This young designer’s Battersea flat captures the essence of an English cottage
Interior designer Octavia Dickinson’s south London flat illustrates the modern approach she brings to country-house style, combining antique furniture, floral prints and modern pieces
Octavia Dickinson has achieved a very clever trick: she has conjured up a country house in the middle of London. The two-bedroom flat where she lives with her fiancé Harry is a confection of floral prints, pale-pink walls and squashy sofas; there are jugs overflowing with flowers and the walls are hung with pictures and plates.
But peer through the sitting room window and you will not find endless fields with gambolling lambs. Instead you are more likely to spot a pair of feet marching along the pavement above or car tyres rolling past.
This is a basement flat in Battersea, not a cottage in the Cotswolds.
In the sitting room, Farrow & Ball’s pink ‘Setting Plaster’ paint provides a background to the layered fabrics, furniture and art, while the magenta shade of the bookshelves, from trade paint suppliers Johnstone’s, allows the books to stand out. The armchairs in the window are from The French House.
As the plentiful paintings and prints on the walls attest, Octavia comes from an art background. Her father is the renowned fine-art dealer Simon Dickinson and her sister Phoebe is an artist.
She interned at Marlborough Gallery in New York, and Sotheby’s and Phillips in London, before working at Dickinson Roundell in London and New York and as an art researcher for the BBC.
Collections of cookbooks, jugs, tableware and other decorative accessories are displayed on the bespoke shelving in the kitchen, which is towards the back of the flat.
But having grown up on a diet of interiors magazines, when she heard about a job with interior decorator Cindy Leveson, she decided it was time for a career change.
She went on to work with Flora Soames for a year before setting up her fledgling interior-design practice at the end of 2016.
Octavia bought her flat in 2014. ‘It wasn’t in terrible condition, but it was rundown,’ she says. ‘I bashed down the wall dividing the corridor and the sitting room, and added a tiny bathroom to the back bedroom.’ Spread across one floor, with a narrow slice of garden, it is a compact space, but despite the anti-minimal aesthetic, it does not feel chock-full.
The decorated kitchen counter achieves the feat of feeling entirely like a country cottage’s kitchen rather than that of a London flat.
The front door opens into the sitting room, where Octavia has layered colour and pattern with the lightest of touches. The walls are painted in ‘Setting Plaster’ by Farrow & Ball.
It is a delicate shade of pink without being sugary and is shifted up a gear by the magenta bookshelves. There are G P & J Baker fabric curtains, an ottoman designed by Octavia and a mix of inherited furniture and antique finds. ‘I wanted to create somewhere I would never want to leave,’ she says
The entrance to the sitting room.
Octavia and Harry’s bedroom is an inordinately comfortable space painted a pretty shade of blue. ‘I fell in love with the Claremont fabric, which I eventually saved up for and had made into curtains,’ she says.
Woodwork painted in Sanderson’s ‘Oyster White’ and a blind in a simple checked fabric from Linwood allow the bathroom’s Cole & Son wallpaper to shine; the bath is from the Bathroom Discount Centre.
Another prerequisite was a high bed – the sort you have to clamber into – which she finished with a valance trimmed with a red border. It is a small touch that neatly accentuates the floral pattern of the curtains and illustrates Octavia’s attention to detail.
Artworks by Vanessa Garwood, Phoebe Dickinson and Paula Rego hang above the bed.
Next door is the bathroom – a maximalist haven decked out in a large-scale floral wallpaper. ‘I think bathrooms should be luxurious and exciting,’ she says. ‘I laid a carpet in mine, which is probably ridiculous, but I wanted it to be a room that I loved.’
A set of plates bought for Octavia by her parents frames a Hockney print on one wall of the main bedroom.
A set of plates decorate the walls and forms part of Octavia’s ever-growing collection of ceramics, which continues in the kitchen. ‘I’ve learnt that if you see something you love and can just about afford it, buy it. You’ll always regret it if you don’t,’ she insists.
Nursery plates sourced from the-saleroom hang on one wall in the bathroom.
This sentiment might explain why she commissioned Alfred Newall of The London Workshop to make a set of open shelves for her kitchen – every spare inch of which is heaving with teapots, jugs, bowls and yet more plates.
The wardrobe doors are lined with a Jean Monro fabric.
Octavia’s flat has many of the tropes of an English country house.
Animal etchings by Octavia’s sister Phoebe Dickinson make good use of the space above the kitchen shelving. Her work is available from her studio in Chelsea; pictured below is Pig, which costs £200.
There are plentiful antiques, plump cushions, oriental rugs, oversize table lamps and fresh flowers, but these ingredients all come with a distinctly modern twist and that is because there are plenty of pieces by young makers and artists.
A floral painting brightens a spare bedroom.
There are the Matilda Goad lampshades in the kitchen, a Francesca Gentilli runner in the hall, Alfred’s shelving with bobbin uprights and artwork by her sister Phoebe.