Even the Open Kitchen Shelving in This Textile Designer’s Home Is Patterned
And that’s just one smart use of scrap fabric.
Published Jun 19, 2022 1:25 AM
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Pink features heavily in pattern designer Molly Mahon’s English country cottage, and she certainly has rose-tinted glasses on when remembering how she, her husband, and their three children—the youngest just a baby—literally camped out in a couple of tents in the garden for eight months while their home was being renovated. “It made life so pared back and simple,” she recalls. It also meant she could oversee everything. The work involved moving the property’s staircase to improve the flow downstairs and digging down into the ground to give her 6-foot-4 husband enough headroom. Mahon doesn’t regret making the house more functional for her family of five, but she’s glad the camping part is behind them. “I wouldn’t do it now,” she says with a laugh.
That was 10 years ago. Over the past decade, Mahon has slowly layered the cottage’s rooms (the oldest parts of the property date back to the 1600s!) with colorful fabrics and wall coverings of her own block-printed designs to charming effect. “I wanted to use my own pieces, so perhaps in a way it was easier,” she says. The home’s forest location means it can feel dark, a fact remedied by Mahon, who used pink (specifically Farrow & Ball’s Pink Ground paint color) in as many rooms she could get away with. “I’m obsessed,” she attests. “The whole house would be pink if I had my way. I find it gives off a warm and comforting glow.”
The couple had accumulated plenty of furniture and objects when they were in their last house, so this one filled pretty quickly. In the winter, Mahon loves nothing more than hunkering down in front of the sitting room’s fire with a needlework kit, bringing to life jaunty cushions that she backs with fabrics from her studio. She embellished the fireplace herself with paint in a style inspired by a nearby holiday home that was once a gathering point for the free-spirited artists, writers, and thinkers known as the Bloomsbury Group, and added a similarly inexpensive yet unique flourish to the kitchen’s plain shelves with block-printed paper edges cut into scallops.
The unstructured “skirt” lampshades that are peppered through the house were another DIY (one she loved so much, she started selling them on her website). “I think we’ve got a bit funny about making something for our home. [The term] craft has got such a granny-ish vibe to it,” she muses, “but for me, craft has changed my world.”
Mahon is aware that her maximalist taste perhaps isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but one area she advises getting busy with pattern is a tight space, such as a hallway or staircase. Her landing is so “ridiculously narrow” that the beds had to be made into two pieces just to move them up the steps, but the oak leaf wallpaper (which she block-printed herself on-site) “really opens it up because it gives that depth of field to it,” she says.
The primary bedroom is also an incubator for clashing prints. “I couldn’t bear the thought of sleeping in a white room,” she admits. Mahon pinned up a large swath of fabric behind the headboard to make up for the fact that they couldn’t squeeze a four-poster bed in the space. Plus it was easier (and safer) than mounting artwork. “It didn’t feel right to have glass frames above my head” she explains, “so the poppy print was a really cool solution.” The simple slatted-wood bedside tables, topped with glass, are another clever way to bring in more soft furnishings.
The house has evolved as quickly as Mahon’s children, now ages 15, 13, and 9, but she thinks she has finally achieved a “timelessness” with their bedrooms. All the kids have what she calls “proper beds,” upholstered in fabrics of her own design and which she believes will see them through their teenage years.
When guests come to stay, the family bunks together in various formations to free up a space, but no one’s room is more hardworking than 13-year-old Lani’s, where there are two single beds pushed together. “It’s a movable feast—they can be separated out for sleepovers,” justifies Mahon. “Every room has its own character and suits each child, but anyone can sleep in there and feel comfortable; that’s always my aim.”