We recently caught up with Anouska Lancaster, Interior Designer and owner of one of our very different cottage experiences: Hillside Cottage, Port Isaac.
It is such a treat – and a surprise! When you step inside the dusky pink front door of this Grade 2 listed fisherman’s cottage in a fabulous location on the ancient narrow Church Hill that leads down to the harbour.
You are immediately transported to a boutique-style, sea-themed luxury cottage, set over 3 floors, with a very different design vibe.
The ground floor is a cosy hub, with open plan living area, and space to relax by the fire. Here, contemporary meets traditional, with a flat screen wall tv, next to the old-fashioned woodburning stove, slate floor and vibrant sofas perfect for lounging. The antique dining set has been upcycled to shabby chic. The handmade kitchen is stunning in orange, grey and blue, with white quartz worktops. Playful and vibrant wallcoverings full of zingy colourful coral and sea-life, lively stripy blinds and individual cushions complete the look.
Everywhere around you, the sea is calling… you could be gazing into a tropical fish tank or watching Finding Nemo as you identify tiny fish, and notice the graceful jellyfish floating up the walls and across the fabrics.
How long have you been an interior designer, and what inspired this career path for you?
I’m not formally trained in interior design, but always had a flair for art and creativity. I started dabbling in interiors in 2008, and set up Noushka Design in 2010, working on friends’ houses and projects. People liked what I did, and it grew by word of mouth and recommendations, really. I had such a passion for it I then did various courses at the Design School in Chelsea, how to run a business, CAD drawings, and making a bridge between art and interiors. Quirky and something different was how I wanted to stand out, and colour and design were so important in my work. I started to win awards, which really helped my confidence, and I’m a huge believer that a house should show the personality of whomever lives there, not just creating a show home.
What made you choose Port Isaac as the location to buy, renovate & holiday let?
We got married in 2015 and a friend gave us a weekend in Port Isaac for a wedding present – we fell in love with the place, the atmosphere, the people, the location. It became our dream to find somewhere here. I knew I wanted a traditional fishing cottage, higgledy-piggledy, whitewashed and near the sea. We were walking back up Church Hill and taking a breather as its very steep! We stopped just outside Hillside Cottage. The owner was at the door bobbing in and out and we got chatting, and she mentioned it was going up for sale the next day. She invited us in, we viewed it and put an offer in there and then! I believe it was very much meant to be.
The quirky & individual interior designs have lovely seaside and local influences, was this always the vision you had for Hillside Cottage?
I wanted to reflect the Cornish heritage but with a contemporary twist – there’s lots of places doing the white and blue colourways, with boats and driftwood, and I wanted a nautical feel, but something quirky, and with colour. I was very mindful of the tradition of the village houses, so I was a bit more cautious than I sometimes can be! My trademark is strong use of colour and pattern, so I wanted to keep this as my theme, but tied in with the nautical, seaside vibe.
The cottage has beautiful soft furnishings and decorative pieces, did you shop local and where do you find these treasures?
Absolutely! As much as I possibly can, I like to make sure the designs feel authentic and are from the local area. I contracted local tradesmen, artists and fabric designers – the striking blue wallpaper is by Cornish designer Sarah Fortescue.
You’ll find me in local antique and charity shops, looking for quirky objects to find a home for. I was at an antique market in Loswithiel and stumbled across some old lifebuoys and oars – I buy these things up and store them in my garage until I find a home for them. Of course, driftwood & rope abound round here, my challenge to myself is to use and display them in a different way.
In the pink bedroom at Hillside, the octopus stripy fabric and the lobster cushion were from House by Hazel in Penryn, a Cornish illustrator, who’s mantra is ‘Bold Statement textiles’ Those 2 objects got me started on the theme.
I also employ local carpenters, joiners, plumbers and upholsterers. So many talented craftspeople in this area so there is no shortage of support!
Can you share some of your top design tips with us?
