For this week’s podcast we were thrilled to visit the home of broadcaster and author Fearne Cotton, whose book Happy, has been on the bestseller lists since it was published two years ago. We wanted to find out her what makes her happy when it comes to her home and, as she is about to present a new interiors show on BBC 2, it felt like the right time to ask. You can listen to the full show here.
Fearne is very private about her home (and has given clearance for these pictures) but it’s immediately apparent that it is a happy place that’s light and bright and sunny. “People assume that my house will be edgy and weird but I’m actually really traditional and old school,” she says, bustling around her pale pink kitchen making coffee and pouring glasses of water for everyone. “I like it to be homely and a bit countrysidey.”
It is, we decide a few minutes later – Granny Punk style – as shown by these wonderful lampshades that hang low over the island. As you can see, the oven is recessed into a chimney and the island is purely for sitting, so you can have these embellished silk lampshades instead of the more industrial style that most people tend to go for in a kitchen as they won’t be splashed by anything cooking.
Fearne’s kitchen embodies the principle that you should decorate that room just like any other rather than sticking to certain colours and materials because of the type of room which is, I know what many people feel they should do and then they get stuck trying to find a style that suits them and the rest of the house.
“The key thing for me is light,” says Fearne. “I know that it’s very trendy to have dark grey and navy blue, or even black walls, but I need uplifting, airy and calm to be comfortable and while the dark colours look beautiful on instagram I can’t live in a space that dark.”
It’s refreshing to meet someone who is so comfortable in her choices too. The layout is another case in point. Fearne and her husband, Reef guitarist Jesse Wood, spent a long time thinking how to make this west London double-fronted house work for them, their two children and his two teenagers, Fearne’s step-children.
The results is, for all her talk of tradition, completely untraditiona,l but also the best use of the space that I have seen in similar houses.
Most people in double fronted houses tend to have two sitting rooms – other either side of the front door with then a couple of rooms behind them loosely designated as music or reading rooms – often just passages to the back of the house where they stick an enormous kitchen which becomes the main area that everyone spends all their time in while the other rooms gather dust and the occasional teenager.
Fearne and Jesse took a different approach. On one side is a long sitting room running from front to back (see top picture) and on the other a kitchen with a conservatory on the back. This allows lots of different zones within the open plan spaces and means that there are lots of areas for sitting and chatting and playing and working. The whole family can be together in one space or doing different things within that space.
“I love cooking and the island is perfect. People can come and go and sit on the counters or round the island and we know this is the most hardworking room because we have to revarnish the floors at least once a year,” she says.
It is also not how she grew up. Fearne’s parents were hardworking – her mother had four jobs on the go – and her childhood kitchen was a hardworking practical space where you prepared a meal, ate it and left.
“It wasn’t for hanging out. Sometimes it can be quite stressful here with all four kids wanting different things at different times, but if I can rise about it it’s a sort of beautiful chaos when we are all in here together.”
The other key decision they took was to put their bedrooms in the basement. That had already been created when they moved in, but neither of them wanted the traditional cinema room. Fearne felt that it would make the perfect bedroom as it was dark and cool and “cosy and womblike.” The master bedroom is very feminine with more pink and sage green but she says Jesse doesn’t mind all the cushions on the bed.
“Well who knows? I go to bed so much before him that he has to come in in the dark and find his way through the cushions,” she says.
Next door is a bathroom with a fabulous chandelier (badly photographed by me below) and Fearne admits that this is Jesse’s forte. “He’s good at lighting. The bathroom, interestingly, is not an en suite but used by all the family.
Next door is six-year-old Rex’s room where three-year-old honey is a permanent guest. Fearne says she followed Sophie’s advice and allowed Rex to choose his decor which is a deep ocean blue and he loved being involved in the decor. Honey’s room is upstairs and she also had a say in it but she prefers to stay with her brother at the moment.
The step kids also have their own rooms and bathroom on the top floor where Fearne’s daughter recently redid her bedroom. There was a large fitted wardrobe and Fearne removed one of the doors to create a desk area. This immediately made the room feel bigger and created more space.
Back downstairs and the desk below is where Jesse works. The view of the tree in the garden is spectacular and informed Fearne’s decision to paint the bookshelves green. So just what is her formula for finding her happy home?
“It is bespoke, there’s no one size fits all because we all react so differently to colour and texture but I need light. I don’t want to be in somewhere dark. I like dusty pinks and mossy greens and blues.”
And she was astounded when I pointed out those were the exact colours of her shirt that day proving that old adage that if you dress your house like you dress yourself you will both be happy.
“Those colours make me feel rooted and grounded and calm,” she says. “When you have found the colours, you need to look at shapes at textures. I don’t really like modern or mid-century modern furniture, but I do like old school comfy. I have no idea about trends but I go by how I react to colours.”
She’s not alone in that. A survey of 11,000 people by our sponsors DFS found that Fearne’s favourite pink is most associated with feelings of contentment and blue with energy and happiness.
The other over-riding theme of Fearne’s house is of family. From the gallery wall of family pictures to the kids’ fish tank in the kitchen and the box of toys jostling for space with Jesse’s guitars, this is a house where everyone can be together.
“I didn’t want them shut in a playroom so we took a long time getting the layout right but it was with the kids in mind. I can hang out with them while I cook and see them when they are playing”.
But the two older ones can also have their private space at the top of the house.
All this consideration given to her own home has made Fearne the perfect host for the new interiors show (a collaboration with BBC2 and Netflix) Interior Design Masters. Fearne co-hosts with Michelle Ogundehin (formerly of Elle Decoration) who is the head judge. A group of amateurs are given a different challenge every week from show homes to hotel bars to student accommodation. Each week one contestant is eliminated with the help of a guest judge (one of whom is our very own Sophie Robinson).
“It was such a great show to work on. They are all so passionate and we had tears and hysterics – there’s a lot at stake.” The winner gets to design a bar at a big London hotel. Let’s hope it’s the interior design equivalent of Bake Off. I can’t wait to see it.
And that’s the end of the current series but we will be back in three weeks four series 4. With huge thanks to DFS for sponsoring the first three and for taking a giant leap to support a show about such a visual medium that was entirely based around listening. We thank you so much for all your support. And if you want to listen to Fearne’s episode and discover her design crime then click here.