So here is another blog post that is coming to you way too late, in fact, I visited the home of local stylist Mars Dilbert during the long hot summer we had this year. I first met Mars at Firle Vintage Fair in 2017, just briefly to snap her photo. She was with her best friend Sophie (of vintage jewellery brand Sophia’s Garden) and they looked amazing in their original 1940s clothing. After the fair I found and befriended Mars on Instagram (@life_on_mars96) and have regularly spotted her walking around Lewes with her partner Kingsley or riding along on her bike. Always with a smile on her face and always looking immaculately dressed in vintage wear.
After seeing a post on Mars’ instagram of a nook in her house I asked if I could write a feature on her for the Lewes Home. Luckily for me she accepted and a few weeks later I found myself arriving at Mars’ lovely house following a blissful drive down a country lane between Lewes and Uckfield.
When I arrive at her home I immediately spot her bike and know I have come to the right place. Mars lives in a lovely cottage with a large country garden and the South Downs at her doorstep, nothing short of idyllic. I ring the bell and Mars, her lovely dog Socks and Kingsley all greet me with so much warmth and kindness and welcome me inside.
As we have never chatted properly I first sit with Mars and Kingsley over a cup of tea in a perfect vintage country kitchen. Mars has lived in the house for many years, raising her two children there (both of whom are now adults), and whilst she has been settled for a long time she still dreams of far flung places that she hasn’t visited yet. Travel and her love of exploring the globe is matched in Kingsley who is also a keen follower of vintage fashion and works overseas as a window-display artist, whilst Mars busies herself with her stylist work. Mars explains that she has recently been featured as a women’s model for Joseph Cheaney shoes, and has made an appearance on the fashion blogs Flossy’s Suitcase and Freddies of Pinewood. On top of all this Mars has recently been designing a pair of 1940s winter trousers for a Brighton label called ‘The Emperors Old Clothes’ which will be for sale next month as well as working on her next project – to open a vintage clothing store in Lewes. She is a busy lady and this is an exciting time in her career, I am so pleased for her!
After getting to know Mars and Kingsley a bit better I wander around the house with Mars talking and snapping photos, before then going around once more on my own. Every time I walk passed or back into a room for the third or fourth time I notice something different…everywhere I look is a feast for the eyes.
The house is exactly as I had imagined, the perfect reflection of Mars herself. Every room is beautifully cheerful and full to the brim of vintage treasures. Mars’ love for vintage is totally authentic for her, it is clearly not just a phase but a passion. When my partner Will looks at my pics back at home he comments “wow, she is the real deal” and he is so right. Mars’ love of vintage clothing and paraphernalia is deep rooted and truthful to who she is.
As well as this, through chatting to Mars, it is apparent that from a historical perspective her knowledge of vintage fashion is astounding, for a while we sit on her living room floor going through a box of vintage accessories all of which Mars can tell me the fabric used and when it would have been worn. Every corner of the house has been put to good use with artefacts, paintings (many her own), and every possible hook has a bag or selection of necklaces hanging from it. I could have spent hours pouring over all the jewellery Mars has collected and every little ornament or keepsake has a story behind it.
On the first floor are three bedrooms, and hanging on the back of a couple of doors are potential outfits for the upcoming Firle Vintage Fair 2018. Mars hasn’t chosen which outfit she is going to wear yet so she is hanging some options around the house to consider. Kingsley remarks that Mars still brings out clothes that he hasn’t seen before, her collection is so vast. Mars explains that as a child, growing up in Jamaica, she used to help her mother sew beads on to wedding dresses, spending hours, if not weeks on each dress. Clothing has always been a fascination for Mars and a big part of her life.
After gawping at all the vintage accessories in Mars’ bedroom, we take a look at one of the other rooms – which her daughter still sleeps in. It has fewer artefacts but still a vintage feel and one of Kingsley’s beautiful paintings hangs on the wall, Mars tells me that he has had his artwork published – she is clearly so very proud! Looking around the room I can’t help but notice small touches like lace being used as curtain ties. Mars explains to me that the lace, of course, is original vintage lace.
Heading back across the landing I notice that in Mars’ home even the stairs and the old entrance hall have been used as an opportunity to showcase her collection and tastes. Original 1940s shoes are paired on the staircase and in the hall, with a backdrop of beautiful decorative wallpaper, is a piano and guitar as well Mars’ original singer sewing machine, a chandelier and more vintage trinkets.
Finally we head out to the garden, a truly peaceful place with specially created little ‘zones’ for growing vegetables, relaxing in or playing. It is a magical space which Mars seems so at home in.
