With 2020 already dubbed the year of the staycation thanks to ever-changing quarantine rules, what better time to create a boutique hotel vibe in the safety of your own home?
It’s something stylist Sarita Sharma couldn’t wait to embark on and she has plenty of savvy style tips on how you can create a similarly luxe makeover on a budget.
Lockdown gave Sarita the time and space to revamp and accessorise her four-storey house in Surbiton for the first time in 22 years, mainly using furnishings and pieces she’d collected from travels and photographic shoots which were languishing forgotten in her loft.
‘The whole house used to be very minimalist, painted white throughout, with pale wood floors so that it was a blank canvas for shoots and TV work,’ says Sarita, who often works with her interior photographer husband Dominic Blackmore. ‘My kids Tobias and Liberty used to hate that they didn’t have a “normal” house with framed family photos everywhere!
‘I wanted to make it more homely, so we started by painting the sitting room in Farrow & Ball’s Hardwick White and rediscovered pieces I had collected over the years.’
‘Utilise and reuse’ is Sarita’s mantra. With no spare cash to splurge, the former Conran Design Group stylist, who creates looks for high street names such as Habitat, M&S and Dulux, as well as shoots for Living Etc and Homes & Gardens, gets a thrill from repurposing old finds from her loft, or moving items to see where they work best.
The quirkier the better – she has a couple of American car bonnets which were props from a fashion shoot, an original brick mould, a vintage zebra skin from Namibia and artwork from street artist Paul ‘Don’ Smith.
‘This house has evolved and now it’s all about collating pieces and making them work together,’ she adds. ‘The rattan baskets on the living room wall were bought in Zimbabwe before my kids were born and had been hidden in the loft for years. I found them during lockdown and luckily they were still in perfect condition.
‘And our master bedroom, which was dark grey, looked nice when we first did it but I wanted to refresh it.
‘The wall hangings are Mali mudcloths from Zambia, and the baskets are from my Zimbabwe stash.
‘The wooden bench was discounted after a shoot I did and we bought the bed blanket on a trip to Mexico last year.
‘The armoire was bought for £400 from a local shop when we moved in – that made the final cut as I still love it.’ Sarita teamed a Wayfair bedframe with a White Company headboard from eBay, an armchair from Ikea and extra-long curtains from Maison du Monde, describing the overall look as ‘an eclectic mix on a shoestring budget’.
She loved the dramatic green panelling in the spare bedroom so used it as a backdrop for a calming new workspace, adding rugs from the loft and moving accessories from her living room to complete the look.
An original Babe Rainbow piece by pop art godfather Peter Blake – handed down from Sarita’s father – stands above the fireplace in Tobias’s bedroom while the fireplace plaster was scraped back to reveal stunning sunny yellow original tiles beneath.
The biggest project was the neglected garden area. ‘It’s been an eyesore for years,’ admits Sarita, who is a mentor for the Design For Diversity campaign and actively sources BAME products from young brands including Osime Home, Ore Mi and Cocochi to promote in shoots.
‘This spring, knowing we would spend a lot of time at home, we gave it a fresh lift with Andrew Martin’s Georgian Clay terracotta paint, which can be used inside and outside. We didn’t have the money to paint the entire yellow wall at the back of the house so we pressure washed it and painted just the lower section black, which worked beautifully.
‘The cushions on the moulded seating came from a shoot, and even though I would never choose pink ordinarily, they really work.’
With a kitchen renovation just completed – they replaced bulky wall units with open shelving and painted the existing doors beneath the concrete work surfaces black, just adding new handles for a fresh feel – the house is finally ‘done’.
‘Lockdown taught me a lot,’ adds Sarita. ‘I’m usually running from assignment to assignment with no time to spare but I was not only able to give my house a revamp but I reinvented myself, starting pilates, eating more healthily and walking my dog every day instead of getting someone to do it for me!
‘Life is very different to how it was before; everything has slowed down and I’m much happier.’
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