I have the very good fortune to personally know Ella Pays-Jex
She is one-third of Interior Design Consultancy Debandell. Ella has always struck me as an elegant, gentle and thoughtful person and one of her very good friends once described her to me as intuitive and observant – both of which I immediately recognise as being invaluable for her choice of career as interior designer.
Ella set-up the design consultancy alongside her mum Debra – who shares Ella’s passion for interior design – and her friend Andrea. Fascinatingly Debra lives in France and Andrea lives in Buenos Aires meaning that the consultancy is immediately an international venture, which sounds ambitious and exciting – I love it!
I meet Ella and Debra in Ella’s lovely home in central Lewes.
I have been to the house once before and just love the feeling of instant calm as you walk through the door. The house is light and airy, it is uncluttered but feels comfortable and relaxing – a welcoming retreat from a busy day.
Ella led me straight into the kitchen where I had a delicious cup of coffee and chatted about how Debandell Interior Design came to be, “Ella and I formed Debandell when we realised we were both looking for a fresh start and wanted it to be in interior design – we’ve both had friends and family ask for advice over the years and it seemed a natural progression” Debra says. Prior to starting up the business, Debra worked in buying and selling French linen, spending her free time writing her first novel (which she is still in the process of editing), whereas Ella was a producer at an advertising agency called ‘Mother’ in London, where she also met her husband. “Once we had children it became impossible [at the ad agency] and so I left and started up an online shop… selling refurbished furniture. I had lots of fun but still wasn’t quite fulfilled” Ella explains.
It was the need for flexibility that started off the change in career for Debra, for Ella it was moving to Lewes.
“Working on my own house (again), whilst designing and managing a couple of other renovations… lead to a bit of a light-bulb moment. The three of us were doing it anyway, so why not get paid to do what we love? A bit of a novel idea for me but I am inspired daily by my husbands love of work – something that I’d never felt before.”
Looking around Ella’s kitchen as we chat I can’t help but notice how much thought she has clearly given to every detail.
She is surrounded only by things she loves and has absolutely nothing unnecessary taking up the space around her, it is a beautifully crafted space that reflects Ella perfectly.
From here I had the opportunity to tour around the house, the kitchen is directly connected to both the entrance hall and the dining room which I visit next. The main elements that strike me here – and throughout Ella’s home are her light walls, carefully chosen plants and wooden furniture – both new pieces and antiques. I think its the simplicity and harmony between these three things that pull Ella’s whole house together and makes it feel so personal.
The living room at the front of the house is no different, beautiful antique chairs – one bought at auction from local auctioneers Gorringes – sit alongside an inviting, cosy sofa and carefully chosen artefacts and works of art. This room too remains light and airy balancing out the fuss-free atmosphere with luxury and comfort so well.
Upstairs, I find an exception.
Ella’s bathroom is (almost all) painted dark blue. The dark walls here do contrast with the rest of the house but it makes total sense why she has chosen to make that contrast. The bathroom is a clearly defined space in the house, it has a totally different allure which matches its purpose as a sanctuary to unwind in. The huge window, wooden accents and flowers, however, ensures that despite being brilliantly relaxing the colour is not engulfing in any way.
I finally take a look at Ella’s room and the spare room – bypassing the bedrooms of her two children which she explains are still being decorated – where I return to bright and clear spaces. I absolutely love her plywood headboard (gorgeous or what!?) and the carefully selected prints on the wall are a perfect touch.
The spare bedroom has a simple branch hanging on the wall above the bed. Ella really has thought of everything and the fact that something from the natural world must be in every room is so apparent and makes the house so very Ella.
Without any further ado I was keen to ask Ella and Debra some more questions about themselves, about their business and of course about Lewes:
Tell us a little about yourselves
D: I live in France with my husband, but I’ve also lived in Spain, the UK and USA. My father was a serial ‘mover’ so as far back as I can remember I was taught to walk into a property and see its potential. I even became an estate agent to satisfy my need to explore other people’s homes! Buying and renovating houses is a passion that Ella and I share
E: I spent my twenties hopping from job to job and country to country looking for a job that I would love. Finally in my (late) thirties, I am there and not only that but I seem to have finally put down some roots as I can’t imagine leaving Lewes (at least not for a while).
