British journalist and interiors influencer Louise Roe is no stranger to fresh starts, having upped-sticks from Los Angeles after more than a decade to relocate her entire family to Oxfordshire and complete two house moves in two years – no mean feat with two small children in tow. After leaving her rural Georgian rectory for a late Victorian townhouse in south-west London, she quickly set about turning the house into a home, complete with a dark blue kitchen and one-of-a-kind wardrobes customised by decorative painter Amy Balfour. Here she talks style, sourcing antiques and why she has set up her own homewares business.
If you’re the sort of person who never gets round to framing pictures or picking out a fabric for your curtains, you might want to take a leaf out of Louise Roe’s book. The British journalist and broadcaster only moved into her new home last summer, but already it looks layered and lived in, with every lightbulb chicly dressed, the walls dotted with artworks and antique door stoppers providing the finishing touches.
“Nesting is real!” laughs Roe, 40, who welcomed her second daughter, Inès, around the same time as moving in. “I think it was a mix of being a new mum and just wanting to have it all finished.” With two house moves in two years, a decor overhaul isn’t something that daunts her. In fact, she has become so immersed in interiors that she is launching her own homewares brand (more on that later).
It all started in the autumn of 2019, when Roe and her husband, TV producer Mackenzie Hunkin, and their eldest daughter Honor, moved from Los Angeles to Oxfordshire. Roe had lived in LA for 11 years, “but I missed England and my family and friends, and things like the four seasons!” she says. “Mine and my husband’s work became more digital, so we realised we were able to do it anywhere rather than having to be in a studio in Hollywood.” Landing on a Georgian rectory an hour and a half from the capital, Roe set up a dedicated Instagram handle (@louiseroehome), as an outlet to document the renovations and her inspiration. She has an impressive 131,000 followers and counting. “It’s a place where I can go into more nerdy detail about the ins and outs of the fabric I’m upholstering or the antiques fair I’m at.”
In LA, Roe was dictated to by the contemporary architecture and the bright quality of light, so with the rectory, she could indulge her more traditional side. She previously worked as a fashion stylist, and her inclination for putting things together that look aesthetically pleasing naturally spilled over into this area. “I think my fashion background has given me a love for making and re-zhuzhing things. My style is quite timeless and, the older I get, the more I just would rather have pieces that are going to last and are good quality.”
LIVING ROOM Sang de Boeuf by Edward Bulmer softens the walls by day and cocoons the space by night. The bureau is an antique from a shop in Petworth and the captain’s chair was found at the Dorking Desk Shop. For soft furnishings, Roe turned to OKA for the sofas and the Bespoke Footstool Company for the ottoman, which doubles up as a display table.
Inspired by the work of interior designers such as Ben Pentreath, Octavia Dickinson, Barlow & Barlow and the late John Fowler, Roe made the rectory the epitome of country-house chic, complete with an orangery, aga and chintzy fabrics. Each room looked like a cutting from House & Garden. But just 18 months in – mid-pandemic and when fatigued Londoners were leaving the capital in their droves in pursuit of her country idyll – she decided to move the opposite way, trading the rectory for a late Victorian house in a leafy part of south-west London. “Mackenzie and I went into London a few times and felt like we weren’t done with it just yet,” she explains. “It was such a big shift going from the middle of LA to quite a remote, rural setting. We felt like we maybe had skipped ahead a couple of decades.”
The mature garden and original features of the townhouse appealed, as did the village-like location. In good condition but untouched for 30 years, it was the perfect project. “Houses have a certain feel when you walk in them, and it just felt like a happy family home.” Now practised in decorating on a large scale, she knew instinctively what she would do, and with no structural work required, it was a case of putting her own stamp on it through paint, fabric and fittings. “We brought a lot of furniture and soft furnishings with us so it didn’t feel like such a big project.”
BEDROOM Roe’s own bedroom is painted in Lichen by Farrow & Ball and features a wool carpet from Alternative Flooring. The ottoman is from her new brand Sharland England, and the antique tallboy was re-claimed from her daughter’s former bedroom for the alcove. The china lamp base is an eBay find topped with a ruffled shade from Alice Palmer & Co.
