Friday, September 3, 2010
At Home with… Interior Designer Anita Kaushal
I have very few interior decorating books. I have flipped through many but find they end up being more about styling or architecture rather than stories about making a home. Magazines have long-filled my need for stories. I love looking at pictures of houses but love it more when I can also read about the people who live there.
Recently, thanks to Anita Kaushal, I have changed my mind. With 15 years experience in interiors, Anita has designed products, transformed homes, written for The Observer, The Guardian, Junior, Cookie and London Magazine, and authored and styled books that have been translated into five languages. It is her interiors book Family Lifestyle Home, that has been the first such book to spark my imagination; a book that I keep wanting to return to.
As Anita says in the book’s introduction, ‘There have been countless books on raising children and on decorating, but here I consider both together. It is a kind of manual or recipe book, a collection of ideas based on the heartfelt philosophy that it is possible to create a home that is both beautiful and nurturing.’
So how did she come to write such a book?
‘From as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed playing around with the space I have lived in and take great pride in making it look good for me. As a couple my husband and I moved each time our careers progressed. Then in 1999, I decided to leave a very successful career in sales to start my own mail-order business based around mixing interior finds from the international designer and the local artisan; from products for a couple of pounds next to those for thousands.’
‘At the time it was quite groundbreaking and well received because I then went on-line and opened a flagship store in London’s Westbourne Grove. It was here I began to get interior commissions.’
‘The birth of my second child and more interiors projects changed my focus so I sold off the mail-order business and at the same time decided to write a book on stylish, comfortable family living and design homes with a heartbeat.’
It was after having children that Anita felt her home was ‘more alive because of mixing the children’s style with my own.’ She felt her design choices had widened rather than disappeared. ‘My hand blown lamp next to my daughter’s brightly coloured plastic ponies just worked.’
It was such realisations that led to the idea behind Family Lifestyle Home. ‘In my book I wanted to show that we don’t need to treat the home as them and us, but to enjoy the process of seeing the family as a unified whole. I think as well as the clever design ideas in the book, what makes it different is my true belief that home is not simply about how we decorate but how we choose to live in that space; reading, music, shared meals; a sense of lightness of being.’
Anita has lived in all sorts of homes: large, small, modern, traditional and she says, ‘each has felt a certain way partly because of its innate energy field and partly because of where I have been in my life at the point in time.’
She has also designed and consulted on many more. ‘What unifies them has nothing to do with geography or size and everything to do with the sense of comfort and happiness that comes from the people who share them and how they feel about themselves and their homes.’
Has she a favourite? ‘My flat in Westbourne Grove has been my favorite because although it was a small flat, it was a very happy time in my life – I had my business, my baby, fell pregnant and the area has such a village feel and good vibe – life just felt good.’
‘From an aesthetic prospective, it was great making a smaller space as impactful as a larger one. We then moved to the suburbs into the most stunning Victorian house and whilst it looked perfect, it was always dark and cold.’
‘The home I live in now is right where I want to be and that is partly the energy and light and partly my own understanding of what makes a house a home. It is a beautiful space and one that is all the better for sharing with family.’
Since having a family of her own, Anita still surrounds herself with the beautiful things she did pre-children, the only change being ‘I do have to spend more time tidying up!’
But, she has also happily learnt ‘to live in the house and really enjoy the space regardless of breakages and spills. It’s there to be enjoyed. It’s a home not a museum and it needs to work for you long after the guests have gone – I don’t worry about impressing others – if I like it, I will just do it.’
Most liberating has been getting her children involved with the decorating decisions so the family lives in ‘a home that resonates with our personalities… I don’t suppose it would have occurred to me to have a swing in my kitchen had it not been for the children, but the house is so much better for having it and all the other children’s things.’
It’s no surprise then that Anita’s kitchen is her favourite room in the house, ‘it is where family and friends come together and it is a very happy place which looks out onto the garden. First thing in the morning when everyone is asleep I go down to the kitchen, make a fresh coffee and plan my day. It is heavenly to start the morning without any noise.’
For more information about Anita Kaushal, visit her website here.
All photos © Anita Kaushal