The Lewes Interior Designer – Ohana Banerjee

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The Lewes Home has brought me so much joy, and although it began, essentially, as a piece of digital marketing coursework it has grown way beyond that and has become my personal passion, feeding my interiors and architecture obsession and allowing me to meet all sorts of amazing and inspirational people.  Having said that, it is hard to find time to give to the things we really love doing for ourselves sometimes isn’t it? In fact, I just can’t believe how long it has taken me to write-up this latest interview and house tour. Not only that but I have three more sitting on my desktop and I am committed to getting them all out on the blog by Christmas as I also have many more lined up for the new year!

So, consider this my September blog post (published on the 29th October… eep!) which this month is all about local interior designer Ohana Banerjee. I came across Ohana on Instagram, she wasn’t introduced to me by friends and our children don’t go to the same school so I wonder if I would ever have had the opportunity to meet her if it wasn’t for The Lewes Home. After discovering her as a fellow interiors-obsessive and subsequently spotting Ohana in Ideal Home magazine I, of course, made contact with her for a Lewes Home feature.

Ohana lives in a beautiful Victorian detached house with her husband and two children tucked away in a secret nook close to the Southover district. In fact, her home is so tucked away that she had to carefully explain directions to me as she said many people struggle to find her house. I have to admit when I arrived at the door I too would never have thought the house would be there!

Ohana greets me at the door, and explains to me that she has been frantically getting ready for the summer holidays (yes it was that long ago that I visited her!) and that so much had been going on with her eldest child leaving primary school and therefore taking part in the glorious Lewes Patina parade and getting the house ready to rent out whilst they went abroad. She was looking forward to my arrival so that she could have the chance to sit and talk and focus on something else for a moment and she warmly welcomes me inside!

We entered the house through the hall and went straight into a living room which was open-plan to the kitchen/dining area. Whilst the rooms are interconnected they are both very distinct areas. The Living Room has a lovely bay window looking out onto the garden and whilst the walls are painted white the room is amazingly colourful with velvet sofas and cushions – hand made by Ohana, carefully selected and placed lamps, pictures and other meaningful family treasures.

Ohana gets the kettle on and as the sun is shining we decide to sit in the large garden (complete with treehouse, trampoline and chickens!) to get to know each other a little before having a look around the house. Before I arrived I told Ohana I would be with her for around an hour but I nursed that cup of tea alone for over 2 hours (!) and to be honest I think we could have talked for much longer… when you meet someone who has almost exactly the same passions as you do it is a real thrill and I was so inspired by Ohana’s enthusiasm that I think I must have proposed at least 3 businesses we could set up together in that time! Ohana is so enthusiastic about her work and the way she does things, it is truly infectious. She is committed to helping her clients to think clearly and practically about what they need as well as to how they want their homes to look in order to create a space that they will really feel at home in and which works well with their lifestyle.

Ohana is very clear that whilst she has her own strong design and style she loves to  totally absorb her clients tastes, thoughts and ideas when working with them. She looks carefully at the space they actually have to live with before advising them on how to make it work for them. As well as this Ohana is really experienced on working with a very tight budget and, through her own house renovations, has become an expert in knowing where and how to source materials and pieces of furniture at an affordable price.

After the epic cup-of-tea-break it really was time to have a look around and to take some photos. Ohana explained to me that her home was still a work in progress and so we decided to focus on the downstairs of the house and bathroom as opposed to the bedrooms which are next on her decorating to-do list!

So let’s go back to the kitchen to start. This room was the focus of the ideal home article and I can see why, the entire space had been reimagined and created by Ohana, she has removed two walls opening up a previously tiny galley kitchen making the space far more suited to modern family life. The walls are either exposed  brick or painted white, the cabinetry is bespoke, made out of scaffolding boards to fit perfectly into the space with zinc worktops adding to the industrial feel. The space has been so meticulously planned that everything about it feels totally intuitive.

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One thing that I really picked up on was that Ohana has a particular dislike of cupboards, for Ohana drawers are king in order to have truly practical storage solutions, and I have to say from looking at her kitchen organisation I quite agree with her, she has sourced particularly strong drawer runners to hold heavy crockery online and it is SO much better than reaching to the back of a dusty cupboard. I love it!

