Continuing our ‘In Conversation with..’ series is one of our amazing Location Owners Jane Cumberbatch of Palace Road. Jane is not only an Interior Stylist but has multiple books all about interior design, cooking and so much more. She’s also not a stranger to blogs as she runs her own Pure Style, so she was an obvious pick for us to get an insight into her life!
How did you start out in the industry and did you ever think it would evolve into what it is today?
I have been a stylist and design writer for over thirty years. I started out on House & Garden magazine when most of our features were shot in studios, often in run-down buildings in Shoreditch, long before it came hip and happening! When I became a freelance stylist shortly after the birth of my first child, companies like Laura Ashley and Marks & Spencer were keen to show their products in more realistic ‘lifestyle’ settings. On one 2-month job for Habitat, I was tasked to find 8 different locations which entailed driving around the whole of southern England taking polaroids of possible venues. We then took a huge van, laden with the products from one location to another. Which varied from a pretty Georgian house in Winchester to a beach style home in Camber Sands. At the time I was living in a wooden panelled Georgian house in Spitalfields that we had restored and so it seemed a natural progression to start using the odd room there in some of my commercial jobs. On moving to Tulse Hill, South London in 2003 my immediate thoughts for decorating the house was not that it would or should become a popular location house, more that it was a great space for my family and my work. However, it has been a very pleasant surprise to see that the location house business has grown and grown over the last fifteen years as the demand for visuals has exploded with the use of the internet and online marketing.
How would you describe your interior design style?
I didn’t set out to create a location house look, what I have done here at Palace Road is simply a reflection of my simple and natural approach to interior design. My style is about making a home comfortable and modern without spending a fortune. It’s about making the best of what you’ve got and thinking in a more resourceful and wherever possible a more eco-conscious way. It is about paring down and living with less to keep your life more in control. I believe in finding objects and furniture which combine form and function. I like to reuse and update things, such as reviving a junk table with a lick of paint or making a fresh new loose cover for a sagging armchair. I love using white paint as a canvas for shots of colour around the room, but at the same time, I’m very fond of blues, greens, or earthy neutral tones for any space.
What are your key pieces in your location home?
I guess that the huge sofa in blue and white striped cotton ticking is a great vehicle and really popular with fashion shoots but isn’t so practical when someone is shooting an interiors story… That’s when it has to be upended and stored on the van overnight. I find that the simple Ercol shaker style dining chairs are some of the most photographed pieces because they lend themselves to everything from a lifestyle cookbook shoot to being a prop to show a Boden jumper. My bed is a beautiful wooden box shape that gets used for lots of bedlinen shoots as well serving as the ideal surface for babies dressed up in Next’s new spring sleepsuits. I have simple natural accessories: wooden stools, woven log baskets, plain white tableware, candlesticks, simple glasses many of which I have collected over the years from my travels and various markets and car boots around the country. These all find their way into various shoots. I have to say that the little green shed at the bottom of the garden, is probably the star turn in the house…. The perfect backdrop!
How did you turn from writing for magazines to writing your own books?
I had been writing for some years about design and then thought that I had amassed enough ideas and thoughts of my own to start weaving into books. I love the process of making a book, it’s like putting together a huge jigsaw puzzle.
What is your top interior design tip to anyone wanting to redesign their home or start out in the industry?
I would say don’t aim for perfection and be realistic in your goals.
If you’re starting out in the industry, I would advise reading and looking at as many visual references as you can to help you find out what excites you and what doesn’t. Obviously, Instagram is a good place, but it is very limiting in its repertoire… It’s worth hanging out in art gallery shops and looking through their art and design books for ideas. Similarly, tear out images you like from magazines and create mood boards… Look at how nature uses colour and texture.
What’s been your favourite shoot with 1st Option Locations?
We’ve had a huge range of exciting shoots with 1st Option, but I think the one that fascinated me the most was for Coca Cola when there was an expert on-site to create the perfectly fizzed coca-cola drink for each scene… ( the reason being that normal coke wouldn’t retain its bubbles long enough for a shot that might take an hour) I approached the job with an array of gadgets, testing bottles, and the seriousness of a chemist. My teenage children could barely contain themselves from sneaking into the huge fridge that was brought in to house more stocks of coca-cola bottles and cans.