India Holmes, Islington, London
Images by Ho Hai Tran
This week we step inside the colourful world of India Holmes to talk to her about creating a space that feels truly your own. India works as design director at de Gournay, the famed maker of antique interiors and exquisite, hand-painted wallpapers. The attention to detail de Gournay has become renowned for is ever-present in India’s home, a space that feels it could have been made over generations, yet, has only been in India’s care for less than a year.
“On the inside my home feels quite the opposite of minimal, although it has a modern facade, which I am dying to paint at some point, it is filled with bold colours, thrifty indian fabrics and its fair share of miscellaneous trinkets. The majority of the walls are filled top to tail with artwork, which gives a deceptively lived in feel, as I only moved here at the end of May last year. I love the evenings here, especially in winter, with just a few cosy lamps on and listening to music from the 1970’s on Wharfdale Dovedale speakers. I am also very fond of my renovated kitchen and have a pride in cleaning that I had never had before!”
“There are many objects that hold sentimental value for me around the house and a few others that I am totally obsessed with, either because I had been hunting for them for years, or the saving up process had been so long! I am lucky enough to have a steady stream of artists throughout my family, so the majority of art I hold dear has been painted by them. Three of my absolute favourites are all by my grandfather, Gerald Benney, there’s a four foot tall almost entirely black moonscape, a large painted naked lady reclining on a wonderful green chair and a smaller sketch of a naked lady wearing a red shirt. Aesthetically I love them all but they also bring a nostalgic sense of home to what is a relatively new house.”
“My more recently cherished objects include a 1970’s Tommaso Barbi ceramic and glass coffee table, it is just so sexy, I had been scouting for one for years until recently a friend found one in an antiques market in Parma, I was absolutely elated when she told me! Followed a close second by a pair of Italian brass and glass lamps, which have large globe glass balls running up their base, I fell in love with them as soon as I saw them, something you can’t stop thinking about until you finally buy it!”
“My bedroom is my favourite room of the house, when deciding what parts of the house to renovate I knew that it would always be top of the list. It was a blank shell when I arrived which gave the perfect opportunity to start from scratch. Both the bedrooms are slightly hidden away on the ground floor, so in an attempt to give it more stature I started by adding a cornice, dado rail and skirting.”
My bedroom is my favourite room of the house, when deciding what parts of the house to renovate I knew that it would always be top of the list.
“My bedroom definitely has an Asian influence, one of my favourite pictures hangs above a rattan and bamboo dresser, named ‘the Great Battle of Kawanakajima’ by a Japanese artist called Sadahide from the Edo period, it used to hang in my grandparents front hall alongside 30 or so other Chinese and Japanese artworks. To the right of my bed is a poster advertising ‘The Grand Sumo Tournament’ at the Royal Albert Hall from 1991, I picked this up at an antiques shop in West London a few years ago, it happily sits alongside two other dear artworks, gifted to me by a friend who had inherited them for their grandparents who used to live in Hong Kong, they are a brilliant example traditional Chinese block print art. Finally, something I will never grow tired of is my headboard, I had been longing to upholster something in this timeless fabric designed by Beata Heuman, it is a glorious thick green linen with a white marbled pattern running over it.”
“I have dipped in and out of quite a few creative endeavours before de Gournay, starting at an auction house when I was 20 years old, then into interior design and most recently art director at Chiltern Firehouse. I now head up the design and production side of the embroidery at de Gournay and also work on their custom wallpaper designs. I’m also lucky enough to spend a lot of time (pre covid) in Kolkata, India, where our incredible embroidery team is based. I adore working with them, they are some of the most talented artisans I have ever come across, it has been an amazing experience to produce such intricate and skilful work with them.”
I now head up the design and production side of the embroidery at de Gournay and also work on their custom wallpaper designs.
“[Outside of the studio] A friend and I have taken the lock down evenings in our stride and are beginning to turn what was a few handmade Christmas presents into a more serious project. Our first creation, which is ever evolving is decorative decoupage trinket trays. We are in the process of having a local carpenter make up the custom bases for us, which will we’ll then be lacquer and decorate – watch this space!”
“[In terms of my creative process] I have always thought a good old fashion brainstorm with other people is the best starting point, and once you have the ground work for a project in your mind it always surprises me how much I then notice related inspiration all around me.”
“At de Gournay our designs always start with historical imagery we love, we then sketch this into miniature scale design murals, long enough to span a full room. We take small sections of the design to sample, referencing the colours to use, style to paint in or the type of thread application, giving us a solid target to work from when the final panels are then hand painted or embroidered. It is a hugely satisfying process and feat of craftsmanship between our London design team and extended studios.”
India's Top Three Tips for Reimagining Any Room:
- Be bold and go with what you love! If you love green, paint one of your rooms green! It will always be better than wishing you had painted one of your rooms green.
- Layer up if you can – rugs, table clothes, patterned fabrics and of course lots of pictures on the walls. When I was younger and didn’t have much money to buy art, I found a ‘Penthouse’ magazine at my grandparents’ from the 1970’s, back then it was still a photography based magazine. One of the issues had a fantastic 6 double page shoot by Helmet Newton, I bought some Ikea frames and hung 8 of them together as set – it cost me a total of £12 for the frames and I had filled a whole corridor with pictures!
- It might seem like an obvious one but if you have the time (and energy) troll Ebay. It can really take some tiresome searching but there are hidden gems everywhere. Some dedicated scrolling led me to find all my brass door knobs that would have retailed for 4-5 times the price if new. It’s great for more original furniture – I am also a sucker for auctions and have found plenty of steals from small UK auctions, including the £100 art deco sideboard in my living room!