Take a peek inside knit and homeware designer Donna Wilson’s characterful pad
Through The Keyhole would never work at Donna Wilson’s home. One look inside and it’s obvious who owns this house – her instantly recognisable knitted creatures and trademark ceramic faces peep back at you from every room. Donna and husband Jon live here in Leytonstone with their two sons, four cats, and hundreds more Donna Wilson creations. The family bought the house back in 2013 after two years of searching. “On the surface, it all looked nice and fresh,” Donna
recalls. “But underneath it all the developers had done a really bad job, so we’re gradually fixing bits!” It’s clear to see the house has good bones though, with high ceilings, period features such as cornicing and original windows, plus a generous hallway. It was the latter that swung it for Donna. “It was advertised as a detached house, but it was photographed really badly and was overgrown, dark and dingy. We didn’t know the area at all, but I totally fell in love with the house and instantly found myself imagining doing up the kids’ room! And the hall… It was such a luxury to have a hallway.”
So is the hallway Donna’s favourite room? “It’s such a lovely light area of the house,” Donna swoons. “I try my best to stop it getting filled up with jackets and shoes but it’s a constant battle. My other favourite is the bathroom, which has a big roll top bath.” Donna and Jon’s houseplant collection lives here, too. “There’s greenery climbing everywhere in there. I think the climate is right to keep them alive, plus it gives the room a really earthy feel.”
So how does Donna decorate? “I start with a favourite piece of furniture to establish a colour palette,” she explains, “then add pieces of furniture, art or wall hangings. I don’t like things too matching, as I like a room to have a bit of character.” And what about the finishing touches? “I think your home should have your own unique style – I do this with small collections of objects I put on shelves; little things I’ve collected over the years that make me happy to have around. The other thing I have a lot of in the house is texture – macramé or woven wall hangings. I’m always drawn to texture, and I think it adds a homely warmth.”
For a designer with such an eye for colour, Donna’s home has surprisingly minimal aspects. The living room, for example, combines white
walls with strong, almost primary colours, and black and white pictures. “This room is di erent from the rest of the house,” agrees Donna. “I fell in love with the red wall hanging but already had the blue sofa which clashes. I thought I’d keep the rest of the décor monochromatic. The black stove seemed to pull it all together.”
The family has a second wood burning stove in the kitchen; a space with a sloped ceiling, multi-aspect windows and a large dining table. Donna especially loves the kitchen’s height: “It feels very spacious. I light the log burning stove as soon as I get up, which instantly makes the room feel homely. I love the smell of it. We do a lot of arts and crafts around the kitchen table, so it’s important to have a welcoming space.”
With a style Donna describes as “colourful, patternful, eclectic, and a mix of old and new,” is it hard to find furniture to fit? “Over the years, we’ve bought pieces from SCP, a furniture shop I sell my work to. But a lot of our furniture comes from car boots or Jon’s skip finds. He loves giving things a new life, restoring them in di erent and unusual ways,” explains Donna.
For this family, di erent and unusual also means bright and full of character. “Home has to be a happy, inspiring place,” says Donna. And with a creative business that’s going from strength to strength, this is one inspiring home that’s definitely ticking all of those boxes.
It’s important to Donna that home isn’t too precious – a place to live and enjoy, too. “I love being surrounded by little sentimental objects, so I make ‘exhibition’ areas on shelves.”
“Both Jon and I love going to brocantes and car boots. He loves finding a bargain.” “Don’t be afraid to mix textures – woven wall hangings, throws and macramé.”