Anna Jacobs is an artist and homewares designer who was born on Tottenham Court Road, which has long been a destination for furniture and interiors shops. ‘I think my fate was sealed then,’ she says.
She now lives in a brightly coloured flat in Crystal Palace and got special permission from her landlord to make it her own.
How much do you pay? Do you have any side hustles?
My rent is £1,985 and my bills are about £550/month. Yes, I do – I hire it out as a shoot location for photography and film through a brilliant platform called Peerspace. I live here with my two children, Zachary, 15, and Coco Rose, 12.
What do you get for it?
The flat is three double bedrooms, living room, kitchen, bathroom and utility room, plus a big garden backing on to woodland. It sits within an incredible Victorian house in Crystal Palace with high ceilings and some of the original intricate plaster work and cornicing. It also has original wooden floors and the loo is in a tiny room up a miniature wooden staircase set in the bathroom. There’s also a stunning and unusual large oval window in the master bedroom and a pretty round porthole window in the loo.
Why do you decide to rent?
I’m renting because I lost the house I owned in Dulwich for eight years during the 2008/09 financial crisis, while at the same time becoming a single parent of a baby and a toddler. Since then, I’ve struggled to build enough capital to use as a deposit to buy a place in London again, where all my family and friends live, particularly as I’ve been building my business at the same time.
Would you buy again?
I would love to, but there are huge advantages to renting, too. For a start, the landlord takes care of anything that goes wrong – a total joy. That means your monthly budget is more consistent with no big surprises (bar wider economic crises). It also means that if you want to move it’s a much simpler, faster, cheaper process.
Have you done it up?
Yes, I’ve painted the whole thing, changing it from taupe neutrals to lots of bright colours and hand-painted murals. It’s been a lot of fun. When I first met the landlord, before signing the agreement, I told him I’d like to repaint it in lots of bright colours, photograph it for Instagram, use it in photoshoots, etc. He said that was absolutely fine and I could do what I wanted, because by sheer coincidence it turned out he and his partner were already a fan of my design brand.
What inspired the amazing interior design?
Why thank you. When I changed career in my early 40s I did a short course on interior decorating at Chelsea College of Arts and on interior styling at Central St Martin’s. Both those courses taught me how to plan and construct a cohesive design and encouraged me to go bold or go home.
My two main inspirations are the natural world and art. Nature has so many incredible colour palettes and is always an exquisite balance of light and shade, different textures and beautiful forms. I think I also experience it in a slightly enhanced way, almost like technicolour and that’s reflected in my interior decorating.
Art often distils those elements to create a moment of wonder that you can keep coming back to. My style builds on that, so that the interior almost becomes a 3D piece of art that you can exist within.
How does the property feel?
The whole flat feels joyful and makes all of us smile. When you just see all the photos together, lots of people comment that it looks really full on and over the top and possibly difficult to live in. However, without fail, every person who’s ever visited has expressed their surprise at how peaceful and relaxing it feels, despite the amount of colour and pattern and that it makes them feel so happy.
What emotions do the colours evoke?
I’ve designed the colour to evoke a different feeling in each room. I’ve painted the west-facing living room in a cool blue to give it a fresh airy feeling. The master bedroom is in soft green making it feel really peaceful but with a little current of delight running underneath. The bathroom is bright yellow with pink, green and yellow zig-zags to make it somewhere really warm and happy where you just want to spend time. The kitchen is in vibrant greens and blues to reflect the garden outside.
The hand-painted murals and the pieces of furniture I’ve upcycled, such as the zig-zag cupboards and black marble table in the kitchen. I loved creating all of them and they bring something unique to the space.
Has your eye for design helped you boost bookings on sites such as Peerspace?
Yes absolutely. People always tell me they’re booking it because they love all the colour and design so much. They are looking for a vibrant, happy backdrop for their shoot or film. As it’s different from a lot of other spaces it helps it stand out. My advice would be to express yourself completely freely through your design; don’t worry what other people will think. That way, you will create something that not only brings you joy, but that’s unique and magical in the world – and that’s what people are attracted to.
Do you like the area?
I love Crystal Palace. My favourite area so far to live. It has such a vibrant, creative, entrepreneurial, supportive, mixed community. There are lots of independent shops, amazing antique and vintage stores, so many fantastic places to eat, a great community library, a gorgeous cinema, an art gallery, a huge park, the national sports centre, our own arts and music festival, an international film festival and trains in to Victoria, London Bridge and Canary Wharf. What’s not to love? I’ve no plans to move for the foreseeable future.
Check out peerspace.com/uk
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