Known for her vibrant paintings of interiors filled with art and antiques, it is no surprise that Lottie Cole’s Sussex home reflects this aesthetic. From the sitting room, with its rich ochre walls and mix of striped and floral soft furnishings, to the guest bedrooms with their block-printed wallpapers and charming quilts, every room is filled with decorative details that draw the eye.
The walls are hung with works by numerous artists from the 1950s to the 1990s, including Humphrey Spender, Peter Haigh, John Plumb and Adrian Berg, along with a changing selection of Lottie’s own paintings, many of which reference the works of mid-century British and continental artists.
Lottie and her husband Graham Haworth, who is an architect, bought the Edwardian farmhouse some five years ago. ‘My mother lives nearby, in the village where I grew up, and when we began looking for a home in the country we concentrated our search on the surrounding area.’
The house, which dates from the turn of the last century, came with around 20 acres of grazing and some useful outbuildings. ‘Having acquired a second-hand tractor, my husband has adapted well to life in the country and now, courtesy of Zoom, he rarely needs to go to London,’ says Lottie, who, pandemic permitting, spends several days each week in London where she teaches drawing and painting at Minerva Workshop in Kentish Town.
She established Minerva two years ago and, apart from her classes, she also organizes craft workshops. Along with lampshade-making, there is block-printing with Louisa Loakes and Molly Mahon, wallpaper design with Hugh Dunford Wood, specialist paint decoration with Alice Clark, paper-cutting and collage with Tracey English and natural dyeing with Zoë Burt. ‘It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learnt so much myself,’ says Lottie, showing off a length of fabric she dyed and block-printed herself.
Whilst the house enjoys the most picturesque setting in the middle of Ashdown Forest, the interior, not having been touched for decades, needed attention. A newly built, barn-like structure designed by Lottie’s husband now provides a spacious kitchen, dining and living area, with sliding glass doors on both sides opening onto the garden.
‘One of the reasons for buying a home in the country was to have room for a studio, and the original kitchen is now where I paint,’ explains Lottie. ‘There’s enough room for me to have several pieces on the go at once and there’s storage for canvases and materials in what was the adjacent scullery. I’ve always been fascinated by interiors,’ she continues.
‘When my father was alive, he would enjoy buying something or other in one of the local antiques shops and surreptitiously installing it in the house, just to see how long it would take my mother to notice. She’s very observant so it didn’t take long! I can spend hours flicking through books and magazines, obsessing about wallpapers and fabrics and the art and objects on display in people’s homes. It’s harmless!’ she maintains.
‘Whilst I occasionally venture outside to paint, most of my current work seems to be real rooms like those at Charleston, or those from my imagination such as a recent series inspired by works by well-known artists, which I’ve transposed into domestic settings.’
Portraits of chairs are another recurring theme. The settings and the styles vary but the focus is always the chair. ‘Antique chairs with their intricate details and signs of wear and tear are intriguing to paint,’ she explains. ‘But next up is a commission featuring a Charles and Ray Eames design, so that will be rather different.’
Furnishing and decorating the house will continue to be a work in progress Lottie says, but she is grateful for the ‘endless advice and help’ from interior designer and stylist Magda Devaris, who has since become a good friend. As the extension neared completion, Lottie took to eBay, auctions and antiques fairs. ‘As long as you don’t get carried away in a bidding war, auctions can be a cost-effective way to furnish a home,’ she says, showing off one of her prize finds: a mid-century console in the hall that came from Lots Road Auctions.
Lottie’s taste is eclectic, she says, but the unifying factor is her preference for the individual, handcrafted look. ‘Making a home in a house built during the Arts & Crafts era got me thinking about William Morris. I was struck by the continuing relevance of the principle that furnishing a home should entail choosing good design, using natural and sustainable materials.’ Standen, a local National Trust property built in the 1890s by Philip Webb, embodies this ideal, she says, and there are examples of Morris’s work in nearly every room.
‘But rather than opt for designs that my great-grandparents might have chosen, I’ve opted for ones by my own generation that are more me,’ she laughs. Hence Molly Mahon’s delicate small-scale block-printed wallpaper was chosen for the guest bedrooms, while curtains in Mark Hearld’s Doveflight provided the starting point for the varied shades of blue in the main bedroom and downstairs. Lindsay Alker’s Palmira design was chosen for the curtains in the sitting room. ‘Each design has a distinct character of its own, but what they share is that hand-printed quality that seems particularly appropriate here.’