I met Paula Gowar, the founder of Balance Design, on the Living etc House Tour when she was present for the open house of her own home. Tall, slim and gorgeous, the former model-turned-designer has a beautiful home (and family). Clearly she has a lot going for her, but she has worked hard for her achievements.
In the feature article on the house in the January 2013 issue of Living etc, Paula talks about the 6 years of hard slog required to create a perfect family house. Paula and her husband bought the house knowing it needed total refurbishment even though they would have to live through the renovation with young children. Now that’s brave indeed! With cash flow tight, Paula did quite a bit of the work herself (such as repairing the cornicing and installing the flooring). The end result though makes it all worthwhile.
Paula’s house was my favourite of all the houses I saw on the House Tours. She has an eclectic style blended with an inherent practicality. Let’s take a look shall we?
The kitchen was extended into the side return to create a larger room.
The end result is a sleek mixture of space, light and elegance.
Isn’t this a great children’s room? It’s child-friendly and colourful and yet sophisticated. There is plenty of storage and room for display. Allowance is also made for the multi-functioning use of space – for studying, dressing and playing.
The otherwise unused attic space has become a children’s den. Perfect playspace to spark a child’s imagination.
What is your favourite room in your house in terms of decor?
“My favourite room is the “Bowler Hat” bathroom. [The master bathroom, so named for the paint colour from Dulux.] It has opulence and glamour, but has been achieved on a budget. The fireplace from Ebay and the units and pendant from Ikea are mixed with large format porcelain floor tiles, a granite unit top and a glorious bath [from Aston Mathews]. I installed the panelling myself as I’m handy with a chop saw. It’s great both day and night and somehow gives you a little confidence boost when you need it.”
“Just like most family houses, the kitchen is the hub of our house. My kitchen is quite large because we knocked down two walls and infilled the side return to create it. It’s got hidden away units and huge 2.7m sliding doors. I wanted it to look less like a kitchen and more of a living space. So, there’s a practical white vinyl sofa and chair, a dining room table with more grey vinyl on the 1950’s chairs and two great 1970’s German chandeliers. There is also a textured tin-tile like wall (which was upcycled from the former kitchen ceiling) and an oil painting above the kitchen sink. I’ve added a gorgeous 1970’s glass lamp and lots of cushions. The kitchen is where we cook, eat, socialise, read, do homework and generally live. It suits a family perfectly.”
“Modelling was never my passion but rather something I was luckily offered as a teenager. I wouldn’t swap the experience though. I grew up fast, went to so many countries before I was 21 that I otherwise wouldn’t have and got to meet many interesting people. In the end of the day, though, I was a tomboy and loved the buildings worked on by my father who owned a construction company. I guess that was indelibly ingrained into my psyche. With fashion under my belt, it was a natural progression to move into interiors.”
Who is your favourite designer who designs for both home and fashion?
“I don’t really have a favourite designer as my style is so eclectic. I am influenced by so many collaborations and home collections. For example, there are obvious big-name Brits, like Mathew Williamson, Alexander McQueen, Paul Smith and Vivienne Westwood (for whom I modelled years ago). There are also the international giants like Missoni, Armani, Ralph Lauren, Kelly Wearstler, Sonia Rykiel and Jean Paul Gautier for Roche Bobois. I also love the old glamour fashion icons like Pierre Cardin. I like how the clever high street brands have approached interiors in the last 15 years with the likes of Anthropologie, Zara, French Connection, Debenhams, Next and even H&M. They have presented us with budget-friendly fashion-influenced home decor.”
Do you have any thoughts on the influence of catwalk design on home products?
“Fashion and interiors are always evolving and they often go hand in hand through the seasons. Whatever home item one is looking for, there will always have been some fashion influence such as colour, structure and materials. Playful international brands like, Jaime Haydon, Moooi, Seletti, Magis, bride, Baxter and even Alessi are great at taking inspiration from fashion. Looking at the past twelve months in interiors, we have had geometrics, monochrome, pastels, metallics and ombre all of which have stemmed from fashion.”
What do you see as the next fashion trend making it into interiors?
“VInyl will be strong for this winter in fashion – look at Jonathan Saunders or Top Shop. Will it make a cross-over into interiors? I think so. It’s a practical home option and suits the many mid-century pieces which are in vogue right now.”
“If I were my client, I would list the primary functions of the room and always have that in the forefront of the design process and influencing my decisions.”
“I am all about comfort and practicality as we have two young children. It’s good to add your personality, some wit and a dash of glamour to the mix. A sofa and a bed are the most essential pieces of furniture and a huge investment. Take time considering your choice and always think of the people around you when deciding. Also, you should maximise storage – it’s a life essential. FInally, you shouldn’t forget about the flooring. Think about how you live when you choose it and keep the look united to improve flow.”