Sue Miller of Mad Cow Interiors
I'm so happy to showcase Sue Miller @madcowinteriors on the blog today. This is her holiday rental, rather than her actual home which you can see featured in many magazines and in Abigail Ahern's Colour book, but we want to showcase something different and so here it is in all its glory! Sue knows how to pull together a riot of colour and pattern to bring alive an interior in a fabulously quirky manner.
If you want to see more of Sue's homes go to Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/madcowinteriors/ or her website through the button below.
I’d just finished binge watching ‘Mr Selfridge’ and was pondering over the glamour of the Victorian chaise longue mixed with Art Deco copper tiled walls when I happened to get a visit from Philip Jeffries wall coverings and swooped on their ‘Ornamental’ range of embossed wall covering and filed the copper tile idea for another time. The Stilnovo style statement chandelier was especially shipped in from America as at the time, no one supplied that here but now RSG have them on their website for a ton cheaper (deep sigh) …Here John Hitch seating have supplied the armchairs and Chaise Longue in Lelievere and Osborne and Little fabrics.
Firstly, I’ve just turned 50 (with my twin bro) and I’m proud! I’m married to a really lovely man and have 3 kids - one grown up 24-year-old stepson Jack, 14 yo Max who used to perform in Priscilla Queen of the Desert in the West End and 12 yo Yaeli who is the voice of Plate Girl in CBeebies cartoon. ‘Sarah and Duck’. I clearly believe in sending my kids out to work! I have a twin brother and a sister and I was born and raised in London.
My career trajectory was anything but smooth or linear. There’s actually been a number of them and I hold my eclectic nature entirely responsible for that! I went from studying History and American Studies at University in Preston and Ohio, to New York to live and fell in love with the energy and colours of the place. When I returned to the UK with my degree, I became a singer/songwriter and this was the second longest career next to interior design that I was equally passionate about. I had my own business in fine dining recruitment and I went to law school when I was pregnant with Max and had to defer after I had him, as my mum was dying from cancer and I was pregnant with Yaeli…
Since I had moved through every pregnancy and had renovated many of my own homes, I started helping other people with theirs and this became progressively more bold and creative. I never studied it, I had very strong visions in my head and they rarely fitted the disciplined approach required by some of the Design courses out there. We were serial movers and renovators but it was only once I found our own house after a long spell of seeing thousands of clean lines, minimalist neutral toned houses between 2008-2011 that I broke free of that and pursued my own vision.
Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to have Living Etc, Cote Ouest, the Evening standard and the Queen of Cool, Abigail Ahern herself feature me in her publication.
On the way back from a Cornish boutique retreat with my family a few years back, I'd been inspired by the idea of designing a holiday or a rental pad with the same kind of passion reserved for my own home…somewhere people could enjoy the interiors and all the technology on offer without having to commit. What cemented this idea was a note and a copy of Abigail Ahern's book 'Colour' sitting on my mat, waiting for me as a thank me for letting her use my house to feature in the book.
That was it. I'd just completed on this lovely 3 bed garden flat in North London's leafy Muswell Hill right next to Highgate Woods which was part of a red brick conversion, when this all happened and I just knew it was time to have fun with it! It has since morphed into a fully furnished, interior designed lifestyle home with luxury linens and art already hung - all you need to move in with are your clothes!
I seem to get inspiration from all walks of life so the hardest job for me would always be in the final editing…Much easier to make decisions when working on client’s projects than my own! It’s all about layering, colour, texture and pattern & I love juxtapositions of old against new, distressed against shiny, gritty masculine edges with luxe feminine touches.
I will curate, reclaim, upcycle and if I don't find what I envisage, I'll make it myself. There's no real formula to what I do - I do like to take visual risks but I can see it in my mind's eye and although it can often defy explanation, somehow it just works. I've seen more than a few raised eyebrows along the way but I just have to see my vision through.