My main tip would be fall in love with something – a piece of art, a photograph, a wallpaper, or a fabric, then use it as a main feature and work backwards from there. For example, you find a floral wallpaper you love, then perhaps bring out, say 3 different colours from the wallpaper into blinds, cushions and lamps.
Be brave and go for the impact – even consider colours which would be seen as clashing (like pink and orange).
Let each piece breathe and stand-alone – try and move away from wanting a match of cushions, and curtains, you’re looking for a complementary feel and if you’re very daring, a clash here and there.
Consider also, perhaps a floral pattern with a geometric one, perhaps 2 wallpapers or a wallpaper and a fabric. The effect can be stunning.
Scour the flea markets and antique shops, finding something quirky and authentic can be a real focus for your room. It really brings with it its own history, has a story to tell and is so much more interesting than having everything brand new.
Upcycling old pieces of furniture perhaps by painting them with vibrant colours that match your scheme is another great way of being original and different.
Your room should tell a story about you, your personality, where you’ve travelled and what you love in life.
My trinity is Art, Fabrics, Wallpaper. They give me that initial inspiration, and everything else follows.
What top tips would you give to decorating novices who are unsure about adding a splash of colour to their home?
Think about it as thought you are working on a painting. Start neutral, then add layers of colour, perhaps a wash, then maybe a secondary accent colour.
Aim to deliver the wow factor, and to make people smile. Above all, it should make you happy, and reflect your personality.
There is enough grey and beige in the world, be brave and try something! After all, it’s only paint and paper and can always be redone.
What do you think makes a great holiday home?
We all want to wake up in the morning on our holidays and feel happy. A playfully decorated home can achieve that. It can be a real escape from normality and our every-day stresses and strains. My aim is to create a space that is joyous and relaxing, perhaps something that makes you chuckle!
What stood out about Hillside Cottage for you?
The fact that you can hear, see and smell the sea was just so evocative and powerful for me. The location is perfect, and the views from the garden down to the beach and the ocean beyond, you never get tired of. The top floor of the cottage was a real delight – I designed it to be almost like a ships cabin, and a local carpenter created the bunks – it’s very nautical and cosy, and a definite haven for children. A little bit of the Famous Five!
What’s your favourite room or feature of Hillside Cottage?
Definitely the view, and the fact you are just in the heart of this historical fishing village. But my favourite space is the master bedroom – its colourful and calming at the same time. The beautiful sea-view is visible from the bed, and the refreshing colour scheme gives its own tranquility. The vintage bed and dressing table, along with the modern crazy fabrics of the bed head and cushions just give it a happy vibe all of its own. I’m also thrilled the cottage has been featured in Coast Magazine & Cornwall Today.
If I was arriving at Hillside for a week, what would you recommend to make the most of my time in North Cornwall?
There’s so much to do here! We love taking the kids Coasteering with Cornish Rock Tours – they do the whole thing of kayaking, paddling boarding, surfing, bodyboarding, and generally being out in the amazingly exhilarating sea. If you go on one of the many rib boat tours, available, you may get to encounter dolphins, puffins, seals and sea birds.
The Eden Project is a great day out – so much to see, and they also do gigs in the evenings.
Tintagel Castle (English Heritage) is nearby and a great piece of Cornish history, with strong connections to King Arthur & the Knights of the Round Table.
Further afield is St Ives, and the Tate if you love art like we do, and we’re planning to visit St Michael’s Mount this year too.
Port Isaac's vibrant harbour side is a great way to spend a few hours: shops, galleries, pub and restaurants including the Michelin Star Nathan Outlaw Fish Kitchen - just at the bottom of the hill, and the Golden Lion pub in the harbour, with a balcony offering stunning views out to sea. You can easily spend a day enjoying harbour, rock pooling or wandering the quaint narrow streets, eating and drinking your way around! Beaches for us would be the stunning sandy beaches at Rock or Polzeath, nearby.
You can visit Anouska's website to find out more
Check out Anouska's Instagram pages below with the story of the Hillside Cottage transformation: