How to decorate with watercolours

Watercolour artist Fay Ballard tells us how she blends her collections of paintings, Scandi furniture and antiques

Watercolour artist Fay Ballard

Fay Ballard, watercolour artist from Hampstead Heath and daughter of novelist JG Ballard, creates beautiful botanical paintings which have graced the walls of the Royal Academy and sit in the collection of the Queen.

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What’s your home like?

I live in a generous 1870s Victorian semi with my husband and our two teenagers Isabella and Matthew, though our dogs, Tiger and Jessie, rule the roost. We have an open-plan kitchen, living and dining room on the ground floor with French windows that open onto the garden. It’s near to where Constable painted and where the poets John Keats and Samuel Coleridge met.

How does your profession influence your home decor?

We have drawings, prints and paintings all over the walls. Some have been given to me over the years by artists and Royal Academicians. I have two prints from Peter Blake, a portrait by Tom Phillips, a beautiful watercolour by the late Norman Adams and a stunning sketch of Isabella aged three months by Leonard Mccomb. He quickly drew it having bumped into us at the Royal Academy!

What are your favourite pieces in your home?

My husband Jon and I like Scandinavian design for its simplicity and comfort. Our dining table and chairs are Carl Hansen. His wishbone chairs are beautiful and such a joy to use. I also enjoy my ‘Rar’ rocking Chair by Vitra and I’m very fond of a red woollen poof made by British designer, Donna Huddleston. I use it as a footstool, chair and a support to take trays of drinks.

Have you painted any watercolour works especially for your home?

No, not yet! But I’m always inspired by Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell’s painted furniture and the interior of their home Charleston.

How can watercolours be used in home decoration?

I’d suggest visiting exhibitions to get inspiration and see what’s out there. And, if you’re painting your own, think carefully about the scheme in your home. They look great propped up frameless on a fireplace and simply framed and hung on a plain wall.

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Can you tell us anything about the piece you’ve created for the Winsor & Newton Water Colour Revolution?

Yes! It’s called ‘Memory Inventory’ (above). What I have done is selected some pieces from my childhood that evoke strong memories. There’s a flipper worn by my brother Jim on holiday in Spain, my father’s childhood chess set from 1930s Shanghai, a police arrest notice recording the arrest of our family dog and my mother’s watch, which I took from the apartment in Alicante in 1964 when she died. I’ve painted each one on a separate piece of paper and brought them together to form one large work.

Apart from the heirlooms, do you have any antiques?

I do and I like to integrate my watercolours with the antique pieces I inherited from my grandparents. I have Staffordshire pottery from my maternal grandmother and Chinese furniture from my paternal grandmother. We also have a Roman oil lamp and an Egyptian effigy given to us when we married.

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Words: Chloe Pritchard