At Home With Interior Designer Janice Issitt

Janice Issitt is an interior designer and founder member of new online interiors community at{mine}, which helps design lovers to discover real interiors from across the globe. You can sign up now to become part of the at{mine} community and discover the inspirational stories, people and brands behind beautiful real interiors today.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in Hertfordshire and moved to London with my first job in the 1980s. I worked in the music business for twenty years, in various companies and roles ending up as Head of International Promotions at a record company.  I’ve always made things, stained glass, embroidery, silversmithing, etc. and have also always taken photos, back to when we used film.  After being made redundant I started to sell what I made at Camden Market, Country Living Fairs and so on, working from the table in my flat in Crouch End.

2. Where do you live?

I moved from London eight years ago for more space and a complete change of life.

Having lost both my parents and several good friends I decided to start life anew in a country village surrounded by thatched cottages and lots of wildlife. I now live in a village near Aylesbury, there is one pub and a church and two buses a day. I’ve swapped the North Circular for country lanes and green as far as the eye can see, the only traffic jams being if you get stuck behind a tractor.

3. Tell us a little bit about your home. What made you choose to live here in this property?

My home was a project purchase, I really wanted to do more interior designing and decorating, having done quite a few improvements to my London flat where I taught myself to design kitchens and put back original features.  So the house I bought was in the perfect location but needed totally refurbishing.

Having had lovely large rooms in London, with high ceilings, we soon found out that this is rare in country properties.  So we had to rule out low ceilings and beams as my partner is 6ft.5 inches, and literally couldn’t stand up in some of the cottages we looked at.  We found a detached house with big back and front gardens, big enough for a garden studio for music and parking for several cars, however, the room sizes and shapes are not ideal, mostly being long and narrow, but this was our compromise.

4. What improvements have you made?

Decorating is easy - taking away the 1980’s wallpaper and carpets didn’t take too long - but as I was doing it all myself, I found that painting over all the dark wood (every single door, window frame, bannisters) was the most time consuming thing.

I painted every inch, even the kitchen cupboards.  To start with I chose neutral colours, and lived with the lighter and brighter rooms for about a year before I started to add my trademark colour combinations.  I also made all the curtains and soft furnishings, taught myself how to re-cover chairs and sofas and up-cycle furniture bought at auction.

I believe you have to live in a space for a while before you can decide how it should be, what is its functionality, how much time do you spend in that room and what is it you like to do there.  There is no point having a formal dining room if you never sit and have dinner with anyone, you would be better off using that space as a workroom, for instance.  So when you first move somewhere, I recommend painting it a light colour and don’t make any rash decisions about what each room is going to be. If you have two small rooms that don’t get used then knock them into one big one that does get used.

Once you have figured out what you do in each room them you can start to add the colours. If you want to be very calm, say in a bedroom, then keep it pastel. If the lounge is about daytime activity then have exciting colours that invigorate. Bright colours work well in places like halls, where you don’t sit at look at them all day but are cheerful to walk past.

So what improvements have I made, well everything really.  I reconfigured the upstairs, knocking down two walls to make the tiny bathroom and tiny back bedroom into one big bathroom with a claw-foot bath at one end and a shower at the other.

The house looks like a Victorian cottage from the outside, but as it was built in the 1980s between a row of houses from the 1800’s and a 15th Century thatch, it had to blend in.  Inside this was not the case. So I found things like, a cast iron fireplace from 1890 and put that in, the kitchen was orange pine wood units which I painted and then had reclaimed wood surfaces made, butler sinks and such fitted. I changed the utility area from being all white melamine to being vintage style, a blue SMEG fridge, and curtains covering the washing machine and dishwasher. Shelves display my collections of kitchenalia.

I found old Georgian shutters for one window, and despite the fact that they are the wrong size for the window, everyone loves them and thinks they are original to the building.  The floor was concrete and covered in carpets on the ground floor.  It took me ages to find the right carpenter who would do what I wanted and put down reclaimed pine floorboards.  The boards were cut from old church beams and have character and imperfections.   My personal taste is for things with imperfections and a history. If something is hand made I want it to look hand made.

5. What's your favourite room?

I’m not sure I have a favourite room, although I do love the vibe in my lounge, with its strong coloured walls and collections of ethnic and vintage textiles and original art.  However I spend a lot of time in my bedroom, with the cats all around me, working on laptop and phone while watching films.

6. How has your home interior been inspired by your fellow at{mine} community members?

at{mine} is a great reference place for interiors, I like to see what people are doing who have a different aesthetic to mine. Urban Jungle Bloggers and Styling The Seasons are both great fun to follow particularly because I never stop changing my home, seasonally painting walls and using nature to reflect those seasons too.  Rugs and quilts go in and out of the loft depending on weather.  I have found that seeing plant arrangements has got me buying houseplants and succulents now.  I’m also discovering new brands that I can work into my boho eclectic style.

7. Describe your perfect day spent at home. 

My perfect day spent at home would be one where the weather is glorious.  I then may put down the laptop, open up all the French windows onto the garden and enjoy the work we have done there.  I’ve just planted a rose garden outside the French windows and am hoping that by next year there will be an abundance of scents wafting around.  The cats (four of them) all join us in the garden for fun and games and even our blind cat frolics around when it’s sunny.

Been inspired by what you’ve seen? You can find more lovely images of Janice’s home over on at{mine}. Don’t forget, to sign up now to become part of the at{mine} community and discover the inspirational stories, people and brands behind beautiful real interiors today.