How would you describe your personal home styles?
D: Cosy and comfortable, simple rustic with lots of up-cylcled elements. Too cluttered, but I can’t seem to stop buying at auctions and car boot sales!
E: I think my style is light and airy with lots of natural elements. To label it I would maybe say Scandi.
What do you most look forward to when coming home?
D: My king-size bed made up with cool, crisp, vintage French linen
E: I have always been a homebody, even in my twenties… I had lots of fun going out but I’d always look forward to getting home again to my own space. In fact, I once broke up with someone because he complained about my love of home and comfort! I love walking through the front door and seeing my kitchen at the end of the hallway, where I’ll either make a cuppa or pour a glass of wine… and put my slippers on!
What are your favourite rooms in your homes, why?
D: My office because it is exclusively my space, it is messy and cluttered but I love it any way. But the open plan kitchen-diner is where my husband and I cook together eat together and share a bottle of wine at the end of the day.
E: My favourite room is my kitchen. It was the first room I renovated and I love the end result. When we bought this house it was the worst room; small, cramped, dated and cupboards covering all of the windows. Now it is open, light and spacious and the room we spend most of our time in.
What interior decor is a big turn-off for you?
D: Animal-skin rugs and multiple primary colours
E: Too much bling and hoarding
What makes Lewes special for you?
D: My daughter and her gorgeous family live there
E: So much!! The absolute best thing… The smell! I can’t describe how much I look forward to getting off the train, out of the car or out of the house in the winter to the smell of bonfire! The people, what an unbelievable melting pot of creative people. The view, the South downs are extra special and I feel so lucky to see them every day.
Can you each tell me about a Lewes house (apart from your own Ella) that always catches your eye – what do you love about it?
D: There are so many stunning old properties in Lewes, with such different architectural styles built over centuries, but I really like the new homes built on the River Ouse at Chandler’s Wharf. I love their use of wood cladding and slate, their balconies overlooking the river and their huge windows which must create an incredibly bright, light interior. I am not always a fan of new-builds but I think these are rather special.
E: There are so many that I’d love to look inside! Its impossible to choose just one so I’ve done a lucky dip and come out with Trevor House. I love Georgian architecture, its so impressive and simple at the same time. All of those lovely windows! (I was very torn between a few though..!)
How would you describe Debandell to a potential client? Do you have a particular philosophy on interior design?
Debandell offers two services, an on-line design service that makes interior design affordable to everyone, and a traditional, face-to-face turn-key service. Our philosophy is based on respect for the environment and having as little impact as possible on the planet. Our design ethos is ‘keep it simple’. Finding a balance between the practicality of every-day family life and a beautiful inspiring home is our speciality.
Where do you take inspiration from when designing your own homes and other people’s?
D: I keep up to date with trends by constantly reading interior design magazines and books and looking at what’s in vogue in other countries. For colour and texture there is always nature as an endless source of inspiration – every time I go for a walk I come back with new ideas!
E: Nature, the best colour palettes and textiles come from nature. But also people; whether you think you have no or little idea of your own style, there are always items collected over the years that give us an insight into the elements that will create your perfect home.
This brings me to the end of my interview with these two gorgeous ladies. Just before I leave a slinky character catches my eye. Walking around the house I had noticed that Ella must like cats – the pillow, the print on the wall… and so I could hardly be surprised to find a cat in the house!
I felt so calm leaving this lovely bright home and these two warm and welcoming ladies. Their enthusiasm and passion for interiors and excitement at opening their own Interior Design consultancy is tangible. There is no doubt that Debra and Ella love interiors, adding in Andrea to the mix will make them an irresistible trio to anyone looking to hire interior designers. If you would like to talk to Ella, Debra and Andrea about their consultancy you can find out more by going here or you can catch up with them on Pinterest here