I absolutely love The Lewes Home.
When I started this community blog – only recently in June of this year – I had no idea that it would come to mean this much to me and so quickly. Of course I love Lewes (and the surrounding areas) which was a good start and I knew it was a town with incredible history, architecture and talented people but I don’t think I really had a grasp on the true scale of talented, creative, skilled and entrepreneurial people that live here. In fact only yesterday chatting to the lovely Chloe of Seven Sisters Spices, I learned that Lewes has 4180 micro-businesses which is the second highest statistic in the country for a district! Amazing.
The thing, by far, that I have come to love most about starting The Lewes Home is all of these amazing people that I am meeting, who all inspire me for different reasons and who all feed into the unique energy – the beating heart – of this town and the areas around it.
This brings me to the person that I have recently met, and who inspired me to write all of this.
This person is Samantha Stas. A local artist, designer, maker, and creator of beautiful and unique art, dolls, gifts and decorations.
Sam lives in the Malling estate in Lewes with her husband Joe, their two children and their dog Bunty. Always keen to explore all areas of Lewes for The Lewes Home I was pleased to feature a family home in this part of town, and after a recommendation from a mutual friend I sent Sam a message and arranged a time to meet her.
I arrive at Sam’s house on a warm Autumn morning, and having not met her before I have no idea who will be on the other side of the door as I knock. I am greeted by a striking woman wearing a 1950s pin-up headscarf, bright blue earrings, vintage clothes and pom-pom slippers all of which is accompanied by a huge smile, twinkly eyes and tangibly vibrant energy. Straight away I feel so thrilled to meet Sam and to visit her family home.
Sam moved to Brighton from Harrow where she grew up to study graphic design. It was there she met her husband Joe who was born and bred in Lewes and they eventually moved back to the town where they have settled with their children. I have a lovely chat with the couple (and a seriously lovely cuddle with Bunty) in the kitchen over a cup of coffee before being shown around the house. The first room we visit is the living room.
Sam and Joe have recently painted their living room dark blue after years of a bright, white space. They are really pleased with the results and I can see why as it makes the colourful objects totally pop all around the room. The space is incredibly bright and is double aspect allowing a view out on to both the front and back gardens.
Sam must have spent such a long time collecting the nostalgic and retro artefacts all around and the way these things are displayed demonstrates her artistic eye. I spot one of her own paintings hanging above a wooden/white bureau that I had seen at the Artists United exhibition, its lovely to see the painting in situ where it looks so perfect. I also have to add that the drinks trolley is an extra nice touch.
The way everything in this room has been placed is seriously astonishing. The display element really is an art in itself – honestly, Sam could write a book on how to display things in the home. The expression ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ springs to my mind (in the best possible way) – every object just seems so ‘at home’ in its place. It is a beautifully curated room that doesn’t take itself too seriously – there is such a sense of fun, life and homeliness in every corner.
After leaving the living room I pop back to the kitchen to take yet more photos. This is a bright white and fresh room but still very much 1950s with bright primary colours and playfully printed kitchenware. Sam really has thought of everything.
At this point we start to head upstairs, but I have to stop en-route to scour the hall. Yep, even the hall is an amazing place to hang out – right down to the light switch which has been decorated with stickers to give it a face and I love the vintage telephone seat. I also spot a lovely lamp shade from the brilliant Lewes boutique Popsicle hanging in pride of place in the centre of the hall. Such an eclectic mixture of things that work together!
I can’t help but notice that there isn’t a wall in the house that hasn’t been carefully considered and put to the good use. My eyes are drawn to everything and everything has been designed to draw in the eye. Sam’s taste is kitsch and colourful, there is a strong 1950s/1960s element but all mixed up with other vintage finds, Sam’s home is perfectly fitting for her.
Also, don’t you just love this photo of Sam? The arrow is pointing to her as if to say – this is SHE! Love it!
Upstairs the landing continues to delight with cityscape wallpaper and interesting prints, a child’s puzzle and Sam’s own wonderful boxed-dolls hang on the wall.
Once I (finally) stop admiring all of these things and make it to the top of the stairs the first room we visit is the bathroom. Even in this space there is so much to see and admire. The lovely roll top bath sits beneath a wall of vintage prints and just look at that picture of Queen Victoria on the wall next to the loo!
Next door is Sam daughter’s room which fits perfectly with the rest of the house but also has a totally magical child-like feel to it, the colours are still bright but softer and so calming. My daughters would so love to have a dressing table like this in their room!
Last of all we pop into Sam and Joe’s room (bypassing their son’s room and the office) where the bright colours, kitsch decor and eye catching displays are ever-present. I am particularly drawn to a picture of a girl wearing a mask and a dog cushion on the bed as well as a clever painted headboard on the wall, but by now time is running out and I need to grab Sam herself (and Bunty) for a couple of final photos before I leave.
Of course, I also had to ask Sam a few questions for The Lewes Home
Tell us a little about yourself
I am by trade a graphic designer but gave that up about 26 years ago, (wow I feel old saying that!) I have since worked in pottery, had a textiles manufacturing business and had a shop in Brighton! I think that is called a portfolio career! I decided to go it alone when I had children, it seemed the obvious thing to do around them and home life; for the last 10 years or so I would of called myself a designer/maker, but I am currently dipping my toe into the world of painting, a long held passion of mine.
How would you describe your home style?
