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Everything you ever wanted to know…

...from an interior designer but were afraid to ask, like which is the best Farrow & Ball white, for gawd's sake? Plus, cool local stores, design faux pas to avoid & more.

Ever wished you had an interior designer on speed dial when you were choosing a new paint-scheme or look for a room? Well, now you have. Muddy tapped ace interior designer, Caroline Palk of Ashton House Design in Ashburton, for a steer on what’s driving the latest looks, with her top pick on everything from paint to wallpaper, and embarrassing design faux pas to steer well away from.

Ready to be asked loads of clueless interior questions, Caroline? Let’s go!

What style defines 2020?

Interiors with a calm, considered and contemplative essence. Favourite colours are tobacco, teal, ochre, dusky pink & emerald green (not all together!).

What trend isn’t going away?

Natural, textural & copper surface finishes.

Name one that is.

Weighty, solid window treatments (heavy curtaining). Say it with textural linen or wool sheers instead.

How would you describe your style?

Modern European in a country setting with plenty of invention and attention to detail.

What common design faux pas do loads of people make?

So many! Choosing a wall colour in isolation to everything else; getting the scale of the furniture wrong for their interior; making decisions in isolation rather than as part of an overall plan.

Grey – here to stay or going away?

Here to stay but with plenty of pops of other colours.

Fake flowers – thumbs up or thumbs down?

Pic credit: Bloom UK

Depends on the supplier – thumbs up for the very best of the bunch, such as Bloom.

What’s the one feature that’s guaranteed to lift a room?

Lighting – for specific tasks rather than generally, like your furniture, walls or art. Use lamps with scale, and pairs where you can. Feature pendants and wall lights and slender picture lights with adjustability.

Tell us a brilliant-value buy everyone should know.

Ikea Picture Ledges for displaying vinyl LP covers. (From £5)

Put us out of our misery – which is the best Farrow & Ball white?

School House White. It’s not too creamy – a good non-coloured neutral.

What’s the most important question to ask an interior designer before you hire?

Do you have detailed testimonials you can share? (They’re only as good as their clients say-so.)

How do you give a modern home instant character?

Colour and texture through fabrics, floor and wall coverings.

What colours would you never put together?

Purple and yellow!

Name an up and coming designer we should know.

Pic credit: Kit Kemp

I admire the work of both Kit Kemp here in the UK for her original & striking use of pattern, craft and quirk. And further afield, Amber Interiors (Amber Lewis) in California, She’s the queen of understated style – these are homes you want to live in!

Do you have a fave Devon interiors shop?

Pic credit: The Character Mirror Company

I love Cocoon and The Character Mirror Company, both in Honiton. Further afield it would be Rialto Living in Palma, Mallorca.

Which Devon eatery or hotel is getting it totally right?

For its timeless style and setting, Hotel Endsleigh on Dartmoor. (Check out Muddy’s rave review.)

Is there one versatile brand, item or feature you find yourself going back to again and again?

The Swivel Armchair, always served by an unobtrusive ‘pocket of light’ floor lamp.

Which celebrity home do you most admire and why?

Rose Uniacke for her timeless, pared down and elegant style.

What would be your desert island furniture?

A Vispring bed (above, and made in Devon of course).

Five quick fire favourites:

1/Super sofa? Our very own in-house hand sprung sofas

2/Luxe lights? Maretti Lighting

3/Wowy wallpaper? A cork wall covering (Portuguese fabric-backed, available from Ashton House) in vibrant colours

4/Perfect paint? Zoffany

5/Cool carpet? Lakeland Herdwick

Need a dollop of design inspo for your home?

With over 20 years in the interiors biz, Caroline can help, however large or small the project. Book yourself in for an initial design consultation in your own home for £250 plus VAT by calling 01364 653 563 or

Ashton House Design, 31a East St, Ashburton, Newton Abbot TQ13 7AQ.

2 comments on “Everything you ever wanted to know…”

  • Katherine Lacey November 18, 2020

    I loved reading this.
    I’m going to think hard about the scale of our cottage furniture- from our previous larger home, & adding teal & orange. I’ve done these colours in a tapestry.

    I had to laugh & just tell you – my (all girls )school uniform was purple & yellow – purple blazer with yellow trim. Purple & yellow everywhere.
    Every year ,for ten years ,aged 8 to 18 , on the founders day service , we gals all sat dutifully & listened diligently to how our founder looked out at the bed of crocus in the school grounds & had inspiration for our uniform.
    We all groaned , quietly.
    I still can’t wear purple or yellow , now at 64!!!

    • lisabuckland November 18, 2020

      Ha ha! Let’s hope it’s not the next big thing! I have a similar aversion to bottle-green and yellow. Ugh. X


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