Joanna Plant: A Natural Interior Designer

I always like to know people’s roots, their childhood world, it grows wth us into adulthood and shapes our interior-identity. I like my English interiors injected with a wasp twist, buzzed into sharper vibrancy, a legacy of our glamorous American neighbors, I vividly remember the mother’s jungle-green trellis and bamboo bedroom, an exotic island of Billy Baldwin fantasia in the surrounding  steady waters of a country house aesthetic that framed my childhood.

BB brightTake this image (minus the wicker) and pop it into 1970’s South Kensington London,  local eyebrows were raised.  Well there are no such fears with Joanna Plant’s interiors  – your neighbours’ eyes are more likely to be green with envy.  Joanna  created a garden room for the House and Garden’s summer fair,  it playfully channeled delusions of Orangerie and Petit Trianon grandeur into  a charming and sophisticated dining space, I didn’t want to leave, so as I reluctantly waved good bye we made a date to talk interiors,  inspiration, aesthetic and ROOTS.


Fast forward to her West London home and it was similarly hard to leave, her kitchen luminous in the soft September sun while we got caught up in the passion that only collectors’ understand …


naturally over coffee in her collection of Rockingham cups …

 Looking up at the the large scale classical lines  of the trio of architectural drawings which frame the low hung 40’s Italian pendant over the kitchen table and repeatedly draw the eye.img_4552
 While beyond the garden frames us in shades of green.

Joanna grew up in Oxford surrounded by limestone quads and towers, her first love of houses came from books, as an only child she played in their imaginary worlds and interiors: The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goodge, Noel Streatfield’s  Ballet Shoes.  She obsessively turned story-book interiors into  dolls house rooms: my love of making rooms began in literature.

Upstairs the doll’s house is still there… complete with the miniature boxes she hand-made.

 You always need an eccentric relative or neighbour to help you question your default perspective. Joanna had a Granny with a crumbling rambling house in the depths of rural Suffolk, think Georgian, think Mary Delaney…mary-delaney-geranium
 the beautiful rooms were all covered in dust, it was grand and shabby, an unforgettable black rose chintz downstairs loo, a geranium strewn dining table, my delusions of grandeur come from here.img_4602
(my kind of grandeur delusions…also upstairs)
Her step father was an American botanist and publisher, this brought the 1980’s Hamptons and Park Avenue into teenage view: they get the grand and casual, I love how wasp top-spin breathes life into the English aesthetic.
BB fabric wall
Billy Baldwin springs back to mind, above is his St Regis creation for Babe Paley.  Turns out Joanna similarly loves Lee Radziwill that 1966 magic carpet ride of opulent Turquerie that has made her London sitting room iconic.lee-radziwill-tina-radziwill-buckingham-palace-drawing-room
References to this style are threaded  through her similarly layered, harmonious interiors. This reflects how her English style is rooted in our link to diverse cultures throughout our island history, the melded legacy of  our maritime adventurers, the Grand Tour tourists and exotic Empire connections – which is quite unique to Britain.
Jo’s whippet takes over the silk road sofa at home.
While a bedside upstairs injects a slice of ottoman charm to night time reading…
Do you remember your first job? well Joanna was PA to a very chic woman who ran the Chanel account – visiting Chanel in Paris a lot. So ‘chez elle’, It was all white lilies, Dyptique candles, high heels  and black Mercedes. Today Joanna still burns Dyptique in her VERY ORGANISED office and clearly has great taste in heels (see above) and is mistress of the ongoing to-do list…
So English roots, WASP top-spin, cross channel Chanel and Lee Radziwill; all underpinned by a secret weapon (more about him later).
joanna-plant-interior-3I know I might sit down and soak it in too.
 Joanna didn’t start small in interiors, she began with the chairman of Virgin, as his personal PA she worked privately redecorating 6 houses with 2 sets of builders on permanent rotation over 13 years.  Joanna gets scheduling and deadlines, she delivers – when she left after her second child arrived 17 years ago –  the phone started ringing – and it hasn’t stopped.
You can see how Joanna seamlessly links spaces through a scheme, flooring, textures and colours all flow. The way she layers textiles and shapes is both rhythmic and relaxed..

She works with her husband Nick a former antiques dealer whose understanding of upholstery and joinery gives their bespoke pieces a client-based focus strong on period detail and modern comfort. I told you she had a secret weapon.

Downstairs has lots of rich textiles and warming reds which as you rise through the house soften to faded pinks and lilacs all set against creamy neutrals.

Joanna and Nick’s home reflects their love of patina and pattern and …the hunt… in their spare time their straight to Kempton Park, it feeds into her passion for Georgian architecture, the order of it, the architectural layout, and austerity of the furniture,  which makes it sit so well in the modern interior where the spare lines really hold their own.  The working rooms of these houses, the utilities and laundries all of which modern home maker’s have come to appreciate again…so while in Kempton Joanna hunts out:img_4610

vintage linens – preferably monogrammed (that delusion of grandeur) for her dedicated laundry cupboards.


Elegant white tureensimg_4547Rockingham china and cabbage wareimg_4603vintage textiles img_4622from far and wide…

Joanna on collecting:

  • My first stop is textiles.
  • Stick to a colour palette and an era. My linens tend to be white, my china is  Rockingham always in similar shades of grey and gilt. 
  • My tureen fetish continues, so I am refining it, getting stricter about what can join the home collection.
  • My collecting motto is  ….got to be able to use it, not save it. 
  • Laying a table is one of my favourite pleasures.
  • Splurge on a  little bit of what you love … can’t afford Fortuny  curtains? do the lampshade in vintage Fortuny instead. Have something you love.
the lampshade….which comes alive when litimg_4541

Like most decorators (with Manolos):  fashion inspires me, the collections come out and I pour over colour combos,  sludge pink and golden yellow, cherry coke and sulky brown …

Joanna is a designer who aesthetically connects to our cultural roots whilst transforming daily life in your own home.  Her style and interiors reflect the joy of the small things; a morning cup of tea, the scent of flowers,  light softly filtered though patterned rattan,  the tactile feel of velvets and silks, the dinner table laid with vintage linens and  the capacity for each of these to bring joy, hold memories. It’s not about money…it’s about sensory pleasures and that’s what a natural interior designer is all about.
Images from Joanna and Nick’s home in West London by me.
photo of Joanna and House and Garden’s Spirit of Summer from Pooky lighting.
photo of Joanna’s work on her website Joanna Plant Interiors.

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