For designer Anna Hayman, pattern is a way of life. In the 1920s home that she shares with her husband Henry and their two sons, virtually every surface is covered with decorative embellishments. All of the designs are her own and most of them take inspiration from centuries-old motifs. Both Anna’s work and home style are rooted in her fascination with the way patterns emerge and re-emerge from era to era, in slightly different forms and on varying surfaces – painted onto ceramics, woven into rugs or drawn freehand.


‘I became interested in how certain motifs, such as stylised florals, are perennially popular, but reworked to suit the mood of their time,’ she says. She cites the way the designs of William Morris (who, in turn, had drawn on influences such as ancient Islamic art) fed into the fluid motifs of art nouveau, which then reappeared in other forms in the 1960s and 1970s, notably in Barbara Hulanicki’s shop, Biba. ‘I can’t imagine a time when there won’t be a place for pattern in our lives,’ she says.

Anna’s first experience of maximalist interiors was as a teenager, when she visited the home of the late antiques expert Martin Miller (co-founder of Miller’s Antiques Handbook & Price Guide), who was a school friend’s godfather. ‘His house was like nothing I’d ever seen – absolutely full of antiques and layers of fabrics and pattern. It gave me a taste for the magic of decoration,’ she remembers.

Anna grew up in a creative family (her father was a woodturner), but she didn’t receive any formal art training. She left school at 16 and worked in the clothes shop Monsoon, which fed her love of fashion but didn’t allow her to express her own creativity. On the side, Anna began customising and selling shoes. ‘I learned a lot of first-time business mistakes,’ she smiles.

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It was several years later, after having a family, that Anna realised she missed working. ‘Having looked after our boys in their early years, my husband said he’d support me while I tried out different artistic media and worked out what I wanted to do.’

A renowned local crafter and ceramicist, the late Ralph Levy, became her mentor. ‘He could see that after years of being at home and parenting I needed a creative outlet, so he gave me a studio space and lots of encouragement,’ she says. Printing was one of the first things Anna tried and, from the start, the act of cutting into lino ‘felt very natural’, she recalls.

Anna’s style, which began with kitchen textiles and mugs in bold, mid-century colours, soon matured and she began experimenting with more sophisticated motifs and a deeper palette. She now designs clothes, lampshades, cushions and encaustic tiles, and is stocked by Rockett St George, Liberty London and Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

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Anna’s home in East Sussex is not far from Charleston Farmhouse, and she cites the Bloomsbury Group as a key influence on her work, along with Aubrey Beardsley, Celia Birtwell and Ossie Clark. Then there’s the house itself, built in 1926, which not only reflects her love of that era but continues to inspire her. ‘I was instantly drawn to the house: it has history and it’s solid and well-built and works for family life,’ she says.

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Anna’s creative hand can be seen in every corner of her home, where the walls are either painted in shades of gold, blue and black, or covered with Biba-style wallpaper. Meanwhile, fringed lampshades and richly patterned textiles are combined with Utility furniture from the 1940s to create a surprisingly exotic mood. Local vintage shops, charity shops and car boot fairs have provided much of the furniture and, to these, Anna invariably adds her own twist.

‘There is a fine line between referencing something that gives you inspiration, and pastiche,’ she says. So while the rooms retain their somewhat quaintly crafted, 1920s feel, here and there walls have been painted peacock blue with free-flowing, visible strokes. The kitchen is a glossy black and, at every turn, door frames and skirtings have been scored with gold detailing. In the dining room, a mural creeps across one wall, ‘the Bloomsbury influence’, she says. ‘I admire their extravagant approach to decorating.’

Initially, Anna’s home was her ‘creative playground’, where she tried out new wallpapers and colours, but now she has a separate studio. ‘The repainting of walls has slowed down a bit now,’ she laughs, though a recent round of redecoration saw the dining room switch from dark and moody to almost monastic white. ‘When the children couldn’t see their homework, or the food on their plates, I realised it was time to rethink the black walls…’ she smiles.


However, pattern will always be a part of the decor and central to Anna’s artistry. ‘I recently discovered the Minoan ceramics and jewellery at the British Museum,’ she says. ‘It comforts me to think that people have been making decorative items forever, for myriad reasons, but also because of the pleasure that pattern brings. And that’s what it does for me – pattern brings me joy.’