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What Pearl Did Next


"I hate my house," says Pearl Lowe, arriving At the Chapel in Bruton for a coffee, four days before she moves into it.

For a woman known for her passion for transforming old wrecks it's quite a statement. But this is a bad day, one where a vintage basin has arrived smashed and two 'antique' chandeliers bought from Ebay turned out to be new.

Really, though, she's undaunted and thinks she will transform the chandeliers by replacing the modern glass drops with antique chains. This is Pearl in her comfort zone, relying on her customary mix of vintage bargains and highly individual style to create wow factor spaces on a budget.

She's just published a book with Harper Collins - Pearl Lowe's Vintage Craft and it's a gem, full of good ideas for creating a vintage look without dropping a ton of cash. Pearl was doing the craft thing long before it became achingly fashionable (knitting tea parties at Claridges and so on) and says she has always had to renovate houses on a shoestring.

"By the time we've bought the house, there's usually no budget left so I've had to work out how to get the look I want by doing it myself."

In the book you'll find her doing up old junk shop chairs, making a pretty, vintage looking notice board, hemming lace panels or painting and stencilling a plywood storage box. It's appealing stuff, that seems so simple when she explains it - I reckon there will be a fair few homes dressed a la Pearl this time next year.

She seems to be one of those people who is constantly fizzing with ideas. When I last met Pearl at a Christmas craft workshop, she had hung her daughter's beautiful party dresses up on the walls  - such a simple idea but it looked beautiful (and made me instantly regret passing on my own daughter's dresses).

Pearl's last house in Mells was a mix of clashing wallpapers, paint and fabric, her knee-jerk response to the houses's modern, white interior.

'I just felt like I wanted to bring it all down a bit,' she says.

Pictured: Pearl's previous home in Somerset by Mel Yates

This time she's heading in an entirely different direction, to keep in tune with the house's old, beamed interior.

The new house is a Grade 11 listed rectory near Bruton, untouched since the 1960s, a higgeldy piggedly architectural style which combines Tudor, Georgian and Victorian.

"I thought there'd be a few lovely old things I'd want to keep, but no. The bathrooms were avocado, the carpets were brown, I've had to replace everything.'

There is no wallpaper this time except for a little Morris & Co (archive William Morris prints) in her bathroom. Instead the interior is white but with Indian-inspired colours on the skirting boards - pinks, deep blues, greens and yellows from Annie Sloan paints.

'Beams and wallpaper don't really work,' she says.

Apart from a 1964 duck egg blue Aga, the kitchen is brand new, a concession to husband Danny who likes Pearl's vintage style but objects when old things constantly break.

'I keep pulling out drawers and saying to Danny, 'look they work, isn't it amazing!"

They are also restoring a 15th century barn in the garden as a party room and a teenage hang out for the kids.

Somerset constantly inspires her, she says, with its mix of antique and artisan, the ancient layer of mysticism which undercuts everything.

"My style has definitely changed since I've moved to the country. I was much more minimalist in London, now I've gone a bit more gypsy!

"It was so grey in London, no greenery, like living with a cloud over our heads.  I was actually depressed there. Here it's so mystical and ancient, I love the whole druid thing, it constantly inspires me."

She has furnished much of the new house from her favourite Shepton Mallet flea market "I get there really early" and Frome Reclamation Yard ("it's good value, I bought 10 old radiators for under £1000, they're an old browny rust colour which adds character to the room").

She still loves vintage emporium La Belle Etoffe in Frome, The Trading Post in Wells and 'Susannah in Bath is where I go for inspiration. I love it. I've been using thefrenchhouse.net to  buy duvet, blankets, throws and those ticking matresses. It's good if you like things that look old but are actually new.'

Another hidden gem from Pearl is Elizabeth Baer textiles, a vintage fabric collector in Bradford on Avon,  a favourite with theatrical costumiers.

Having stripped back the old rectory to its barest essentials she is now 'trying to create an old atmosphere,' with antique wall lights, fur throws, Welsh blankets, lace and vintage chalk paints.

"It really is a labour of love.'

And this is the thing about Pearl. She describes herself as a 'grafter' and it seems with this project, just like her other incarnations as dress designer and now interiors author, her attention to detail is painstaking. She might be hating her house right now but you just know it's going to be perfect.

Find Pearl's Vintage Craft here

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