Claire Botha is the founder of the Geek Vintique interior design studio and consultancy, based in south west London. She describes her design style as ‘elegance with an edge’, and has a fabulous knack for bringing period properties and vintage items back to life and giving them a unique twist. She also makes good use of the odd Pooky light here and there.
Here’s our Q&A with Claire about her love of period architecture, her top lighting tips for dark rooms, and all things interior design...
Tell us about your background. How did you get started in interior design, and how did you come to launch Geek Vintique?
I came to it later in life, having actually started my career in journalism. However, I grew up with a father fixated on property renovation and improvements that would add value to our home, carrying out much of the work himself, so I guess it was in my DNA. My first flat was a Victorian fixer-upper and with free rein I obsessed over the design and styling, sanding dark wood furniture found at car boot sales and reupholstering hand-me-down chairs. A series of property renovations followed, and while it felt perfectly natural to me to be running a build with a full-time job I officially turned my lifelong passion into a new career in 2013 in my late thirties, when friends began asking me for advice on home styling. I began sourcing vintage and unusual furnishings from flea markets and antiques fairs, selling them in online marketplaces. Hunting out pieces for regular clients soon led to me helping redesign their interiors and I started offering interior consultations and design services and studying interior design and interior styling at KLC and Central St Martins.
Gorgeous dining area by Claire Botha (complete with Pooky's Priscilla pendant lights!). Image: Geek Vintique
How would you describe your interior design style?
I’d describe my work as elegance with an edge. I’m excited by the beauty of simple, traditional décor and furnishings but fused with an unexpected print or piece to give an updated fresher look – an unexpected twist, so a room doesn’t feel too grand or formal.
What inspires you when it comes to interiors?
Period architecture. There’s nothing more inspiring than the inherent beauty of an original brick wall, an old fireplace, original architrave around an old door, … if that doesn’t sound too geeky! I feel compelled to bring these things back to life in a sympathetic but updated way.
What do you most enjoy about your work?
The creativity. I love turning a client’s needs and wants into inspired ideas for their space - something that they can suddenly visualise. There’s a lot of choice in interiors and clients are often just confused about what they ‘should do’ and fearful of getting ‘it wrong.’ Taking their brief and turning it into a vision they can feel excited by is incredibly rewarding.
Images: Geek Vintique
How does lighting play a part in your interiors?
I do have a leaning towards a darker palette because I love the depth and drama this can bring to a space so adequate lighting is a key consideration in my work. Dark interiors only work in well lit rooms, whether that be natural lighting or through multiple light sources, and often the play between the two – sunlight reflecting off a chandelier for example can create a special magic. Lighting also offers huge scope for layering different textures or adding a playful accessory or pop of colour which are key considerations in my designs.
Any top lighting tips you’d like to share?
A large statement ceiling light can make a room sing, yet often I find that clients lean towards ceiling lights that are really too small for the space. Consider the diameter of the light, not just the drop – and go as large as you can in the space. It can make a huge difference.
Images: Geek Vintique
Which recent project are you particularly proud of?
My larged project to date, which was a 22-room Victorian house that had in recent times been used as a youth hostel, and office space. There were a lot of ‘additions’ and conversions through the years that had to be worked around as the budget did not allow for gutting the place entirely but fortunately some period features were intact. The brief was to turn the property back into a beautiful, comfortable family home, as an investment project for resale. It was a challenging but rewarding project that resulted in an increased property valuation.
Finally, do you have a favourite Pooky light (and if so, why that one?)
I adore the Roddy wall light. Classic, elegant, beautiful, it looks good all by itself or either side of a mirror. It’s the perfect shape and size and works everywhere!