There are some similarities with the rectory – such as laying the same parquet flooring and Caesarstone worktop for the kitchen. But there are key differences, too: the kitchen here is dark blue (Fired Earth’s Carbon was used to re-paint the existing cabinetry) whereas in the country it was green, and they chose to create a larger kitchen island as that’s where they found they spent much of their time.
The new wardrobes tell a remarkable story: scrolling Instagram during a night feed with Inès, Roe came across decorative painter Amy Balfour, whose Charleston Farmhouse-inspired aesthetic caught her eye. Balfour had a lot on her plate – namely 12-week-old triplets – but Roe “gingerly” messaged her to see if she would consider a commission. Balfour gamely agreed, bringing her babies and mother along for two days to customise the wardrobes with a pretty diamond pattern, which makes them one of a kind. “With Inès we had four newborns in the house, the builders were like: ‘Oh my god!’” laughs Roe. “Amy was holding them on rotation and breastfeeding them while she painted with the other hand. I just remember thinking, ‘Women are amazing.’”
HONOR’S BATHROOM Too much contemporary metalwork can kill off a bathroom’s country vibe, so Roe scoured Etsy and eBay for vintage bathroom accessories such as a bamboo mirror and brass towel holders and door hooks. “I don’t think she appreciates it just yet,” laughs Roe of the space intended for her eldest daughter Honor, which is decked in creeping vine wallpaper by Living Quarters.
Honor, aged three, has a wonderfully whimsical bathroom complete with a sink skirt and shell wall sconces, but there’s no playroom in this home. What does she do about all the kids’ clutter? “At the moment there are bouncers and a lot of baby things out, but that’s just par for the course. They have their own bedrooms though, and the living room tends to stay as an adult space where we’re not surrounded by their toys once they’ve gone to bed.”
Said living room (painted in Sang de Boeuf by Edward Bulmer) houses a handsome vintage secretaire with panels of glass dating back over 200 years, and a captain’s chair which Roe sits at daily to work. She scours Etsy for antiques and shops a lot from Instagram – followers will even DM her if they see something they think she’ll like. “It’s such a lovely community,” she says of the social network. In London she enjoys pottering along the brigade of fabric shops alongside Penny Morrison in Chelsea. She also rates eBay for artworks: “You can get some amazing oil paintings and watercolours. If I don’t like the frame and it’s on a canvas block, I just remove it and lean it on the mantelpiece.”
Roe is about to turn seller herself with the launch of Sharland England, a 10-piece range of handmade rattan pieces including bedside tables, ottomans, plant pots and trays. All made in Bali, the designs feature braiding and scallop details, and were inspired by the wicker heirlooms she grew up around, which once belonged to her late great-grandmother, Marjorie Sharland (who inspired the name). “She lived in Buenos Aires and was very elegant. My mum says she was quite naughty – playing practical jokes and throwing parties. Every time she went to a restaurant, she’d order her pudding first.”
KITCHEN Rattan bar stools (from OKA), fabric pendant lights (from Alice Palmer & Co) and a Welsh dresser crammed with Roe’s crockey lends a homely feel to the upcycled kitchen. The island was made larger with a run of new cabinets from British Standard Cupboards. The parquet floor is from the Natural Wood Floor Company.
Rattan has come around as a trend again in the home, but for Roe it has been a constant. “I think it grounds a room and it gives it an elegance, but also because it’s a neutral colour, it plays very well off a bright wall or accessory.” The collection starts from £75 for a small planter and is joined by a range of cushions featuring fabric designed by Roe, as well as a selection of antique chairs. The latter have seat pads reupholstered in a mix of cane alongside fabrics by Soane and Pierre Frey.
Sharland is a natural extension of Roe’s home, and which she hopes will appeal to the ‘appreciators’ on Instagram who admire her taste. The nicest compliment she has received from friends about her new place is “that it feels like a country house in the middle of town”. And to all the procrastinators out there, she has this advice: “I think once you’ve got artwork up and books on the shelves, a space suddenly feels like a home.”