arts and design

Birds of a feather

This is the house that keeps on giving,” says rug designer Wendy Morrison, who lives in Dunbar, East Lothian, with her family – and lurcher Eddie, as well as some pet chickens and a cockerel, Napoleon – in a Georgian farmhouse. “It has beautiful bones and was built with a lot of thought and love, as Georgian houses tend to be.”

Wendy and her husband Gregor, and sons Woody, 15, and Harvey, 12, initially rented the house from friends after moving back to Scotland from France. “When I first came here it was a really sunny day and, as I walked down the hall, I remember thinking, this feels like home,” she recalls.

A taste of the east: chinoiserie on the walls and textiles in the bedroom.

A taste of the east: chinoiserie on the walls and textiles in the bedroom. Photograph: Fiona Walker-Arnott/The Observer

“It has been extended over the years and it’s southwesterly facing in every aspect, which means there is a lot of light in each of the rooms at different times of the day. You can actually follow the light around the house, starting with the snug in the morning and ending in the lounge,” she explains. “It has a really lovely vibe to it and that lay-of-the-land configuration gives it a homely, warm feeling.”

It was this abundance of light, the high ceilings and big rooms that also provided Wendy with the blank canvas and photography space for her rugs.

“I think I have decorated the house in line with what’ll suit the style of the rooms. I feel that the house has kind of guided me in terms of how it can be decorated. Because it is so light, you can get away with strong, bold colours and patterns, which I have in most of the rooms. And there are all these fabulous original features – it was just screaming out to be decorated when we bought it.

“The wallpaper in the dining room was a really decadent purchase. The decorator made me cut it all myself as he’d never dealt with that width of wallpaper before. It’s called Madidi, by Newton Paisley, and the designer, Susy Paisley, is a conservationist and she’s drawn all the animals. They’re all endangered species, and her business is about trying to raise awareness of that.”

The standout influences are wide-ranging chinoiserie designs, which are reflected in the vintage, antique and reclaimed furniture that always complement her rug designs. “My favourite chinoiserie pieces, like the coffee table in the lounge, are from a little shop in Edinburgh called Aquarius Vintage. It’s a favourite haunt where we often trade our pieces, which is perfect.”

‘I am always buying and selling to keep things fresh’: painted furniture and clashing patterns work together.

‘I am always buying and selling to keep things fresh’: painted furniture and clashing patterns work together. Photograph: Fiona Walker-Arnott/The Observer

The furniture and rugs in the house can be as fleeting as the sunshine that often pours in the windows, with many items being bought, sold and moved around. Not only does this process help keep the rooms looking fresh, it gives Wendy the chance to show off her latest creations. But there are some items of furniture that have stood the test of time.

“There are a few things that I’d not part with – a coffee table, a small desk and a drinks cabinet, which is actually a TV cabinet, but I am still working on getting a TV small enough to put in it,” she says.

Wild at heart: Wendy Morrison with her lurcher, Eddie.

Wild at heart: Wendy Morrison with her lurcher, Eddie. Photograph: Fiona Walker-Arnott/The Observer

“I am always buying and selling to keep things fresh for my photography. The eclectic leopard sofa in the snug is by an Instagram business called House of Sloane and the black sofa in the lounge is by Loveyourhome – another business found on Instagram. And I also have a friend who works in the secondhand furniture field. She knows what I like so she will phone me up and say, ‘I’ve seen this, do you want it?’, so that’s handy.”

Despite not being able to travel for work this year, Wendy still found design inspiration at home. “I always seem to have plenty of ideas, but not enough time to get them on paper, what with home-schooling while working from home.”

While Wendy’s style is ever-evolving, the main bones of the decoration – wallpaper, wall colours and a few key items of furniture – are here to stay. The only major change on the cards is potentially moving the kitchen into the dining room. Or perhaps the family will move, as Wendy explains: “We do perhaps need to work on the kitchen, it is the engine of the house after all. But I am very reluctant to redecorate, our choices still make me smile. So perhaps the time has come to find a new place to style.”

No matter what Wendy decides, one thing is for sure: her enduring style, creative eye and confidence to go bold will light up any home.

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