Inside the kaleidoscopic home of a colour-loving nonconformist

The Mexican wave decorating one bright London home this Christmas

There’s a lot of pressure around Christmas – a feeling that everything must be done right,” says Zoe Anderson. “So I like to create an anti-stress atmosphere, fuelled by fun.”

Her north London home, which she shares with her husband, Gavin, and their daughter, Ruby, is a stone’s throw from Arsenal’s football ground. It is a kaleidoscope of colourful joy and homage to her nonconformist energy. Zoe refuses to surrender to the mainstream, and is unashamedly true to herself – which, she says, is liberating.

Day of the Dead flags and Christmas decorations, including a large Christmas tree in the window, in the sitting room.
Deck the halls: Day of the Dead flags and Christmas decorations. Photograph: Claire Worthy

“My style has got more confident as I’ve got older. I have always really identified with alternative cultures. I like pop art. If I could be any tribe, I would be a punk. I always wanted to wear Vivienne Westwood.” Zoe once owned an interiors shop which, after six hard years, fell foul to the multiple pressures small independent stores are subject to: Covid, Brexit, eye-watering rents and lastly the cost-of-living crisis.

Shunning the tradition of Christmas cake and turkey, Zoe prefers to choose a theme to celebrate. This year it is Mexican and includes a fluttering parade of colourful Day of the Dead paper flags and sequined textiles. Glass Día de los Muertos baubles sparkle on the banister, and Christmas Day will begin with a margarita. A Guadalupe statue on the dining table is in keeping with the theme. It’s super kitsch but, for Zoe, who loves the golds and the ornate iconography of renaissance art, it adds to her festive vision to create a sense of occasion and drama.

Damien Hirst artwork hanging above a sideboard by Bethan Gray.
Spiral in control: the Damien Hirst artwork hanging above a sideboard by Bethan Gray. Photograph: Claire Worthy

Zoe had originally launched her design store in a bid to create a focus to enable her to go on after the death from Hodgkin lymphoma of their 11-year-old son, Sonny. She found that the business allowed her to function day to day and make choices in her work and at home that were positive.

Firmly a maximalist, Zoe would never select dark colours and has chosen to make her home an exaggeration of colour, using it to brighten corners, make a statement and provide “zing and life and energy”.

“Positivity is so important; having pieces of art, colour and objects in your home that give you good energy is incredibly powerful. When you wake up, the things you see when you come in from a hard day, how these make you feel, is central. Learning to find a way to live by looking at the things you love and the pieces you create is nourishing for everyone.”

Bathroom with white bath and dark walls with a large pink rose
Rose wash: dramatic walls in the bathroom. Photograph: Claire Worthy

Zoe’s maxim in her design work was to support unknown artists and emerging makers, and this is still the vital core of her interiors at home. In her dining room a striking backdrop of cobalt blue called Wyatt, from toxin-free brand Painthouse, provides a vivid frame in which to display pieces by street artists Pakal, Skeleton Cardboard and, from Haifa in Israel, Broken Fingaz.

“I buy things from all over the place, mixing homeware, textiles, fashion, old and new, Cornish pottery, vintage 1970s. I like to blend, I like odd sizes and mismatch. I love faces, eyes and mouths – it’s ridiculous. I like to have the whole world in here with me. I have candles from Anya Hindmarch, my Pulpo light is by Sebastian Herkner and the bright orange hand chair, named Brigitte, is Jonathan Adler. The cushions, by Silken Favours, are from Vicki Murdoch, a graduate of Central Saint Martins – her work is so colourful. I really believe in longevity and I am interested in finding future design classics, showcasing upcoming designers and supporting new talent.”

Bedroom with rich pink walls
Wall of colour: even the bedroom is aglow with rich pink. Photograph: Claire Worthy

“Colour likes colour,” Zoe adds, and the Parisian paper decoration from Return to Sender conforms to the playful sense of bohemian kitsch that steers a course throughout the entire house.

When you go through stained-glass double doors into the sitting room, painted in Green Smoke by Farrow & Ball, you see, above a cabinet by Bethan Gray, a piece by Damien Hirst. This was a purchase that Zoe and Gavin made when they first moved in. “We blew our paycheck on this young artist called Damien Hirst,” she remembers. “It was the first piece we bought for our home: we both like colour, so we bought something colourful together.”

Hannah Newton

The GuardianTramp

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