It doesn’t have to be a white-wash. Daniel Croyle’s compact home on the Blackheath/Charlton borders shows how colour and print can be used to make smaller spaces look bigger…
All photography by Tom Dunkley for danielcroyle.com
People seem to think that you’ve got to paint everything white to make it look bigger,’ says textile and interior designer Daniel Croyle, ‘but that’s not what I’m about. I think colour and print can do that. It’s just about being brave and going with your gut instincts.’
And he’s certainly done that. From the outside, Daniel’s home is an ordinary, handsome Victorian terrace on the borders of Blackheath and Charlton. But inside, it’s a carefully curated parade of colour and playful features – including a retired fairground carousel horse in the kitchen-dining room.
‘People are frightened of colour and pattern, but it does throw the eye upwards and involve you more in the space,’ he continues. ‘I really love bold wallpaper prints in recesses because it pushes the space back – it actually adds to the space.’
Daniel moved to the one-bedroom flat two years ago, and has spent that time creating a showcase for his interiors and textile design business, the eponymous Daniel Croyle, which started as a shop in 2005 and won the Best Wallpaper Design for his Charlie print at the Interior Design Awards in 2007. Alongside his own wallpapers, fabrics and lampshades, he also produces bespoke collections for the likes of Celia Birtwell, Nicky Haslam, Firmdale Hotels, Harrods, Liberty and a smattering of ‘top secret’ celebrity clients.
After a long spell in West London – where he used to run a silverscreen print studio that designed for everyone from Vivienne Westwood to Zandra Rhodes – Daniel moved to Sevenoaks in Kent, but wanted to head back closer to London when he started teaching fashion and textiles at Ravensbourne College on Greenwich Peninsula. When not teaching, Daniel is generally found at his studio – Second Floor Studios in Woolwich, a creative hub of some 410 artists, craft makers and designers.
Daniel says that he doesn’t like ‘matchy-matchy’ styles, which is quite evident when looking around his home – florals sit next to zigzags and fuchsia sits next to teal. But at no point does it clash or seem overbearing. He knows just when to go bold and when to employ a neutral. He attributes his eclectic collection of prints and colours to his bespoke design projects for other furnishing houses, artists, designers and even hotels.
‘You have to wear somebody else’s hat and they might want something quite specific, and often those ideas will end up in my collection, so the style does tend to jump around a bit, but I like that.’
For his own home, Daniel wanted ‘a space that’s colourful, happy, cosy and comfortable’. Somewhere that his work could take pride of place, but that first and foremost had to be a home.
‘I always think about light before I think of anything else,’ he says. ‘The front of this flat is south facing, so you get more sun. The sun comes around [into the kitchen at the back] in the late afternoon, so that has to be considered when you’re painting the walls. I can’t paint the kitchen-diner a bold colour because it will feel very dark.’
‘It’s basically colour theory. Use complementary colours to create a pop – yellow versus purple, for example. Just stay within a colour group’
Instead Daniel has gone for an oyster shade with pink tones through the back of the house, which creates a much warmer feeling than a stark white: ‘Because of the light at the front I could paint that a very deep petrol- indigo colour. Then I think about lamps and chain lights because I like to feel cosy at night. I hate bright pendant lights overhead.’
My eye is drawn to the carousel horse that takes pride of place in the kitchen-diner. In fact I’ve barely taken my eyes off it since entering the room. It’s fabulous. Where on earth does one find such a thing?
‘I found him on eBay,’ says Daniel. ‘I bought him for a trade show in Birmingham because I have a wallpaper print featuring carousel horses, and obviously I loved him, so here he is.’
The horse is draped with a throw that Daniel and his partner Oscar found in China while hiking. The floor lamp next to it sports a lampshade from Daniel’s new range, called Roman Row. The lampshade followed a wallpaper print called Rome, inspired by a Sicilian ceramic head he spotted in a hotel in Rome: ‘I just started drawing the pot,’ he says, ‘this head with an amazing plant coming out of it, then the rest kind of spiralled out from there.’
Around the dining table are upcycled chairs sourced by Nicholas Upholstery just off Lee High Road, and covered in various fabrics of Daniel’s – Flash, Barcelona and Anchored Heart. There’s a reupholstered antique armchair covered in Daniel’s Shanghai Peonies, and cushions dotted along the blue sofa are covered in a mix of Constance, Flash and Coromandel fabrics.
The front room features that petrol blue-painted wall, matched with Daniel’s Elpis wallpaper in a similar shade with a pink print that features everything Daniel’s imagination could throw at it – cats, birds, his adorable Beagle, Pi, teacups with elephants in them… The pattern reflects in the antique mirror over the fireplace, picking up on the leafy pendant light dotted with little bird decorations found in Parisian junk shops.
What’s the secret to making so many patterns and prints work in one space? ‘It’s basically colour theory,’ he says. ‘Use complementary colours to create a pop – yellow versus purple, for example. Just stay within a colour group.’