Emily Henson’s new book focuses on homes where coastal style, dash and personality are more important than acquiring yet more disposable ‘stuff’, including in this vibrant home on the Kent coast.
Natasha and John Lyon seem to have an instinct for buying property in up-and-coming areas before anyone (even they) realise that they’re up and coming. They’ve progressed from a two-bedroom flat in a now-fashionable part of north London to a four-bedroom house in a newly desirable part of east London to this impressive six-bedroom family home in Margate, quickly becoming the coolest coastal town on the Kent coast.
For 15 years Natasha was a handbag designer for well-known luxury brands – a job that allowed her to travel extensively, picking up interiors inspiration along the way. She and John bought this house more than three years ago and initially tackled the less exciting jobs – treating damp and fixing the roof and chimneys.
They were lucky that the house already had a large kitchen extension. Knowing that much of the space could be updated cosmetically, and relying on Natasha’s talent for styling her many vintage furnishings and accessories, the couple decided the kitchen was where they would spend their money.
John is a keen cook, so a well-functioning kitchen is important to him. After extensive research on kitchens from high to low price points and everything in between, they chose to work with a local joiner who built a bespoke kitchen to meet John’s culinary requirements. They sold the existing kitchen on Facebook Marketplace and are planning on reusing the slate floor tiles for the garden patio.
When the pandemic hit and work came to a standstill, the couple decided to collaborate on a new business – Appreciation Project, an online sustainable dried flower delivery and homeware brand. Natasha runs the creative side and John advises on operations while also working in technology sales. Natasha has set up a home studio in the attic, filled with dried bouquets and branded packaging yet also oozing style, thanks to her decision to paint the room a rich shade of green. Throughout the house, colour plays a starring role, with every room except the kitchen painted in bold hues. In fact, there was so much painting to be done that it took nine months to complete! Nothing was safe from the painter’s brush, and the result is a captivating palette from top to bottom.
Aside from the kitchen and armchairs and sofas (which were bought new from sofa.com), pretty much everything is second-hand. Natasha is dedicated to vintage and has a few favourite haunts aside from the usual online sources.
While there’s no strict colour scheme for the home as a whole – something that I entirely approve of – a splash of red pops up in almost every room. Sometimes that’s all you need to create a link throughout an interior – a small pop here and there. The Lyons have created a joyous home, lived-in and relaxed yet filled with mementoes that tell their story.
GETTING THE LOOK
A ROOM TO BLOOM
In Natasha’s home office, bundles of dried flowers and stacks of boxes sit on painted wooden floorboards. The walls and ceilings are enveloped in the same rich green, Jungle Fever 1 by Dulux. The hallway has original parquet flooring and a rich combination of paint colours; the paler shade is Oval Room Blue while the darker one is De Nimes, both from Farrow & Ball. In the sitting room the wall and shelf are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue.
WHEN TO SPLURGE
There are times when you may need or choose to invest in something new, as was the case in this kitchen. John is a keen cook and the open kitchen/dining room is the family hub. The old units were removed and sold online, and a local joiner was hired to build new cabinets, including this large island, topped with robust stainless steel and painted in Little Greene’s Olive.
DARK AND MOODY
The blue walls are Little Greene’s Brighton. In the main bedroom the walls are painted in Myland’s Borough Market as are the fireplace and the shelf. Rather than reupholstering the round chair cushion, Natasha covered it with throws.
Daughter Bea’s room was transformed with a luscious clash of colours. The interior is mustard (Yellow-Pink by Little Greene) and dusty rose, and the open door gives a glimpse of zingy colour in her brother’s room next door. The hallway side of the door is De Nimes by Farrow & Ball, while Thomas’s room is Japanese Maze 2 by Dulux. The stair runner was created by piecing together vintage rugs.
Q&A…FIVE MINUTES WITH NATASHA AND JOHN
What’s the most important thing for you at home?
It’s important our home is full of creativity; things to feed the eyes and the imagination. I want this for my kids, for them to grow up around interesting art and books. It’s also important for me – as a designer, I want to be surrounded by objects, textures and colours that inspire me.
Do you have a decorating/design philosophy?
Colour! Don’t be afraid to use it. My take on design is eclectic – each room is filled with special pieces that have a story to go with them. I divide large rooms into ‘zones’ and accessorize each one individually, layering cushions, blankets, side tables, lamps and books. Soon the room starts to feel very cosy and is filled with lots of detail. I will never be a minimalist, because I’m obsessed with colours, textures and objects.
Describe a creative solution to a challenge you faced with your home.
When I get bored of a piece of furniture but can’t afford or find anything to replace it, I cover it in fabric. I did this to the bedside tables/nightstands in our bedroom and to a coffee table in the family room. It changes the space immediately.
Where do you shop for your home? Do you have a favourite store or source?
We have always bought sofas and chairs from sofa.com, the quality is brilliant. In Norwich we stumbled across the most incredible shop called Vintage Mischief; we have bought a lot from them over the years. I also have a few treasures from Vantage Living, including the wicker elephants and the glass coffee table in the front lounge.
Do you tend to stay in one property for a long time or do you prefer to move or reinvent your home frequently?
This is our third property and we have stayed in each one thinking we will be there longer than we have been. However, this home is different, it is a true family home. There is a lot of space and it can evolve; already it has taken on an office for John and my office has adapted into a studio for Appreciation Project.
I can see other rooms changing over time into a library/homework room and the boot room becoming a utility room. There is also a loft space and three rooms in the cellar. Because there is still lots left to do combined with the fact we can grow into the house we will be here for a long time yet. However, I’m sure there will come a point where I will want to flex my creative interior desires once again.
What’s next for your home?
The next project is the family bathroom, a shower room and reinstating a toilet next to the kids’ bedroom that had been removed. We’re also keen to put stained glass into the front door and surrounding windows.