and feels like a fairytale. I don’t ever want to change it, so I have come up with an elaborate room swap plan for my daughter once she gets too old for it. 


Q: Take us through the process of designing your favourite space in your home?

M: I usually start with something I love; this can be a fabric, a wallpaper, a tile, a piece of art, or a piece of furniture. I start building from there. 

One of the joys of designing a room at home is that I really don’t commit to anything. I just can’t do this with clients, with clients I need to finish the scheme before the project begins so they can sign it off.  With my home I love the lack of commitment. I try one thing, spend a lot of time looking and feeling and then I do the next thing. I also try to push myself in each room, to do something slightly out of my comfort zone – for example, using the coral in the living room. Coral is not a colour I’m drawn to, but I love the challenge of trying to be on the edge of the line of comfort!  

Taste is very flexible, I’m learning. 


Q: Your home is in Anglesey. Is the island's character reflected in your interior? 

M: Good question, I actually don’t know….

Anglesey is very wild, beautiful and remote, so it can sometimes feel like you’re in a bubble. We can see the sea and the Snowdonia National Park from our home, so maybe that diversity is reflected in all the stories I tell in my home. 

Maybe the tranquility of my surroundings allows me to be quite busy in the interiors. I know if I lived in the city, my home would be much more tranquil to balance it out, so yes I think I’m reacting to the island’s nature.


Q: You’ve previously spoken about how your home is a playground where you experiment with ideas. 

Would you be able to talk us through your favourite example of this?

M: After working with artists for years, I’d always encourage play. I think the art of playing is about not knowing where you’re going or what you’re doing, it’s about seeing what happens and the enjoyment of setting challenges, telling stories, seeing how things feel and this is what I love in interiors.

So, in the living room, I chose the wallpaper to go with the sofa and just intended to do one wall, but then I looked, and papered another wall. I’ve now painted the coral colour and I might do something else….it’s a lovely thing,  just seeing what feels right and trying not to plan or overthink, just trying to go with the gut, even though I’m totally obsessed! 

I guess play is about enjoying the process and being in the moment. I love that in your home. 


Q: What three pieces of advice would you give to those looking to renovate their homes?  

M: Buy a new build – no, I’m joking.  

  1. Live in the space if you can and take your time to see how spaces feel  
  2. Invest in flooring and lighting – everything else can wait if you can’t afford it
  3. Never sacrifice the flow of spaces or the feeling you want from each space

Q: What other designers inspire you?

M: Vivienne Westwood. 

Her work seems totally inspired by the past, heritage, tradition and quality. She seems fearless and full of play. I love wearing her clothes - they always have a huge amount of theatre in them. They always show off, but very tastefully and with charm. 


Q: What trends should we watch out for in the coming months/ year?

M: I think lockdown has made us all more connected to nature and tuned into the importance of sustainability. We’ve had to appreciate our families and our homes, whether we wanted to or not, so I hope there will be a less trend driven approach and a more slow, sustainable, investment attitude to our homes as spaces that grow with us and that we can love.

If you enjoyed this blog, keep an eye out for future Home Tours. Until then, have a read of ‘How to use moodboards to channel your inner Interior Designer’ or ‘How to refresh your home with Hygge’.

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