Meet the interior designer: Fiona Parke

We talk to the founder of Johnston Parke Interiors about inspiration, the ‘modern classic’ style and her obsession with controlling light levels...

Berkshire-based interior designer Fiona Parke specialises in creating gorgeous, timeless residential homes, which combine classic styles with a dash of contemporary trends (and often a few Pooky lights!). Here’s our Q&A...

 How did you get started in interior design?

I decided to change career at 30 when I realised I liked doing things with houses more than my job. At one point I thought I was supposed to be an estate agent because I loved looking at property and helping friends buy flats, but then I realised that what I really liked was the challenge of working out what to do with the space – and that was interior design. I got a place on a course at Chelsea School of Art and Design within a week, resigned from my job and never looked back. I did a one-year course and then joined Todhunter Earle Interiors who I worked with for six years (and indeed I still freelance for them on certain projects 15 years later!). I went solo in 2008 after my second daughter was born, and set up Johnston Parke Interiors.

How would you describe your interior design style?

I would say modern classic – I like to create timeless homes that incorporate some contemporary design but won’t date and don’t follow too closely the current trends.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration often comes from the space itself – whether it’s a modern beach house or a listed country house. Once you’re in the space you can really start to visualise what will and will not work. It also comes from working with the clients, getting to understand how they want to live and feel in their home. Some might want to create a formal, elegant space while others want a more relaxed or rustic home. And of course I still read design magazines regularly, and Instagram and Pinterest are very useful for finding and sharing ideas with clients.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

I was a management consultant in my previous life so I am comfortable with the project management side of my work, but the sourcing is really the most enjoyable bit, especially furniture, lighting and art. (On the flip side I find choosing rugs very difficult – I don’t know why. And I can’t bear invoicing and admin!)

How does lighting play a part in your interiors?

Lighting is critical to my projects and I work with a fantastic lighting designer where possible. I think light must be layered – ceiling, walls, lamps – and easily controllable. I am obsessed with being able to control light levels, making sure they’re neither too bright nor too dark. Pendants, wall lights and lamps add such interest and texture to a space – they are accessories in themselves and an amazing ceiling light or pair of wall lights can be such a key feature in any room.

Which recent project are you particularly proud of?

I have just finished a total redesign of Camilla Parker Bowles’ former family home in East Sussex. It has been such a fantastic job and is now the home of a lovely young family and full of colour and interest. And yet it’s a totally relaxed home that looks like they have been there for years, despite that fact they only arrived from Australia a year ago with a mattress, a sofa and some art!

Do you have a particular favourite corner or room that you feel is 'all your own'? Or do you have any tips for creating a 'cosy' space?

I have just built a pool house at the bottom of my garden and I think I want to move in! The style is quite different from my usual: I went a bit ‘Ibiza Boho’ but I love the space. Oddly it has whitewashed walls and a painted floor that doesn’t should at all cosy but it has lots of texture, jute and animal skin rugs, tons of cushions, funky raffia lights. For me a cosy space needs comfy seating, tactile fabrics like velvet, a rug, cushions and a throw, a lamp plus a table for my book!

Finally, do you have a favourite Pooky light?

Ooooh, tricky... I love the Artur lamp as it is so quirky and has great colours, it makes everyone smile. I also think the Stella (above) is a fab light: works everywhere, incredible price for the quality. And the Heraldic shade is just stunning and so current…

You can see more of Fiona’s work on the Johnston Parke website and follow her on Instagram here. Photography by Alexis Hamilton.