Friday 16 November 2018

Inside Pearl Lowe's fairytale pile: Everywhere you look something offbeat catches the eye

Life is hectic for designer and rock chick Pearl Lowe - there's the big house, her four kids, an online fashion business and now a foray into fabric and wallpaper design. Whatever next? She talks to Ciara Elliott. Photographs by Emma Cattall.

Pearl Lowe’s ‘romantic rock and roll look’ perfectly describes her interiors. Photo: Emma Cattall.
Pearl Lowe’s ‘romantic rock and roll look’ perfectly describes her interiors. Photo: Emma Cattall.
Pearl Lowe’s ‘romantic rock and roll look’ perfectly describes her interiors. Photo: Emma Cattall.
Daisy’s bedroom is a winsome mix of lace curtains from Pearl’s range and a delicate metal four poster
The large bespoke kitchen which Pearl collaborated on with deVOL Kitchens
The large bespoke kitchen which Pearl collaborated on with deVOL Kitchens
The bathroom
The dining room that doubles as Pearl’s office
Some of Pearl’s new range of wallpaper and fabric designs with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia
Some of Pearl’s new range of wallpaper and fabric designs with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia
Some of Pearl’s new range of wallpaper and fabric designs with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia

Ciara Elliott

Call her style vintage or 'gypsy with a twist' but whatever you do, don't mention 'granny chic' to Brit style icon-turned-designer Pearl Lowe.

"Someone said that to me the other day and doesn't it just sound awful?" she laughs. "I know that sort of love-worn look. It's all the rage right now but really who wants to be that? The thing with me is that I love a floral frock but I also like leopardskin and darker looks so I could never be into pure romance. I'll take 'romantic rock and roll' - that's a better description - and describes our house and my interiors perfectly."

I am sitting with Pearl in what feels like a backstage dive bar. Her publicist has found a disused area at the back of the London Design Festival, the big annual shindig for designers, architects, artists and retailers in the interiors industry, and has set up a makeshift press office so Pearl can be interviewed in peace.

There is quite a buzz about her in the interiors world at the moment as she has just signed off on her first wallpaper and fabric line with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia.

Daisy’s bedroom is a winsome mix of lace curtains from Pearl’s range and a delicate metal four poster
Daisy’s bedroom is a winsome mix of lace curtains from Pearl’s range and a delicate metal four poster

How did this collaboration come about? "Like in business, with everything small or big," she says, "it is usually something that you can't find out there already, so you have to create it yourself".

She was renovating her house and wanted to use a small 'ditsy' floral print wallpaper but was having no joy finding it. "I knew exactly what I was looking for and I found lots of lovely vintage wallpapers on niche websites that fitted the look, but I could only ever get two or three rolls. I needed 12 to 15 rolls to cover the walls I have. After a while, I realised I would just have to make it myself! I started asking someone to draw me up some patterns but, not actually being able to make wallpaper myself, I knew I'd need a lot more advice."

That's where Woodchip and Magnolia came in. "Pearl originally wanted us to give her ideas on how she could do it herself, but we thought it would be better to collaborate and do it together," says director Nina Marika Tarnowski, who runs the Lancashire-based wallpaper and textile company with her husband Paul. "It is a perfect fit for us in terms of our other key looks - we wanted something romantic and floral like this in our collections."

The couple pride themselves on working with hand-picked designers and artists such as Barry Spence whose mural wallpapers range from dark brooding skies to shimmering bronze tiles to a dreamy abstract work called 'Garden of Earthly Delights'.

The large bespoke kitchen which Pearl collaborated on with deVOL Kitchens
The large bespoke kitchen which Pearl collaborated on with deVOL Kitchens

In Ireland, if you've stayed at Killarney's Dunloe Hotel and admired the restaurant ceiling which is papered in their super-sized Holy Cow print, or visited nail bar Tropical Popical in Dublin where their Monstera print makes for an exotic background, then you've sampled their inspired papers.

And that is why Pearl Lowe's designs are a perfect fit for the company. Her line of fabrics and papers are a mix of the 'ditsy' florals she so wanted for her own home, a wonderful mural of drooping wisteria, and more graphic botanical prints. They capture her passion for vintage and faded glamour perfectly.

It's a look that is shown off to perfection in her own house in Somerset. It is a much admired 11-bedroom, rambling old pile with arched windows, turrets and rolling gardens. It is fairytale pretty, but everywhere you look something offbeat catches the eye, whether it is the beautiful art, the furniture Pearl picks up at local fairs and auctions or the bespoke kitchen she designed in collaboration with deVOL Kitchens.

The house has been used as the location for many a fashion shoot, and is also the backdrop for all the photography for her own collection of bespoke dresses and samples, children's wear and one-off lace panels.

