Anouska Lancaster is one of the UK’s leading interior designers and founder of Noushka Design. Here we find out what inspires the Berkshire local and how her business came to be
Pre-Noushka Design, what were you doing?
I married young and sadly ended up in a controlling and violent relationship at 21. All my dreams came to a grinding halt. Although I wasn’t allowed to work, I successfully designed three nightclubs in central London for my husband at the time. One of the nightclubs went on to win ‘Best London Club’ at the London Bar and Club Awards. However, the attention my award brought me meant that this flair was soon ended, and my creativity and passion for design was grinded back to a halt.
I finally got the courage to flee the marital home with my children in 2011 and moved into rented accommodation. I left behind everything that I knew – my home, my lifestyle and all the luxuries that came with it. My husband cut off all finances and began a campaign of terror to get me to return. I stood strong with the help of the Police and Berkshire Women’s Aid and learnt to live again. Following the success of my nightclub designs, I knew I had the ability to create a magical home for my children which they’d love, and a place they’d feel safe. That rented cottage was the most important and prominent project of my career – It marked the start of my new life and gave me the confidence to set up Noushka Design.
Have you always had an eye for interiors?
Ever since I can remember, I have always been passionate about art and design. My earliest memories as a child are of me drawing cartoons and illustrations. My mother and father were hugely encouraging of my talent early on and would enter my drawings for competitions and put them forward for local events.
I grew up wanting to be a cartoonist. I was totally obsessed with shows in the 80’s such as ‘Hart Beat’ with Tony Hart, who was my hero. Rarely would I be seen without a pen and paper. For hours I would doodle away whilst glued to the TV, trying to recreate the exciting and vivid images being created on the screen.
Art is in my veins; it always was, and always will be. I think you are born with natural artistic flair; I don’t think it can’t be ‘taught’. You either have it or you don’t. I love painting in a variety of medias and combining colour, pattern and textures.
Interior Design was a natural progression for me. It went hand in hand with my lifestyle at the time and allowed me to reignite my passion for art and design. I really felt that I found my calling when I designed my first interior. Creating an interior scheme is very similar to painting a picture. It starts with a blank canvas and slowly the layers of shapes, colours and textures are applied to create a finished ‘masterpiece’.
What inspired you to launch your business?
The reason for founding Noushka Design was because I was bored of seeing non-descript interiors. Interiors that were lifeless, that were dull, and that didn’t tell a story. I often use fashion as a parallel when it comes to explaining my philosophy on interior design. You should dress your house, like you dress yourself. I rarely see anyone going out top to toe in grey cotton, without an accessory or even a handbag. What you wear speaks volumes about your personality, your individuality and your sense of style. Your interior should do the same.
Why are you different from other interiors designers?
My vision was to create a bespoke design company which created interiors that reflected the various passions, styles and personalities of its clients. My designs are colourful, bold, and brave, and always tell a story. It is important to me that each and every interior is as different as the person that I am designing it for. Noushka Design is a celebration of individuality and personal style.
Noushka Design is so much more than a business; it is part of me. I don’t have a ‘work persona’ and a ‘home persona’ – I am who I am; whether I’m working or relaxing with my family. When I work with my clients, I allow them to be part of my life and vice versa. It is an invite that requires trust and mutual respect. More often than not, my clients become important people in my life.
I pride myself on giving so much more than simply a colour scheme or a mood board; I give my clients the confidence to create a bespoke interior that enhances their lifestyle. I truly believe that a successful design can only be achieved by spending time getting to know an individual and understanding their story.
I believe that the key element to successful interior design is surrounding yourself with colours and items that make you happy. If you don’t, then your house is simply a house, not a home. A home should be a unique sanctuary, a place where you feel content and happy. This can only be achieved by creating a design scheme that reflects you and your style. My top tip would be to dig deep, trust your intuition, follow your heart, and not your head.
The work on your website is really striking. What do you want to achieve with your interior design?
I want my interiors to be memorable. Kit Kemp once told me that ‘a successful design is a memorable one’. Whether people like my designs or not, if people are talking about my interiors and remember them, I think I’ve done my job! As well as that, I want my interiors to make people feel happy. Expressing yourself through your interior should be as natural as expressing yourself through your wardrobe. It also intrigues me why people are eager to experiment with fashion, but not with their interiors. What’s the worst that can happen? You don’t like it and you change it. I would like to see some of the fear factor removed from interior design, and I think that goes hand in hand with the stigma of it being elite.
You say you want to break down a stigma about interior design. How?
Interior design is one of those phrases that for as long as I can remember automatically creates a sense snobbery, of exclusivity, and the common misconception that it’s purely for the rich, famous or wealthy.
The words ‘interior design’ evoke images of super yachts, penthouses and weekends in Monaco (I wish!). Interior design is not something that should be class related or wealth related. It is something that everybody should be able to embrace and be involved in. Again, like fashion. You don’t have to dress in Gucci to look cool and on trend. It’s not wealth related, and some of the best design schemes I’ve created have been on a budget.
Whereabouts do you live and how long have you lived there?
I am based in Berkshire. I live in a small village called Crowthorne with my husband Greig, my two children Kai and Miabella, and my stepchildren Harry and Maddie. We have two dogs called Otto and Stanley. I grew up locally in Finchampstead and have lived in Berkshire my whole life. I have completed a number of projects in Buckinghamshire. I am currently working on a project in Jordans (near Beaconsfield) and one in Amersham. One project that stands out for me is a Victorian house in Berkshire which won numerous awards, and was the project that Vogue spotted and featured.
Do you still harbour ambitions to front your own TV show? What kind of show would it be?
I would still love to have my own TV show. I work for QVC as an interior designer and one of their ‘lifestyle experts’ on the live shows. I am lucky enough to work with, and represent, some incredible interior designers at QVC such as Kelly Hoppen and Culinary Concepts. I also work with Amanda Holden representing her brand Bundleberry when she can’t be there. I really enjoy the buzz of working in TV – its such fun and makes my working week so diverse.
If I had my own TV show, I would like it to showcase my unique design style, showing the viewers how to create an interior that represents their individuality, and the ability to do so on a budget.
What’s next for you?
My business is growing as I am. I am doing things now that I never dreamt I’d be able to do five years ago. I see myself on an exciting journey, and part of the excitement is not knowing what tomorrow will bring. I am a spiritual person and I trust that ‘what is meant to be will be’. I never beat myself up over the future, I take each day as it comes, which allows me to simply enjoy the ride. I feel that creatively, it’s damaging to get too fixated on the future. I believe you have to live in the moment and see what each new day brings.
I have recently been given a couple of opportunities to get back into designing for the leisure industry, which is a field that I’ve been looking to get back into. Designing leisure projects gives you a much broader spectrum of opportunities to be creative and think ‘outside the box’ and therefore the timing is perfect for me. I am working with some really exciting companies at the moment, developing new products that would work beautifully in nightclubs and bars and I am really excited about putting these into place.
As well as more writing and TV work, I would like to launch my own collection of items for the home. Encapsulating my quirky and unique style with a furniture and accessories range would be incredibly satisfying. I really feel that there is a gap in the market for an affordable, brave and bold capsule collection, which pushes boundaries and encourages people to be brave and bold enough to think outside the box.
noushkadesign.com; Instagram: @noushka_design