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A Recipe for Designers - Naomi Cleaver

PUBLISHED: 11:26 20 September 2010 | UPDATED: 17:51 20 February 2013

Handcrafted: Ingredients: resourcefulness, artisanship and the irresistibility of touch, quiet colour, intimacy and natural materials. Naomi says

Handcrafted: Ingredients: resourcefulness, artisanship and the irresistibility of touch, quiet colour, intimacy and natural materials. Naomi says "I love this picture. It is about getting a balance, so you might use an old wooden pallet as a plate rack but you wouldn’t necessarily have all the things in one room all made out of old wood. It’s these contrasts that makes homes really interesting: the rough with the smooth and the sparkly with the matt. Be eccentric!"

Naomi Cleaver reveals how personality is the main ingredient for successful design. Anna Turns visits her at home in East Devon

Naomi Cleaver, 43, first entered living rooms across the country as presenter of popular television shows for Channel 4 from Grand Designs: Trade Secrets to Honey, I Ruined the House. But it was through Naomis primary day job as an interior designer and design consultant that she has developed her own take on bespoke home creation.


Naomi and her husband, Oliver, left London behind and went to live in their holiday home on the small Caribbean island of Nevis. It was there that Naomi had the time to write her beautiful new book, The Joy of Home. It is a book I have wanted to write for ages, as it is a culmination of all that I have learnt through my philosophy of design. It is certainly a labour of love, which sets out Naomis process for interior design for the individual.


After two years away from home, Naomi felt ready to come back and reinstate (reassert?) her childhood links with the Westcountry. When we started house-hunting, we realised that when you move into Devon the quality of life and everything is unbelievable here. Devon seems to suit Naomis new-found pace of life, and she feels more connected to her natural environment. After my semi-sabbatical, Im now really focused on my work/life balance, she said. Everyone here is so genuinely friendly, and because the quality of life is so fantastic, everyone is actually quite happy here really.


Naomi now lives with Oliver and her dog, Larry, in a quirky property four miles from Honiton, which sits on a shelf of land overlooking both Exmoor and Dartmoor. On a clear day you can see for miles. Were right near Dunkeswell Gliding Centre and the airstrip, so we get all these little planes and gliders flying by.


The house was built in 1968 by a Dr Gilson and his artist wife who were way ahead of the times in terms of design. The house is insulated with Thermalon, which was originally developed by NASA to insulate space-craft, giving it extraordinary insulation values. Naomi defines sustainability as simply being efficient with resources, which is what any good design is fundamentally about, and this seems to be one reason this house appealed so much. Other features of the home include Scandinavian timber, underfloor heating and solar panels. So, Im taking the legacy of something very interesting and updating it for today, but at the same time having a fairly sharp eye on what is financially sustainable.


Everyone is a designer, but you just need to allow yourself to be that person. Keep your eyes open, and remember: observation and curiosity are key


While Naomi is putting together the plans for her own ultimate design project, her job is to help her clients realise their own dream. The first stage of my design process is about understanding the person because everyone wants different things. I ask lots of questions and that is what the book is all about. Ask yourself lots of questions, analyse how you live and use your space, what works and what doesnt work, and how you would live in your dream home.

The chapter entitled Dcor recipes aims to make Naomis philosophy more accessible to everyone. What I am really saying is dont rely on magazines and TV shows. Investigate your real likes and dislikes, be confident and do what suits your personality and your lifestyle.


Naomis 7 key dcor recipes each demonstrate a different style, from architectural to camp, eclectic to retro. Each recipe has essential ingredients, which when combined result in an often dramatic and striking result.


Think of a room like an outfit said Naomi. Ive been doing this myself recently with all my winter clothes. I dont want to chuck them away but they need freshening up? The answer is to accessorise, explained Naomi. Just as you would with an outfit, look at your base and decide what you are going to keep in the room, whether it is the flooring or furniture, for example. Then you adjust the accessories soft furnishings, curtains, cushion covers, upholstery and light fittings. Little details such as light switches and socket plates are like the jewellery of the outfit, which we all notice quite deeply on a subconscious level. So subtle changes to these details make a big difference, and it can be relatively inexpensive to do.
Even just changing the quality of the light, changing the wattage of a light bulb or the colour can have an impact, said Naomi. Energy-saving light bulbs are also a jolly good thing and are hopefully now getting a little more sophisticated.


Pictures and wall-hangings are a key ingredient too. There is such a vibrant arts and crafts movement in Devon, so its quite possible either to buy some art pieces or even make your own. I think its great to do a pottery course or a glass-blowing course or even a furniture-making course. There are two benefits: learning something new, which is incredibly therapeutic, plus the benefit of making something special for your home.


Think of a room like an outfit. Just as you would with clothes, look at your base and decide what you are going to keep in the room, then adjust the accessories such as soft furnishings, and add details such as light switches as you would jewellery


Because every room and every person is unique, one size doesnt fit all. It is always crucial to look at the whole picture. For a dcor recipe to work, the vision has to be consistent. And just because that picture looks beautiful, it is essential to consider whether it suits you.
We need to have time for the thinking process before rushing out to redecorate a room, said Naomi, otherwise we end up spending so much more time and money putting right what perhaps wasnt quite right in the first place. As Naomi explained, imagination and thinking cost nothing and is a crucial stage on the design process.

Inspired by the countys craftsmanship, Naomi interprets traditional skills into contemporary design. My plan for this coming year is to develop products using Devon-produced materials and craftsmanship as part of my business.


And keen to inspire others with her philosophy, she will be holding one-day intensive workshops in village halls in Devon and around the country. Everyone is a designer, but you just need to allow yourself to be that person. Keep your eyes open, and remember: observation and curiosity are key.


Finally, will Naomi be moving onto another project home once her house renovation is finished next spring? Our house is so interesting and unusual, and the location is so incredibly beautiful, I really dont see us moving away from here for a long time.


Naomis Devon


Naomi holidayed in Devon as a child and moved to Devon this spring.
Best sightseeing: I often take guests to A la Ronde near Exmouth. I also love Sidmouth, Seaton and Beer.
Best pub: The Fountain Head in Branscombe .
Best village: Broadhembury is our nearest village, its a wonderful place. It is incredibly beautiful but equally it is a real living village. Martin and Maria in the village shop are lovely people and all the locals seem to assemble for coffee on Saturday mornings.
Best day out: I have just got a bike and I have started cycling around here, but it can be quite hilly. Everywhere is beautiful and each day we keep finding something new thats great about Devon.
Best shopping: Honiton is full of fantastic charity shops and antique shops, even a wonderful antique toy shop, all great for inspiration for your home.
Best event: Theres never a dull moment. With so many ftes, fairs and literary festivals, theres always something to do.


Read October's Devon Life for a special discount on Naomi Cleaver's beautiful book 'The Joy of Home' and also see more about Naomi's unique Decor Recipes.

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