My daughter tells me I look like I wear my furniture because I'll go out wearing pattern against pattern! The main thing is I love what I do and one thing I've learned is that it HAS to start from a place of love - whether it's interiors, clothes, fabrics, flowers, cooking - otherwise for me, it just doesn't work. Inspiration can come from anywhere - the sky at dusk, the colour of my dog’s eyes, plaster peeling off a brick wall. It's probably about being present enough to see what's right in front of you. I'm very grateful I get to work with incredible suppliers and talented artists. I think people feel the character and energy that's gone into one of my interiors and that's what draws them in. All I've done here is provided an opportunity for them to have that lifestyle, without having to get married to it!
This amazing Rapture & Wright gilded wallpaper I had hanging about on my mood board for 2 years before I could justify using it! It created the colour inspiration for the entire project and I knew it was going to work with this industrial Robert Timmons concrete kitchen - a lovely contrast with the warm copper metallics amidst whimsical birds and reeds of the wall paper. The cement Zelliges tiles of the island unit and amber mirror glass tiles (Emery et Cie) of the kitchen splash back was a distinct nod to Moroccan middle eastern influences that I've been harbouring since a trip to Marrakesh in 2008 and has found its way into various projects over the years!
Frama pendant lights, Graham & Green and Rockett St George as well as vintage finds and curiosities from my travels are dotted around instilling wit & tongue in cheek humour to the space. It always ramps up the personality of a place. There’s a pic here of RSG’s colour customised for me Neon Lips on the timber clad wall that stretches all the way along the side of the kitchen and down the steps into the sunken living room. I try to work a Jimmie Martin piece (seen here in the graffiti sun mirror) into as many of my projects as possible but only one or two otherwise they don’t get a chance to be seen for themselves (and they’re not cheap)!
Dan Parry Jones artwork punctuates the both the dining and living space and the b & w photographic works seen here are by my husband and 14 yo son who are both camera geeks and take some great shots. It’s a great affirmation particularly for my son by framing and hanging their work, they see it come to life.
The reclaimed timber headboard with random decoupage and painted boards was the lead inspiration for this space which had originated on a trip to Ibiza. I was so excited to use that idea here and then these wallpapers happened...West one Bathrooms had this magical wet membrane by Wall & Deco 'Mystical dreams' and then I saw Soul (bedroom wallpaper) and just couldn't sacrifice either so I went for both - in the same space. Feel the fear and do it anyway!
The glorious copper bathtub is by the Cast Iron Bath company and Bizzaza mosaic tiles from Domus. Wall Sconces in the bedroom were from a fab mid-century modern antiques dealer in Vienna - Gallerie Zeitloos next door to the hotel I was staying at when I visited my friend there who's 12-year-old daughter was receiving a brand-new chemo treatment for her brain cancer. They're a mighty force those two…My furniture maker John Hitch Seating always do an outstanding job of making and upholstering beautifully and here they’ve made the stool, headboard and bed frame to slot into the reclaimed timber wall headboard. Lush fabric by Lelievre and bed throw Lewis and Wood fabric (another sample waiting for its time on my mood board) - bespoke made by the lovely Amabilino Interiors, who do all my curtains too.
The gorgeous encaustic tiles you see on the hallway floor were from the Encaustic Tile company in Fleet St, London and the mid-century vintage pendant found on 1st dibs website, which I scour all the time. There’s an extensive range and it’s easy to get overwhelmed but if you go in with a specific era, budget, ships from Europe (rather than the States) and even colour, you can hone your search.
The monochrome cactus wallpaper (below) is by Pierre Frey. I love teaming slightly unexpected patterns against each other that lift or pick up on the detail or colour of each other and then, I’ll throw in other deeper colours to anchor the space, if it all starts to get a bit light! Throw: Voyage fabric backed by O & L. The bathroom started off as nothing like this - I could safely say it was the one room that caused the most amount of sleepless nights but you wouldn’t know it when you see it now…The biggest splurge here was the bath.
The Girl with The Green Sofa