Hunting down tired vintage and unwanted salvage and transforming them into things of beauty is not so much a hobby as a way of life for Lou Rota, with echoes of her work being felt throughout her London home.
“I don’t think you can instantly create a home, it takes time to evolve, much like in the natural world,” is the belief of Lou Rota, graphic artist and former producer of science and natural history TV programmes.
Lou has become well-known for her craft of upcycling vintage plates and transforming them into decorative pieces adorned with bugs, birds and other wildlife, and her work is sold worldwide, including Liberty’s in London. Her fascination with the physiology of insects and the natural world as a whole is something that dominates not only her business, which began from her kitchen table six or seven years ago, but which is reflected throughout the styling in her home too.
“Things like insects and flowers are incredibly beautiful simply because when you look closely, there is so much more there,” she explains. “I suppose you can say the same about my home; it is full of things I have collected and found which means there are little stories about all sorts of things all over the house. That’s what gives it its soul.”
Lou’s home is an Edwardian terrace property in Kensal Rise, which she shares with husband Gavin, their daughters Rosie, 13 and Ava, 11, plus of course the obligatory stick insects and a goldfish. The family have spent the last 11 years making the house into a home, with Lou being keen to take her time and really get a feeling for the space before settling on the décor. “The kitchen diner was painted acid yellow and had been decorated by Alan Rickman who was a friend of the previous owner, so for years we would joke about that!” reveals Lou.
“We’ve done the house up gradually over time, sorting out the boring bits first and then experimenting with the décor, with some of it being changed several times until it was right. We tend to spend money on the building but not that much on the furniture and there’s very little brand new stuff, apart perhaps from the lighting.”
In much the same way that Lou would source vintage plates from car boot sales with a view to turning them into works of art, she waited until she found items for her home that would add a sense of character. “I waited until I could find a reasonably priced fireplace and had it sandblasted, rather than buying something brand new, and my sister gave us the sofa and I had it re-covered with lots of different fabrics.”
This talent for upcycling old pieces is where Lou’s business success first began of course, as before she began working with tableware she would customise old bits of furniture simply as a pastime. It was when she sent some pictures of her work to Liberty that they bought the lot and the rest, as they say, is history. “I’ve been upcycling since before it was even a word – it was just recycling then!” she laughs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Lou’s career background, she has a style that is almost museum-like, with her home giving off a distinctive vintage charm. “Much like my ceramics are made with love and care, I think you have to create a home over time,” she explains. “There is a joy in finding things to fill your home.”