At this point Mars and Kingsley leave me to it as I wander around the garden taking a final few photos, as I walk around I can hear them both chatting and laughing together. I often turn around to notice them exchanging gestures of affection which is just so touching. I like Mars and Kingsley very, very much, I instantly feel so lucky to have met them both and to have had a glimpse into their world.
So thats nearly it from me. I do hope you have enjoyed Mars’ house tour as much as I did. The only thing that now remains is to let you hear from Mars herself so without further ado here is my Lewes Home interview…
Tell us a little about yourself
I am originally from Jamaica and fell in love with British culture and moved to the UK about 20 years ago, had a family and have raised two beautiful children a son, who has become a farmer and daughter who is now in college. I consider myself to be adventurous, outgoing and a natural creative. I love traveling and discovering new places, the great outdoors and all things nature. I’m a vegetarian and very health conscious with a good diet and work out regimen in place. I have run cross country for many years and keep an active lifestyle, whilst balancing my days with peaceful country walks. My favourite thing to do is hike the Scottish highlands and wander isolated places to commune with nature and animals.
You work as a stylist and have a personal passion for vintage clothing which you share on your beautiful instagram feed. What is the allure of vintage style for you and how/when did you find yourself falling for it?
My interest in vintage clothing was born in me from my childhood watching my mom and my grandmother, who are both seamstresses, create wonderful garments and dress in the most fabulous outfits. I got fully into collecting and wearing vintage in my 30s. I love the fit of vintage clothes and the craftsmanship that went into making unique garments, and adore the style and grace of the bygone eras. The hunt for vintage clothing is part of the appeal for me, to find that special piece and learn of its history.
How would you describe your home style?
My home is a reflection of my personality, it’s a country cottage with an eclectic style of all things 1930s, 1940s, pastels, yellows and pinks, pistachio greens, French, Chinoise, Victorian, Edwardian, Caribbean, Eastern European, I’m a collector of antiques and bric-a-brac that has no limits from buttons to lace, from parasols to china, bakelite to liberty prints. My home has become a bit of a private museum and art gallery. Im happiest at home.
What/who/where inspires your style?
My grandmother and my mom inspired my beginnings. As an adult French vintage, and the Jazz era has inspired my style.
What do you most look forward to when coming home?
Being in my kitchen, which is my favourite room in the house, cooking and flower arranging with my man. We’re both artists (my man is an international windows display artist: Bergdorf Goodman, Galleries Lafayette De Bijenkorf etc – I’m very proud of him!)
We get caught up creating and making things, listening to music and chatting – my dog Socks is always close and shares our evenings with us.
Are there any interior design ‘rules’ you stick to when choosing things for your home?
Not so much rules but preferences. A must-have is fresh flowers in practically every room, I grow flowers in my garden for this purpose and pick wild flowers. Preferred elements in my home design are pieces that have a history and a life story, even worn, broken or discarded, when they find their way to me I enjoy them becoming a part of my story.
What interior décor is a big turn-off for you?
Personally I am not keen on black bedding. It one of my pet peeves, not to say it can’t work for some spaces and settings. I’m driven to white crisp sheets and linen. For me it’s like being a child all over again, being received by light bright bedding. My aesthetic mainly leans towards the bright and happy not the sombre and severe.
What makes living in this area of Sussex special for you?
Being raised in the country in Jamaica I love all things countryside, the animals, the farms, and thus gravitated to that here in England. I love East Sussex and the South Downs and particularly love the artistic community in Lewes, Brighton and all the lovely country villages and churches.
Apart from your own home, can you tell me about another Lewes house that always catches your eye – what do you love about it?
Not one in particular… I love the array of houses on South Street, the quaint cottages on Chapel Hill and all the quaint town houses/cottages in the Twittens of our town. Castle Gate House by our Norman castle takes some beating.
Finally, you also have your own line in hand crafted, fabric brooches, ornaments and other treasures. Where can we see and purchase your products?
I am currently building my brand and line of clothing and hand crafted brooches, ornaments and accessories that will be available in my online store, instagram, and in our Life On Mars shop in Lewes opening in Winter 2018.
That brings us to the end of my piece on Mars Dilbert, not just a fantastic style historian and icon but a beautiful person, inside and out. Just being in Mars’ company for an instant and I wanted to slow down and remember to appreciate everything and everyone I have in my life. Mars has a calmness and a soulfulness about her that has had a real impact on me. She is so easy going and gentle… and always, always, smiling.