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Back out into the hall, I can’t help but notice that the door frames are subtly painted pale pink which I think looks great. Ohana looks at me in shock though as I point this out “no one EVER notices that I’ve done that” she said. To me, although only a soft pink, the change in colour from the white walls is really clear and it works so well, particularly when walking from the hall into the house’s second living area with intense blue walls which contrast with the pink frame beautifully.

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Ohana’s love of colour really comes into its own in this room where the use of colour is nothing short of joyous. The dark blue walls give the room an absorbing cosiness and the vintage orange velvet curtains look amazing. The lime green sofa with bright pink cushions work perfectly and I love the exposed brick once again in this room. In the window sits an antique sofa picked up in the Lewes antique centre where Ohana finds a lot of her furniture and which makes her home truly unique.

We quickly pop upstairs to see the bathroom as the final visit on my house tour. Ohana has embraced the painted frames idea once again with a bright yellow contrasting and adding warmth to the grey walls. The bird-print blind is one that Ohana made herself out of old Ikea fabric.

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So this brings us the the end of the house tour, perhaps one day I can return to update this post with shots of the bedrooms which I know Ohana will put her unique spin on, and which will therefore look beautiful. For now though it is time to hear from the woman herself, so without further ado here is my interview with Ohana Banerjee, interior designer.

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m Lewes born and bred, Mum of two and passionate about colour and Lewes!

Can you tell us a little bit about your work as an Interior Designer? What spurred you on to start up your own business?

I had designed my own homes and my parents’ new eco house and friends
approached me to work for them after they had seen the work I had done.
I’m passionate about design as long as it is beautiful, practical and fulfills its purpose.
All things need to be beautiful but they needn’t always cost the earth.
My approach is quite unconventional in that I look at the needs of the individual first
before I begin designing anything.

Your own home has been one of your renovations projects. Have you
completed all of your plans?

I can’t imagine a house is ever finished in the eyes of a designer but I would
like to spend more time on my garden now and bring some magic into my
daughters’ bedroom.

Where do you take inspiration from when designing your own home and other peoples?

Personal objects, possessions and vintage/antique pieces really ground a space
and can be the spark for inspiration. I also love colour and individuality. The
quality of light in a space is also a defining factor when I design a space. I think
all these are more important than current interior trends. It important for a space
to have personality and mean something to the people who live in it.

How would you describe your personal home style?

All of the above with pops of colour.

What do you most look forward to when coming home?

My home has meaning to me. I have a lot of personal heirlooms as well as
antique/vintage finds which bring meaning and depth to my home. The minute I come
through the door I think these things relax me as they are unique and cannot be
found anywhere else.

What is your favourite room in your home, why?

Wow this is a difficult one as I think all the spaces are great and unique but if I had to
choose one it’s my Kitchen/dining/ living space. I had to design the whole space
including kitchen units completely before any of the walls came down. It’s completely
unique and it’s where I spend the best of times with my family and friends. Creating
the space has enriched our family life and pays back in some way everyday. It also is
the reason that my business took off, others seem to love it too!

What interior décor is a big turn-off for you?

Bland out-of-a-catalogue type places. With no personal touches or idea of who lives
in the house. I find hotel rooms very difficult places to relax because of their soulless
uniformity.

What makes Lewes special for you?

Its where I was born, the air, the paving slabs, the Downs are like nowhere else.
Bonfire night is my favourite night of the year and I have only missed it twice in my life. I should add that I did move away after university but couldn’t find anywhere else
which felt like home.

Can you each tell me about a Lewes house (apart from your own) that always catches your eye – what do you love about it?

That would be my friends 70’s house on Southdown Avenue. I think 70’s architecture
is really over looked, a lot of people seem to hanker after period properties but they
do not always lend themselves to be adapted easily to a contemporary way of living.
My friend has created a very special family home whilst embracing the 70’s ethic with
large windows and space. The house is light airy, has amazing views of the downs
and is the perfect family home.

So after spending over three hours with Ohana, basking in her passion for interiors and enjoying her colourful and cosy family home so much it was time for me to leave her to finish preparing for the holidays. Yet again it has been such a pleasure to have met another creative, entrepreneurial and fascinating person in Lewes, and another that I hope I can call a friend from this point onwards. It is people like Ohana that make Lewes so special for me and I can’t wait to carry on my conversations with her down at the pub sometime soon!

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