Cornish interior designer Louise Ingram talks to LUCY JENNER-BROWN about her business and creating her own family coastal home.
Leading a full life bustling with business creativity whilst juggling an active teenage family, Louise Ingram finds balance by making the most of coastal living – from downtime recharging in the sea to seeking inspiration from the Cornish land and seascapes for her interior design business.
With a shared family passion for surfing, swimming, and paddleboarding, the Ingrams’ lives revolve around their love of the ocean, with their stylish home offering the perfect viewpoint to check out the swell.
Inspired by her surroundings, alongside her business partner Caroline Saulsbury, Louise created Mint House – an interior design studio and online store – known for their signature luxe-laidback style for coastal properties. The design principles and aesthetics championed by this talented duo are perfectly illustrated in Louise’s family home, overlooking Porthtowan beach on the north Cornish coast.
Growing up in the Cornish fishing village Mevagissey, Louise left her motherland for London to study at Chelsea School of Art but instinctively knew she would eventually be drawn back home. With a degree in design textiles, Louise enjoyed her initial London-based career in the clothing industry, moving back to Cornwall in 2001 when she met her husband Chris, a carpenter.
“It was so important for me to have my children grow up in Cornwall, knowing their heritage, and having their whole extended family around. Living at home surrounded by my family is where I belong. I grew up on the beach and this is where I feel most at home,” says Louise.
With the imminent birth of Louise and Chris’s first child Louie, Louise felt the pull of being home with the family, so decided to leave the fashion industry for new adventures. She soon realised her interest in design married with her experience in textiles and product development easily transferred into a new interiors-focused direction – the first project being her own home.
Louise and Chris discovered a 1960s bungalow for sale with a stunning panorama across Porthtowan beach. “We walked up and stood in the garden, looking at the view, and there and then we were buying it. The house was an ex-long let and in a terrible state but we always knew we were going to renovate so didn’t care too much at that stage. It was all about the location.”
The initial plan was to renovate the existing building but after uncovering rising damp and rotten structural timbers the decision was made to rebuild on the site. What initially felt like a disastrous discovery, the couple soon realised that by rebuilding they had the opportunity to create the house of their dreams, incorporating the eco features they wanted – air source heat pump, heat recovery system, log burner with back boiler plus solar and photovoltaic panels.
“Our twins Sunny and Maggie were just six months old when we ripped the house down, so it was pretty hectic”, remembers Louise. “The build ended up taking 14 months in total and we happened to have one of the coldest winters that year. The builders were stop, start, stop-start due to the freezing temperatures, as cement won’t set below four degrees – which it often reached.”
Highviews, Louise and Chris’s four-bedroom house, centres around an open plan layout, creating an easy flow that is ideal for family life whilst also future-proofing the design with the option to add doors as the needs of the family change. Chris explains: “We wanted to make the view the focal point so being able to see right through the house was important. As soon as you walk through the front door you look straight over to the fields and that Atlantic sea view.”
The design details and interior decisions have all been carefully considered with an eclectic mix of modern and vintage pieces including many family hand downs. “Being a carpenter, Chris wanted wood as the integral material in the house,” explains Louise, “however, we had so much wooden furniture I wanted to balance it out a little. We looked to muted colours and textures to not to distract from the views and we elevated the log burner so that it is more of a focal point in the room, which we love.”
“The floor was the hardest. Being open plan it had to look good in the kitchen as well as the lounge and diner. We opted for concrete floors. It was still a relatively new thing then. But, we have been thrilled with it and it still looks exactly as it did when first poured 12 years ago.
“We had ideas of outside inside living so we put bi-fold doors everywhere…what on earth were we thinking? We basically live in a wind tunnel. If we were to do it again, given our cliff-top location we would definitely do sliding or French doors.
“The budget was tight so we had to be quite creative with what was available. One example is the mantelpiece in the lounge, which is topped with leftover roof tiles. Our bathroom furniture was all bought in a bathroom closing down sale, so if you look closely, nothing matches.”
Realising the holiday market potential of Highviews, the family now spends each summer travelling to Spain and France for new surf spots in their motorhome, renting the house out to fund their travels. “The kids all surf and are members of the surf club where they learn beach and sea safety. Louie is now a lifeguard in the summer months and planning on travelling next winter. Sunny surfs and loves competing and Maggie just wants to move to London!” comments Louise.
The passion for design from rebuilding Highviews teamed with Louise’s previous work experience led to her other creation – Mint House Interiors. When her twins were young, Louise met her business partner Caroline when their children were at preschool together. “Chatting after drop off one morning we discovered our shared love for interior design. A coffee and scroll through each other’s Pinterest boards and the seed of our business was planted…it kind of snowballed quite quickly from there,” recalls Caroline.
“Having had experience working with an interior design studio, I’d always wanted to work for myself. When Lou and I started chatting, it became clear quite quickly that we both had the same aspirations and we sparked off each other.”
Now in its eighth year, mainly working on projects for high-end coastal properties, Mint House Interiors is a flourishing business headed up by Louise and Caroline, working alongside their creative and passionate team who support the design duo, carrying out the projects and managing the designs.
“Every day is different with all our projects at different stages of design or finishing. A working day can start with a team meeting at the office to update on project developments, followed by time sourcing pieces to suit a client’s brief or selecting items for the Mint House Home online store”, comments Louise.
“We are then often zipping across to the other coast for a client meeting to discuss design direction. We work closely with a talented bunch of craftspeople on bespoke sofas, beds, and other statement pieces of upholstery which is a creatively rewarding part of the job.
“With us both living on the north coast of Cornwall and our office and showroom close by near Truro, due to the very nature of our location, that in itself has dictated how our business has evolved, working mostly on the interior design of luxury holiday homes.” Says Caroline: “We have a very luxurious laid-back approach to our designs and with the majority of the home we work on having stunning coastal views, we have to be careful to complement not fight with them.”
Following the demand for their interior design services, the Mint House Home online store was created to mirror the look and feel of their high-spec interior projects and to deliver their aesthetic to a wider audience. Known for their warm, layered, and coastal aesthetic, the Mint House Home store features elevated essentials through to luxury statement pieces curated by Caroline and Louise.
Looking for coastal inspiration for interior design? Check out our article here.