Pink gloss = girl boss. How Donna Ida Thornton turned a former curry house into a bright and beautiful home
How many times have you been sat tucking into a chicken jalfrezi down your local curry house and thought: 'Ooooh I could see myself living here!' ? No, me neither. But that's exactly what Donna and her husband Bobby Dazzler did...and what a home they created!
I was lucky enough to be invited to meet Donna at her Berkshire home in my previous incarnation as a freelance writer for Hello magazine. She picked me up from the station and I don't think we stopped talking until she dropped me back in London later that day. Donna, fashion designer and founder of denim destination Donna Ida, is a total pocket rocket with a bold sense of style and a down-to-earth Aussie charm. She's also a girl after my own heart with a high/low approach to decorating and a serious thing for Jonathan Adler. Girl crush alert!
In short I couldn't think of anybody better to launch the House Envy section of this blog with and when I told her about my plans, she was amazingly helpful and has allowed me to use images of the house so I can share them with you all and talk about some of my favourite bits. You lucky things are in for a treat!
First up, a quick bit of background. The house was previously an Indian restaurant owned by Donna's husband Robert (who she has affectionately nicknamed Bobby Dazzler), and when he and Donna used to come here for their Saturday night curry, she never imagined they would actually end up living there.
“Our favourite table was just by the entrance," said Donna. "When Bobby got permission to convert the restaurant back into a house, I couldn’t picture it at all and originally it wasn’t the plan for us to live here. I was too busy googling the best way to get the smell of curry out! But as things started to take shape I got more and more involved and it finally got to the point where I started to think of it as somewhere I wanted to live myself.”
The house itself is bright, breezy and packed with pops of colour and quirky pieces in keeping with Donna’s “casual glam” ethos. A striking holographic portrait of her Maj by artist Chris Levine takes pride of place above the fireplace in the dining area. Donna says: "She's a real talking point. If you get up close it’s as if she’s in the room with us. She looks so good!" I am obsessed with this artwork and would love it for my first floor landing but it's wayyy out of my budget unfortunately.
There are also lots of cool black and white photographic prints of the likes of the Rolling Stones and Kate Moss scattered around. Tamara Beckwith's The Little Black Gallery is Donna's weak spot for these, "I literally cannot walk in there without buying something."
Lumas Gallery and King and McGaw are also brilliant for photographic prints.
Donna’s style savvy decorating involves a clever mix of statement pieces, including a bubblegum pink velvet sofa (Sofa.com) in the sitting room and a show-stopping Mongolian lambswool footstool with gold legs from Jonathan Adler, mixed with sample sale bargains and Ikea classics. Her dining chairs look like they could be Jonathan Adler but Donna actually spotted them for a fraction of the price on a buying trip to LA and had them shipped over. On her design mantra, she says: "There’s a few things I’ve splurged on but I always try to find a bargain. I saw a sideboard I loved in The Conran Shop but it was ridiculously expensive. I needed something long to fit the space so I went online and started googling the size I was looking for. One came up which looked almost exactly the same but was half the price! I will always try and track something down for less online."
The pair of floor lamps above are from Pooky, the rug is The Rug Company and the super cute blue ottoman is by Anne Kyyro Quinn. Donna tracked it down after spotting it on an episode of Sex and the City. She's also reused bits and bobs that were once used her stores in Chelsea. See the cracked mirror console below which used to display belts in the drawers. The zone below is also the only place Donna will allow Bobby to have a TV because it's tucked away out of sight.
The renovation itself was a steep learning curve for Donna who struggled to find the time to dedicate to it. She says: “Everything needing redoing and I didn’t have time to project manage it. I work six days a week in London leaving the house at 5.30am and often don’t get home until late. I had also never done anything like this before so I had no idea what to do! But I learnt as I went along. The builder would call me up and say he needed taps, so I’d go online and get the taps! Luckily I’m really decisive and tend not to dwell on things so I didn’t need to spend hours choosing tiles etc.”
Her decisiveness meant her colour palette for the house was decided in double quick time. There are only three different colours in the whole house. "I was driving and I saw the Little Greene Paint Company shop so just pulled over and jumped in. They had one of their walls in the shop painted Loft White so I just went for it. I think if you have to think about it too much then it’s probably not right. I’ll just walk away if I’m not completely sold on it and I don't really regret anything."
The only other paint colours are black gloss in the downstairs bathroom and my absolute favourite...pink gloss in Donna's office. The small side room is painted in Farrow and Ball's Middleton Pink. It's the ultimate girl boss haven but the clever addition of a dark wood desk and mustard accessories ground the whole scheme and prevent it from looking like a Barbie house. I mean...on the evidence of this I think every house should have a pink gloss room!
But there's so much to love about this house and when you're in it, the thing that strikes you is how light and open it is. The kitchen probably presented the biggest challenge to Donna and Bobby from a build perspective as they wanted to open the roof up and take out walls. It was so worth it though and it is now one of Donna's favourite rooms in the house...even though she confesses she's not one for actually cooking in it...that's former chef Bobby's domain. Donna says: "I love how light and open it is in here and how the light flows. There's also an amazing view from here. I don't like high kitchen cupboards so everything was designed to be sleek and low. It's a fairly cheap white kitchen with marble worktops on to jazz it up and I added pops of turquoise. It's the perfect entertaining space."
Donna also made sure she got a separate larder and washing room when they were planning the layout. It's an Aussie thing apparently. "When I first moved here, I couldn't believe that people didn’t have separate washing rooms. It was one of the things I insisted on here."
Donna also has a soft spot for the bathroom which is all sleek marble plus a vintage sideboard bought and painted for her by a friend: "I always feel really happy in there. I get in the bath with a G&T and read a good book. Although I’m so bad at relaxing, I only ever manage to stay in for three minutes. But I love the idea of it!"
I hear ya. I am so not a bath person. But the G&T I can totally get on board with!
Sadly the tour is over peeps. What did you think? Would love to hear your comments in the section below. I have put together a few ideas for you based on Donna's "casual glam" style here...