Rewriting your home’s history

Rewriting your home’s history

When calligrapher and Lamplighter London founder Chiara Perano bought her home in Leyton, it was nowhere near her dream Malibu house – and not just geographically. With dated decor, neglected rooms and a rather odd layout, looking past the present and into the future was a daunting task. But armed with a pen, some paper and some Californian inspiration, Chiara and her husband Michael turned the house into a masterpiece.


In the beginning

Behind the peach door sits a home reborn. But prior to Chiara’s intervention, the Victorian building lacked character and needed a lot of attention: “It was extremely dated with no period features. The previous owner was an elderly disabled man so the bathroom was on the ground floor. And the back door was held together with a screwdriver and a hasp loop.”

Making sacrifices

To an estate agent, losing a bedroom would be a big no-no. But when trying to make a home, you have to do what’s right for you. “It originally had three bedrooms but we moved the bathroom upstairs.” And you can always expand your horizons. “We’re planning a loft conversion for early next year.”

Learning to compromise

For most, getting your thoughts down on paper can be hard but Chiara spent a lot of time sketching the house. Making them a physical reality was harder. But she didn’t give up. “The kitchen is my favourite room in the house. We originally planned to do a full side return, but due to council restrictions we had to rethink the design. I sketched the whole thing from every angle to try and make the same design work in the smaller space, and to make sure it flowed with colour, light and practicality, which I’m happy to say it does.”

Work Hard

“We started with the bathroom renovation straight away, and as soon as that was done we began work on the kitchen project. Michael thinks I set unrealistic deadlines sometimes... but as I work for myself I’m used to it, and I think you have to put a solid timeframe in place or the job will never end. But of course allow for it to run over as it always does! I always knew I would work for myself. After one junior studio job, I decided to start freelancing. One of my clients asked me to create a hand-drawn invitation for a cabaret birthday party and I really enjoyed working on a fast paced creative brief for an event. In 2012 I decided to start Lamplighter as a boutique studio creating calligraphy and bespoke designs for events and brands.”

Hotel California

Creating somewhere they felt at ease and evoked happiness was on the top of the couple’s list and one way that was achieved was through colour. “We’re quite colour brave and we like having bold yet calm shades. We’re inspired by nature and skies mostly. We love the gradient sunsets you get in Italy and California.” From colour palettes to layout, they wanted to create a relaxing, indulgent space. “Our ensuite is the ultimate luxury. Stepping into the shower straight from our bedroom is like living in a hotel.”

The best of the best

Though atmosphere was key, aesthetic and function was close behind. “We had a MADE.COM sofa bed. It was the nicest one we could find and it was recommended by a friend. And I’m in love with our green velvet Cecil chair. It’s perfect for our reading nook.”

Form and function

“We have the MADE Ogilvy light fitting in our dining room as I wanted something quite dramatic with an industrial edge. It’s practical, too, as you can pull it up and down which is great when entertaining.”

Buck the trend

“My biggest advice to anyone is to live in the space and learn the light and how the room will function before making decisions on colours. The biggest mistake anyone can make is spending loads of money on trends and ignoring their own personal style.”

Host with the most

One of the couple’s favourite things is entertaining in their new home which has their signature all over it. “We’re big into food and drink. Michael’s definitely in charge of the cocktails and I’m Italian so I always start with an antipasti spread followed by something big to share. Like family style dining.”

The cards are on the table

“For Christmas, I go big on table decorations. I always do place cards and give each person a personalised touch. It’s also really important to have nice linens and placemats, plus beautiful glassware, fresh flowers and candles.”

Wrapping things up

“I absolutely love Christmas so I go all out with my wrapping. Last year I made wrapping paper for the first time. Everyone also got handwritten tags and cards. It’s so nice to do presents with a personal touch.”

You’re booked

“A publisher approached me in 2015 about creating a new type of Modern Calligraphy book, and now ‘Nib + Ink’ is doing really well - which is amazing. I recently designed lettering for a collaboration with Papier where people can customise invitations online. I also created a tutorial for Adobe where I teach people how to digitise hand lettering from a scan, which is a handy trick of the trade. ”

Article written by: Carly-Ann Clements
Photography by: Liz Seabrooke

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