Interior architect and designer Paula Barnes talks style, shooting and snow in summer.
Interiors guru Paula Barnes knows a thing or two about shoot locations. Having worked in the television industry before starting her interior and textile design business, she’s been on both sides of a shoot – both as part of the production team and as a location homeowner. Relaxed and lived-in, her interiors effortlessly unite the old and new, and are packed with interesting finds and features. It’s a look that not only works for family living, but as a charismatic shoot setting too – locations Black Lamb and Pagoda House were both designed by Paula. Here, she tells us about her design process, inspiration and most interesting shoot experiences.
How would you describe your style?
It usually looks a little undesigned. The emphasis is very much about a relaxed and unpretentious style where you can enjoy family life without worrying about damaging anything. I prefer a casual style to a formal style often where no rules apply. I look at how people like to live and what is important to them and then work out the space from there.
What's the key to a well designed home?
Get the basics right. Solid walls and doors, wooden windows that open, underfloor heating, working fireplaces etc, then you can look at the interior. Often people scrimp on the fabric of a building but it’s best to get this right first! Keep the things that hold memories or have stories but don’t hoard, and remember details matter. Even with small things, try to buy the things you love rather than things which are just ok. You’ll get something that is much more personal to you, even if it takes longer.
Where are your go-to places for buying homeware?
Ebay, antique markets such as Ardingley, auction houses (such as Gorringes in Lewes), boot fairs, and any weird salvage places – I particularly like ship salvage. If you’re looking for interesting antiques, expand your search into Europe as the salvage over there is quite interesting and cheap compared to here.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Often I’ll start with one item – something that I really cannot say no to. It could be an old workbench for the kitchen, a painting, a sofa or even a reclaimed door, and the design will follow from that.
What should you invest in when designing properties?
A great sofa, a large rug, a bed and some lamps. Everything else you can buy slowly as and when you see it. Take your time and buy things you love.
Which parts of your design for Black Lamb and Pagoda House are you most proud of?
I think I do an unusual and interesting kitchen. I think fitted kitchens are overpriced and overrated and I love a kitchen that is totally unfitted and more like a living space with appliances. This way you can also use interesting materials and you’re not limited to standard sized cupboards. The end result is more relaxing, much cheaper but still very functional.
What do you look for in a property when buying?
Potential, but not in an obvious way. The really great looking properties go quickly and cost a lot so you need to think out of the box. I quite like an ugly house that a bit of a challenge. Sometimes I might buy a house that has been badly modernised and use reclaimed materials to put it back in order.
Any tips for prospective owners when offering properties for a shoot?
Don’t be too precious. Stay calm. Sometimes a lot of people will arrive but they are respectful of your home and your things, so relax and enjoy the process. Let people do their job – generally people are really nice to have around. I used to work in television so I have been on both sides. Often if you’re filming it’s stressful and you are battling with time – you really just want to be shown the basics and then be left alone to get on with your job.
How do you balance family life with renting your home out for shoots?
We have had the odd famous person here and so it can be interesting for them. They like seeing the house in magazines after the shoot. The people using the house often leave bags of crisps and chocolate – the kids love this! But mostly they know it’s part of my job and they have lived in some crazy places, often half renovated. They have to be patient but they always believe I can transform it however awful the space. It makes all our lives a bit more interesting and has paid for us to go on some great holidays…
What do you think makes a great shoot location?
Individuality. Lots of colour and texture for shooting against, plus large spaces so that crews can move around. Think about what people are after by looking through magazines. The Black Lamb had lime walls which was a great backdrop for fashion and products.
I have just bought a large industrial building in Brighton and there is lots of potential for shoots. High ceilings, distressed walls, worn concrete floors and full height warehouse doors…
What's your most memorable shoot experience?
Matalan came in the summer and sprayed the garden with fake snow for a Christmas shoot. My youngest was about six and she was so excited, and the dogs were very confused! It was quite hectic but really good fun. Another memorable moment was when the singer Corrine Bailey Rae was interviewed in our living room.