We caught up with the brilliant London-based interior designer Octavia Dickinson to talk about inspiration, lighting, tables in The Crown and much more….
After a career in the art world and spells working with Cindy Leveson and Flora Soames, Octavia Dickinson is making a name for herself as an interior designer with a striking, colourful but very English style. Here’s our Q&A… Willow Crossley’s bedroom. Photo: Owen Gale Octavia's bedroom. Photo: Rachel Whiting
How did you get started in interior design?
I fell into it. I had worked in an art gallery but decided the selling part of the job was not for me. I then got a position as a researcher for art documentaries at the BBC. It is quite an unpredictable career and I had just finished a run of two jobs when I was contemplating what to do next and I was told about a job as an assistant at Leveson Design. I have always loved talking fabrics and furniture so I applied for the job and was lucky enough to be given a chance. Cindy (Leveson) always tells me I was a hopeless interviewee but she could tell I knew what a nice, comfy sofa was!
How would you describe your interior design style?
I have definitely got a strong English traditional undercurrent to my style, but I really love experimenting and playing with colours and patterns and mixing up furniture from assorted periods and styles. I am unquestionably no minimalist. Octavia's kitchen. Photo: Sophie Wright Octavia's kitchen. Photo: Sophie Wright
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere and anywhere. I think Instagram is incredible as you really do have an instant catalogue of diverse visual images at the tip of your finger. But the best is when you discover a shape or pattern as you go about your life, from a scallop archway that influences a headboard to an antique chair at an art fair which inspired me to design a shelf with bobbin legs. Octavia's bathroom. Photo: Sophie Wright
How does lighting play a part in your interiors?
I remember when I was quite young and I was sharing a hotel room with my brother in Vietnam, I used to bellow to him every evening as we came into our room, ‘Ambience! Ambience!’ to make sure he didn’t just turn all the lights on full blast - he found me extremely annoying! Lighting is so important and can make or break a room. I love a mix of lights at different heights in a room, though I would rather stay away from overhead lighting in a sitting room and bedrooms as it is pretty unflattering. Willow Crossley’s bedroom. Photo: Owen Gale
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?
My favourite cosy place would be my bed, but not just for the obvious reasons. My bedroom is painted a bright blue (Farrow and Ball Ludlow blue) which should be quite alarming but in fact I find it incredibly calming. I have mixed a range of different fabrics in the room, the curtains, the gathered fabric panels in the fitted wardrobes and a commissioned pleated lampshade (always a good way to bring in another pattern) which make the room feel incredibly cosy. And then I have hung my favourite artworks and plates, covering every spare inch of the wall – a trick I learnt from my father.
Which recent projects are you particularly proud of?
I have recently finished designing a private dining room in The Pheasant Inn, Lambourn. I worked with an incredible furniture maker to design a bespoke four metre-long table with legs based on one he saw on The Crown television series…. As I said, you never know when you are going to be inspired! I am also working on a house in London with a young family and I am loving the freedom to use colour and pattern. They are very up for experimenting and we have made a wonderful hidden door in a bespoke wardrobe that takes you through into the bathroom where you are then presented with the most amazing green and pink pineapple wallpaper.
Dining room at The Pheasant Inn, complete with Pooky's Chukka wall light. Photo: Helen Cathcart Dining room at The Pheasant Inn, this time with Pooky's Cagney wall light. Photo: Helen Cathcart
And finally, what’s your favourite Pooky light?
A hard question as there are so many that are wonderful to use in different places and ways. I have recently used the Double Chukka wall light in The Pheasant Inn and it looks incredibly smart. Pooky's Double Chukka wall light fitting in antiqued brass with 16cm Empire shade in 'Persian Fans' block printed cotton - shop here. Octavia Dickinson’s website is here – and you can follow her on Instagram here. Photo top by Alexander Lloyd.