Animal Prints Blend Right Into This Scottish Designer’s Secret Garden–Like Home
Fringed lighting and painted screens complete the scene.
Published Apr 13, 2022 1:15 AM
Most people will tell you to “make yourself at home” out of politeness when you visit their house. But when friends invited designer Wendy Morrison over to their Georgian farmhouse in Dunbar, Scotland, she took the invitation literally. Okay, well, not right away: Her hosts were preparing to move to Houston at the time, while Wendy and her family were planning their return to the seaside town after a few years in France. It was a happy coincidence that the house would soon be available. “I’ll always remember that visit. It just felt like home,” she recalls. “There’s a long corridor, the sun was shining…it brought back feelings of the house I grew up in.”
In 2017, Wendy and her husband, Gregor, bought the place but held off on renovating. Instead they decided to live with its slightly choppy layout. “When you live in an old house, you realize it has been designed specifically that way for a reason,” she explains. “This is how it works.”
Getting creative with patterns has always come naturally to Wendy, who recalls buying up clothes at charity shops in her hometown of Edinburgh as a kid, cutting them up, and fashioning them into different garments. After designing everything from womenswear to sportswear to leisurewear for a range of brands and then freelancing, she shifted, in 2004, to interiors and founded her own company (though she made a recent return to fashion for her collaboration with Monoprix). “I understand a lot of people use the word maximalist to describe my style,” she says, “but I think it’s just a term that’s popular right now.”
These days she renders her jungle-inspired prints (when there’s an opportunity to add birds to a design, she takes it) into silk rugs and wallpaper. The latter can be found in almost every room of her house, expertly and delicately hung by her go-to installer, Barry, who insists on being on-site even when the panels are being cut. “He gets quite nervous about it,” she says with a laugh. In the main living room, Wendy swathed the walls in her Mandela treatment, which features a slim black tree set against a pale gold backdrop. The birds perched on the long branches appear as if they’ve leaped onto the surface of the Zebra Leopard Palms rug on the floor—a piece she created as a nod to the flamboyant sets of Tony Duquette.
“It looks like there’s quite a lot going on, but the black and white in the zebra is very grounding,” she points out. In fact, she’s employed a heavy dose of black paint throughout the house (the main staircase is painted a rich charcoal color) to keep everything from feeling overwhelming. The whimsical doses of pattern introduce a playful energy but, in some spaces, like the lounge-slash-office with the leopard-print sofa, they’re there to disguise eyesores.
“It conceals the dog hair pretty well,” notes Wendy. Also handy at hiding messes? All the antique folding screens, which she can swiftly prop up in front of a cluttered table or a pile of backpacks on the floor.
Given how fragile everything looks, guests are surprised to learn that Wendy shares the space with three males (in addition to Gregor, their two sons, ages 13 and 16). “They’re so big and strong, you just think they might throw themselves into anything,” she says. “So I do wonder how long things will last.” With the exception of a brand-new, supersize TV that Gregor recently purchased to watch the World Cup, Wendy pretty much has free rein over all things interior related, like filling the house with hand-stitched silk light fixtures by BeauVamp. The artist, Alice, and Wendy built a friendship via Instagram and will often trade rugs for fringed lamps.
While Wendy wants to honor the home’s original bones, a kitchen remodel is on her to-do list. From a functional standpoint, the space just doesn’t meet the family’s needs. “There’s not enough work space in our cupboards,” she notes. Plus it’s closed off from the rest of the house, so the goal is to eventually shift the cooking zone to the front of the building. Right now, cosmetic upgrades in the form of black paint, fresh knobs, and a single brass sheet get the job done.
In the main bedroom, a flamingo pink pendant lamp by Coldharbour Lights plays off the opulent accent wall that’s covered in Wendy’s shimmery, scenic Joie de Vivre treatment. “I think that’s the key to a bedroom,” she says, “having a sanctuary to go to where you can hopefully rest and be refreshed.” She worked green into the family bathroom as well, swathing the wainscoting in an almost-lime hue and painting the tub to match. “Green works well in a bathroom, because I feel like there’s always too much water energy,” she continues. “It balances everything.”