A lot has changed since H&A first featured Janice Issitt’s quirky home in 2013. Her living room walls – formerly white and duck-egg blue – are now drenched in dark, inky indigo. Vintage gilt picture frames hang above the sumptuous sofa and plush, gold velvet curtains are draped at the windows. ‘I redecorate my home all the time so it’s constantly changing,’ says Janice, whose current look is a beguiling, bohemian mix that channels Swedish folk patterns and gothic Victoriana, among others. So French cast-iron chairs sit beside ornate Suzani textiles from Turkey, antique Indian side tables and Scandinavian-style furniture upcycled with stenciling.
Few could make such an eclectic medley of styles gel so seamlessly but decorator Janice is blessed with a gut instinct for what works. ‘At the moment, I’m experimenting with dramatic, dark colours for Christmas,’ she says. ‘Painting is so easy and if you’re not happy with the result you can just paint over it. I painted a wall in our spare bedroom bright pink once and nobody could sleep in there – it was too bonkers!’
Janice is a dab hand with a paintbrush but it isn’t just her home that she sees as a canvas for colourful experiments, she views her skin in the same way. ‘My home is heavily influenced by my body art and vice versa,’ she says. ‘I have tattoos of my most treasured antiques. I had a pocket watch tattoo done after I inherited my late father’s collection of antique watches and I have a Dala horse tattoo inspired by my vintage Swedish painted horses. I’ve also got Russian dolls tattooed on my arm – and a row of them in the hallway.’
Janice’s knack for seeing the potential in otherwise unloved items means she often picks up ‘waifs and strays’ in junk shops and at nearby Tring Market Auctions for next to nothing. ‘I bought an antique dark wood chair for just £10 at auction recently,’ she says, gleefully. ‘Nobody else was interested in it but I liked the ornate carved details it had and knew it would look good painted.’ The chair is now a riot of colour, thanks to ‘loads of Chalk Paint tester pots’ and makes a theatrical impact against a contrasting burgundy wall in the hall.
Similarly, Janice could always envision how elegant the 1980s home she shares with partner Ian could be with a little imagination and some elbow grease. She swapped laminate flooring for reclaimed pine boards cut from ancient church beams and bought a Victorian fireplace for £100 on eBay.
Janice is lucky to have lots of local car boot sales to feed her vintage habit. ‘I have been known to fill a jeep full of plunder for under £20,’ she laughs. ‘If you get up early enough, you can do five different boot sales in one day around here. The MK Handmade and Vintage Fair in Milton Keynes is a favourite haunt of mine, too – it’s refreshingly affordable.’
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If bargain hunting is a lifelong love affair, then stencilling is Janice’s latest fling. Following many work trips to Sweden over the years, Swedish-style motifs have started appearing on everything from her 1930s marble-topped bedside table to her Welsh dresser. ‘I buy ready-made stencils and also make my own using a heat pen and acetate sheets,’ she says. ‘It’s such fun and so simple. You just trace the design – it’s really therapeutic.’
Christmas is a great opportunity for Janice to indulge her love of crafting. She makes her own decorations, knits stockings and fills the house with fresh foliage from the garden. Like everything else in this warm, creative home, even the holiday guests are a little bit different from the norm. ‘I volunteer for a local rescue charity and foster orphaned wild animals, so we often have a baby squirrel or a fallow deer to stay,’ says Janice. ‘It all adds to the fun.
Photographs: Jan Baldwin
Words: Ellie Tennant