The large bespoke kitchen which Pearl collaborated on with deVOL Kitchens
The large bespoke kitchen which Pearl collaborated on with deVOL Kitchens

Pearl lives there with musician husband Danny Goffey (drummer with Supergrass) and their four children - "who are all back home right now," groans Pearl - model Daisy (29), Alfie (21) Frankie (18) and Betty (11).

"I would never say I prefer interiors over fashion but then - these days, I would probably rather spend decent money on a sofa or a designer chair you're going to have forever than a new party frock that I may only wear once or twice."

It's all a long way from Pearl's previous life on the London party scene with friends Sadie Frost, Jude Law and Kate Moss. She famously quit drugs and left the bright lights 15 years ago to move to the quiet of the countryside.

But she sees it as a natural progression. "When I got clean I suddenly found I had a lot of latent creative energy, which I think you will find a lot of recovering addicts have. It's like the taking drugs thing is done almost out of boredom as you have so many ideas and no way to express them all.

The bathroom
The bathroom

"Living out in Somerset I found a whole new group of people who were all so open and interesting, yet not part of the media set necessarily, and all so utterly inspiring to me to get going on my own thing. And having a huge house to do up was certainly a big project to be doing."

Once a singer with Indie bands Powder and Lodger, Pearl says she has lost interest in music now. "We always have lots of music going on in our house and people are in and out, recording still. Danny will often say, 'Come on, Pearl, just sing the lyrics on this for a few minutes', but I don't have the concentration span and I am off again taking phone calls or answering emails or DMS… It just doesn't do it for me now… I don't have the patience! I am the same with cooking, I am so distracted, I will always burn something. I do drive my husband mad.

"When I was singing, I really didn't use my creative talents at all and that is probably what set me off down the dark road I took."

The dining room that doubles as Pearl’s office
The dining room that doubles as Pearl’s office

In 2007, Pearl wrote a moving autobiography about recovering from drug addiction called, All That Glitters. "I wrote it when I was sad and I was just sober. It would make a great film," she says. "My daughter Daisy would have to play me!

"I don't do NA meetings any more as I just can't get up there and say, 'I am Pearl and I am a drug addict' again and again and again. I had to break the cycle, although I am not saying that's what works for everyone, just what worked for me. I still get people telling me that my book helped them with their own addictions and I feel if I do another it would be in the same vein. And addictions? Ha! Coffee! Oh and vaping! It is a very cheeky little nicotine hit and I love it!"

She has visited Ireland - husband Danny has Irish relatives - and loves the place. "I could see us living there sometime." Though she admits: "I went to the Electric Picnic and different festivals but I can't remember a thing! My memory of my party days is bad! I do love Ireland though."

Some of Pearl’s new range of wallpaper and fabric designs with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia
Some of Pearl’s new range of wallpaper and fabric designs with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia

These days her favourite place to relax at home is her dining room, which is currently doubling as an office. Here she has put together House of Hackney floral wallpaper, floor-to-ceiling black and pink cabinets (also from deVOL) and lots of cool layers of vintage lighting, lace fabrics and cupboards of curio, all set off with a massive table with zebra print legs.

Her daughter Daisy is already a well-known model, and when we meet is taking a breather after a hectic London fashion week. Now there is talk of Pearl's youngest, Betty, stepping out onto the catwalk. "She got asked to fly to New York for Marc Jacobs with Katie Grand styling and David Sims shooting - couldn't resist. But really I don't want to encourage it. I don't see her going down the modelling route. She was asked to be on the cover of Vogue Bambini and went to Milan with them. She is so creative, she already has her life mapped out. She is going to go to [Central] St Martins to do an art degree."

Pearl's own experiences of the industry are still vivid. "I modelled when I was about 16 for a year. I was told my bum and nose was too big. I was told to go home and lose seven pounds. But I just went home and ate loads of biscuits as it made me feel so crap. It was horrible. I have always had a big bum! I have curves. It is what I look like."

Some of Pearl’s new range of wallpaper and fabric designs with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia
Some of Pearl’s new range of wallpaper and fabric designs with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia

On downsizing...

"Never! Even though it is a big house we can always shut off a side of it and just heat one bit. I would, however, like to buy somewhere abroad as well. The winters are brutal here."

On running a business...

"I am the worst person to run a business. But then I do run it from the heart and go with my instinct which maybe isn't such a bad thing."

Something you wish you had designed...

"The Hotel Costes in Paris."

Favourite designers...

"Chanel. Alexander McQueen. Rose Uniacke. Rachel Ashwell.

Some of Pearl’s new range of wallpaper and fabric designs with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia
Some of Pearl’s new range of wallpaper and fabric designs with bespoke company, Woodchip and Magnolia

Sunday Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life