My home is definitely an eclectic mix of old and new, kitsch and formal, homely and downright useless pieces; ‘don’t actually sit on that chair will you!!!’ is an expression I am known to use. We have had the house a bit Scandi style for a while, but there is definitely change afoot.
Are there any interior design ‘rules’ you stick to when choosing things for your home?
I am certainly not a minimalist, I can’t help myself with the kitsch element of my home I am afraid, you either love it or hate it; fortunately I have a really understanding husband, although I can see my little girl has the ‘kitsch gene’! In my mind I live in a French chateau the reality is a 1950s house in Malling, which means I have to keep some dream purchases, like taxidermy and stone garden urns, exactly as that. I do believe however you can add a little decadence into a standard family home, a chandelier, some lovely glasses, a bit of velvet, an unexpected vintage find. One thing that I would love to have is a walk-in wardrobe, oh the joy of seeing everything, the gloves, the belts those little drawer divider things for my hosiery, bliss!
What interior décor is a big turn-off for you?
I can’t be doing with ‘design’ snobs, if it makes you happy, great. I always think a bit of bad taste works too; not everything needs to look like it has jumped out of Living Etc. Our friend’s home in Firle is a great example of just that; nothing too matchy-matchy, lots of character and a definite dollop of bad taste, in a good way!
What/who/where inspires your style?
I really like Jonathan Adler’s design style, a maximalist with great colour sense and a touch of humour. I still love the 1950s and 1960s as design eras; the textiles, the ceramics, the furniture, I could go on. On the flip side of the atomic era I am also quite keen on a more romantic, faded french look, I would find it hard to pinpoint one look, hence the love of a slightly bohemian, eclectic mash up!
There is a tiny cottage we pass every time we visit Norfolk, it is really small and in a little terrace of three, but it has an enormous front door with a stone porch with plinths and two stone figurines on each one. I love that eccentric use of scale and balance ,the complete over-the-topness of it. I really like peoples homes with a bit of personality,
Apart from your own home, can you tell me about another local house that always catches your eye – what do you love about it?
I adore Charleston Farmhouse for inspiration, they decorated absolutely everything with gay abandon with no real thought of practicality or preciousness. I had the good fortune to work there some years ago, it was bliss sitting in the garden with my packed lunch amongst the stone figures.
What do you most look forward to when coming home?
Even when we go to the family cottage in North Norfolk, which is a great place, driving back home and seeing the South Downs and chalky hills appear before us makes us realise how lucky we are to live in this part of the country, especially East Sussex. When we get into our front door after a bit away, I am always amazed at how bright everything looks and can’t wait to get into my shed!
What is your favourite room in the home, why?
I really enjoy the light in my bedroom, it is almost pinky at times. We are on a slight camber and not overlooked, the quality of light on the top floors is lovely. I enjoy curling up on the bed covers and listening to a radio play podcast with a coffee, and maybe a pastry too, oh the crumbs!! Another spot I am quite fond of for a quick bit of magazine catch up is our new, FREE, granny chic sofa; velvet with tufts and a nice high back, it is perfect for putting your feet up, Bunty the dog is quite partial to it too!
I am [also] spending a lot of time in my shed studio at the moment making for Christmas, as this is always my busy time, I am enjoying still be able to have a tea break on the step in the garden, I like a bit of crispness in the air.
What makes Lewes special for you?
Lewes itself seems to be in a sort of bubble, for both good and not so good reasons, although mainly good! There is a great artistic energy here, lots of entrepreneurs doing their thing, and I love that we have the South Downs, the sea, Brighton and pretty villages all on our doorstep. Sussex does [also] seem to have had it’s fair share of artists and illustrators over the years.
How would you describe your brand to someone that has never shopped with you before?
My work has nearly always had a humorous or quirky element to it, people often say my work makes them smile; I make cushions, boxed curios and hanging decorations.
Where can we buy your products?
I sell through a handful of shops, Etsy and open houses and the odd fair; doing open houses and fairs is a great way to get a bit of customer and people interaction, something you miss out on working from home on your own. That said, I am fairly motivated and good with my own company, although an invitation for coffee can sway me very easily, especially in Cafe du Jardin’s courtyard!
Whats next for Samantha Stas Designs?
I am really looking forward to getting into my painting more once the festive season is over, I hope in time to just paint; selling paintings, prints and cards. Painting wise I am a great Mary Fedden and Elaine Pamphilon fan, both incredibly inspiring to me. I am also rediscovering Matisse, Chagall and Picasso, sounds poncey I know, but I they are blowing my mind with possibilities at the moment. Who knows, I could be painting from my French Chateau one day!
This brings me to the end of my time with Sam and honestly I am a little sad about it. I wish I had found the time to hear more about her house and all her fascinating things – there definitely has to be some stories behind some of the pieces she has collected. Having said that – despite Sam’s vast collection of vintage finds – I never felt overwhelmed in the house, only intrigued and delighted at every turn. The special and smart attention to display and perfectly chosen furniture (which often acts as a plinth in a museum) keeps everything feeling purposeful and orderly – in the most pleasing way.
Returning to my opening statement it strikes me as I get back into my car that, without The Lewes Home I might not have ever met Sam, and I would have been be the poorer for it. She is a quirky, fun and charismatic person. I am so pleased to have spent some time in her world and will definitely be swaying her with a coffee in Cafe du Jardin soon!