How to decorate with antique Fornasetti

The dramatic displays - from Fornasetti plates to Arts and Crafts furniture - pack a punch in interior designer Sue Timney's home 

Words: Vinny Lee / Images: James Balston

Sue Timney's home is, reassuringly, just how one would imagine. The interior designer's signature monochrome scheme dominates every room - appearing on the walls via her own-design striped wallpaper and through the furniture (a harlequin print bomb chest is a rather amazing example). It also somewhat dictates her taste when it comes to her collections, which include 1930s-50s Constance Spry ceramics and, most predominantly, Piero Fornasetti plates. 

However, the original decor of her converted late 18th-century barracks home wasn't quite so appropriate for such a grande dame of design, which Sue described as 'plainly decorated and inoffensive'. After moving in she set to work transforming the decor into something anything but plain thanks to the injection of her trademark black-and-white palette. 'I had an affinity with these colours since discovering Japanese calligraphy when studying at the Royal College of Art,' she says. 'It has inspired my wardobe and my art'.


In the entrance hall, a pair of Fornasetti chairs sit on either side of a bow-fronted chest, bought at the Deal Braderie. Sue painted the harlequin diamond design on it. Reflected in the mirror are Sue's heraldic shields, sourced from auctions, old council offices and schools. 


Sue's collection of Fornasetti plates frame the wooden fire surround in the dining room. Around the table are two early 20th-century decoratively carved Viennese chairs and four 1930s Italian ebony-framed chairs. The cabinet, which features printed Formica panels, was designed by Sue.  


A collection of white ceramics, which includes modern Scandinavian and Constance Spry vases, creates impact in front of the striped wallpaper in the living room. Artwork of the actress Marsha Hunt hangs on the chimney breast. 


Sue's collection of red 20th-century vases is displayed on an Aesthetic-period table, which is a family heirloom. 'I'm not a purist in anything other than the visual inspiration I get from things and I refuse to pay a lot for anything, otherwise the fun goes out of the chase,' she says. The chairs are French and were painted by Sue. 


Sue made the cushions in the guest bedroom using some of her old scarves. Above the bed hangs one of her own classic scarf designs. 


A vintage haberdasher's cabinet, swapped for a piece of Sue's work in the 1980s, is used to store collections of costume jewellery. Tailors mannequins also provide a resting place for Sue's collection of black, white and red hats, while some of her handbags and scarves are stored on vintage painted hooks. 

This feature first appeared in the May 2015 issue of Homes & Antiques. Back issues are still available. To purchase a copy click here

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