Sommer Pyne of House Curious quit a career in advertising to turn her sideline renovating flats into her full-time profession. A few years later her career took an unexpected turn due to the early birth of her first daughter, and she started her home-based business, House Curious, combining her love of interiors and entertaining. Read on to find out how she made this spectacular house a home.
When Sommer moved from Sydney to London twelve years ago, she quickly adopted that most British of pastimes, bingeing on home makeover shows on TV: “I had a major obsession with Property Ladder and Grand Designs, and always dreamt of doing my own project one day.” Which is exactly what she did. Eight house and flat renovations later, she took on her biggest project yet, the top to bottom renovation of this Victorian home in Wandsworth which would become party pad, then family home and finally, the hub of her new business, House Curious.
Making the move into property development wasn’t all plain sailing. “I thought I’d never have any money. The first flat I renovated, I painted myself, and the builder ended up helping me sand and do the ceilings. I think he felt bad for me. It was a very stressful time. Luckily, I’d bought the right property. It had squatters living in it and when the estate agent showed me around we couldn’t open the front door because someone was lying in the hall. That put a lot of people off and I got it for a good price. I learned so much from these little builds, I felt confident with the build process before starting this one.”
Sommer’s life experience on two continents has had a huge impact on her interiors style: “When I moved from Sydney to the UK twelve years ago I fell in love with the quirky interiors of gastropubs and commercial properties in London. It was a stark contrast to the modern city apartment I was living in in Sydney.” Missing the light, airy, laid-back mode of living she’d enjoyed back in Australia, Sommer opened up the back of the house with lots of windows to create a similar atmosphere: “I’ve tried to incorporate my Aussie style with open-plan living mixed with eclectic dark moody rooms inspired by my life in London.”
“The kitchen is my favourite room in our home. It’s the most used room, the first room we designed and great for the family. It also has a beautiful hanging chair – perfect for sitting and watching the garden as the seasons change.”
Although Sommer’s built up a sizeable Instagram following, she’s wary of looking to social media for all of her #inspo. “I think to keep interiors fresh, you want to be looking for ideas elsewhere, like from fashion and travel, and not get too hung up on trends. There are so many things that have shaped my style over the years – from growing up in Sydney to the places I eat in and the nightclubs I used to hang out in.”
“If I had to give one piece of advice to people starting on their own home makeover, it would be to go with your gut feeling and be bold. You can usually undo what you don’t like.”
Although her home is bold, Sommer advocates staying true to your own taste: “Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and every home should reflect the personality of its owners. I don’t believe in being different for the sake of it, but I do want my house to reflect who I am. If you’re true to your own creative instinct the design will reflect this and feel unique.”
“The best interiors advice anyone ever gave me? Don’t be afraid to paint whole rooms dark – including the ceiling!” Some of Sommer's favourite dark paint colours are Blackened, Hague Blue and Railings all by Farrow and Ball, and Gotham City by Valspar which she used in the bar.
Sommer’s home is peppered with MADE furniture and accessories: “I love these pieces because they’re well designed, feel contemporary but with nods to the past. You’ll notice that most of my storage units have an industrial style which brilliantly complements opulent velvets which I’m also a fan of."
Sommer’s biggest indulgence? “The bar! Not many people get to build a commercial style bar in their home. It wasn’t cheap but if ever there was a wow factor it’s this. It’s industrial, charming, full of personality. I also gave it a personal touch, by naming it after my grandparents, Scotch and Ted.”
What’s Sommer’s one top tip for throwing a memorable party? “Ply people with lots of alcohol! No, really… Everyone always asks me for my playlist, music’s so important, and the lighting. The bar is always a big hit when we have parties.” Ours is a whiskey sour, thanks Sommer.
Although Sommer’s pulled out all the stops on her home, if she was doing a makeover on a shoestring she’s in no doubt where she’d spend her money: “Paint! That’s why I think when you go for darker colours it can really transform a space. If you’ve got magnolia walls, grey is a fresh update. If you’re going dark and bold, Blackened is really nice, and I’ve used it throughout bedrooms, kitchen, and hallways for serious impact.”
There’s a broad use of colour throughout Sommer’s home, from blush pink to inky blues on the walls. Sommer bases her colour choice on how she wants to feel in a particular room: “In the bedroom, I wanted to feel relaxed and serene, so it’s all whitewashed floors and dusty pink velvets. Each room has its own personality but equally, there is a flow and rhythm throughout the house. You will see a lot of marble, brass, and concrete.”
Article written by: Pat McNulty
Photography by: Anna Batchelor