Interiors: Pale can be interesting

It would be understandable if a home inhabited by two designers was a temple to perfection, an intimidating space where attention was given to detail rather than lifestyle.

But what’s so striking as you step over the threshold of Atlanta Bartlett and Dave Coote’s home is its air of tranquil informality, and a ‘kick off your shoes and get comfortable’ approach to decor.

This is an interior which cocks a snook at trends and transient fashion, and instead celebrates comfortable living with pared back decor – bleached, stripped floorboards, large squashy sofas dressed with light cotton throws, pale walls and an abundance of natural light flooding in through large windows.

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“We both have a relaxed, simplistic attitude to interior design and believe that our homes should reflect our personality,” says Bartlett, who juggles her work running the couple’s interiors company and working as a stylist with bringing up their three young sons and new-born daughter.

“What’s paramount to us is good design – noting fashion and trends but not following them rigorously. Then it’s about creating a happy home, not a show home.”

Coote, a furniture and interiors designer known for his quirky, retro style with an emphasis on reclaimed materials, has put his stamp on all areas of the house, but none more so than in the kitchen.

“It’s the heart of the home and the hive of activity as a family room, where everything from homework to hobbies takes place. And it’s also where we entertain,” says Bartlett.

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“We didn’t want it to be ‘fitted’ as that wouldn’t suit our style and wouldn’t feel as welcoming, so Dave has created a collection of units from vintage cupboards and reclaimed wood.”

While colour is confined to soft accents - washed-out blues, pastel pinks - there’s never any danger of blandness.

There are eye-catching quirky treasures arranged on surfaces or hung on walls, ranging from vintage shop signs and Victorian mirrors to assortments of delicate china plates collected over the years from markets.

The interior is a harmonious fusion of both their styles, explains Bartlett, who met her husband 15 years ago.

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“Originally we were both searching for a simpler, more laid-back approach to decorating,” she says.

“Although our styles were quite different we both love honest materials, artful recycling and choosing vintage over newly-made, and handmade rather than mass produced.”

It’s resulted in a hugely successful look and company that they’ve called Pale & Interesting, which they also celebrate in their new book by the same name.

“We want to show that it’s not difficult or expensive to create a light, airy home that works for you,” she says. “It’s all about getting back to basics, editing your possessions so you retain only what’s useful and beautiful, and then you can live in an environment that’s calm, easy and unpretentious.”

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Bartlett reveals her key elements for a Pale & Interesting interior...


“An all-white scheme will need to have some colour somewhere, whether it’s in curtains, cushions, furniture or simply a vaseful of acid-green foliage,” says Bartlett.

“Source furniture from junk shops and markets, and paint it in soft shades of gentle grey and blue, inspired by the colours which predominate on antique French and Swedish pieces.

“Other options include displaying a collection of coloured jugs on open shelves or hanging curtains in a bold vintage floral for a splash of retro chic.”

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n Stylish tip: Loose covers in pastel hues of lilac, lemon yellow or dusky pink will add a note of femininity, while slate grey or denim is more appropriate for a more masculine feel.

touchy feely

“A room devoid of texture will feel hard and cold, and not compatible with an inviting retreat that soothes and feeds the senses,” she says.

“Aim to contrast and complement textures throughout your interior, from walls and floors through to cushions and throws. Tongue-and-groove panelling is a great way to add understated texture to walls.”

n Stylish tip: In general, heavier, coarser surfaces like wood, stone or linen lend themselves to a more relaxed look, while mirror, lacquer or satin are more formal. Layer tactile fabrics such as chunky knitted throws and felted cushions with antique linen curtains and battered leather armchairs.

Creative kitchen

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“A soulless off-the-peg kitchen plucked straight off the showroom floor will not suit a pale and interesting interior,” says Bartlett.

“Instead, have fun and be creative, combining an antique dresser with industrial style shelves or a sleek bank of fitted cupboards with a vintage French linen press.

“Scour salvage yards for finds such as old school lockers to house your mops and brooms, or a shop fitting that could be transformed into a kitchen island with plenty of storage space beneath.”

n Stylish tip: Paint cabinet doors for an instant new look, and paint the inside of glazed cupboards to give a burst of colour. Choose a large trestle or wooden refectory table for dining, which will blend with any scheme, and add decoration with a collection of vintage china displayed on a wall or in a cabinet.

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