ROCOCO Interiors describes it’s style as ‘classic English with a twist’ creating homes, not houses. Rococo loves nothing more than sourcing antiques, trawling through reclamation yards, auction houses, online platforms and flea markets to unearth great pieces to create rooms that people want to live in rather than reflecting a show home. Her approach to interiors means no budget is too big or too small, no task unimportant. From finding chairs to match a dining room table, to unearthing the perfect door knocker, Rococo takes pride in creating warm and welcoming home environments as well as sourcing items for them.
In today’s conversation, we get to know the life and work of Rachael ‘Rococo’ Davis.
Dear Rococo, first of all I would like to know when did your passion for interiors start?
My mother has always worked in the antiques and textiles business, so I have constantly been surrounded by creativity which has strongly influenced my style today. I grew up on the wilds of Exmoor where our home was filled with a mix of William Morris covered sofas, rustic farmhouse furniture, inherited pieces and numerous tapestries designed by my talented mother who was commissioned to produce work for many notable designers. My father was also an art dealer and specialised in sporting prints, so the art world and picture hanging was another area I must have subconsciously learnt. In fact I think a lot of this rubbed off on my siblings too. I am the youngest child and one of six and all bar one work in creative fields. My oldest brother has a joinery business (Lethbridge Lines) and two of my other brothers have a building and decorating business (Lethbridge London), so I guess you can say it’s in the genes! It’s really wonderful to share such a passion with the entire family. I’m certain my 7 month old daughter, Mimi, is getting an early fabric education when she is with me as my unofficial design assistant. She regularly accompanies me to markets and she seems particularly in love with the colourful interior at home – Robert Kime’s Sunburst wallpaper and Soane Britain’s Dianthus Chintz fabric are particular favourites!
My mother always involved me in choosing wall colours and helping to organise her office. So, the first room I essentially designed was my own bedroom – aged eight – which was a dark blue and, funnily enough, similar to what I’ve recently had our kitchen painted at home. I think being brought up in a creative household allowed me to dream about creating stylish spaces for other people.
It was really in my late 20s however when I was spending a great deal of my spare time giving style advice and finding furniture for friends and family that I realised that while many people knew what they liked or wanted, they sometimes lacked the eye (or time) to be able to create the style or look they were after.
What are your biggest sources of inspiration?
Every day I find I am surrounded by inspiration, it is an essential ingredient to how I work. This might be an early morning walk in the park with our cocker spaniel, Edie, which gives me a chance to reflect on the day ahead, walking through the streets of London, visiting the V&A or at one of my Designer’s networking lunches at home where I meet so many other talented people in the industry. It might even be reading the latest copy of The World of Interiors or a new design book to add to my growing collection (Patrick Baty’s ‘The Anatomy of Colour’ being my latest).
A stunning table setting by Maria Castellanos for Rococo’s last networking lunch at home.
Traveling is always a huge inspiration and it is no surprise that I am armed with oversized luggage on my return! Sussing out where flea markets are is the first thing I look up and my husband is now particularly used to the packing panic when it’s time to leave. Inspiration, setting goals and making a day as productive as possible is really important to me, especially when you are setting up on your own.
L’Hotel Marrakech by Jasper Conran is among Rococo’s favourite destinations
Plates from Rococo’s ceramic collection. She bought these ones in person from the artist’s studio on her honeymoon on Italy’s Amalfi coast.
Any tips to adapt the English Country Style to modern times?
I find the best way to do this is to be brave, blend old pieces with new and never go by the book or what is seen as ‘on trend’.
That’s why I like to describe my style as ‘classic English with a twist’, injecting plenty of colour and layering pattern where possible. Someone once told me not to change anything about my style and that has really stuck with me. My key to any design is making someone feel at home. Design is about bringing a room to life, creating warm and welcoming environments and filling it with pieces you love. I am confident that all the treasures I bring into a home, whether it be matching, clashing, expensive or inexpensive will all work together.
I love to experiment with new ideas in my own home, I am forever changing the house around! You can make a flea market find or an old inherited chair look a million dollars in the right setting. You need to help bring pieces to life! I was brought up in the traditional English country style but when I had a home to decorate and make my own I didn’t necessarily want it to look like a dated country house or a junk shop full of clutter – I wanted it to be a wonderful balance full of the things I would enjoy seeing on a daily basis.
Here are a few of my tips to adapt the English Country Style to modern times:
Layer and mix everything, so long as you love it! I find this really makes a room unique and one you’ll naturally enjoy being in, which is the opposite of the overdeveloped five star hotel look which is so common nowadays. I find some things can take a while to find the right home, but there is always one eventually and if in doubt, store it. I mix old books with new books, bold patterns with simple patterns, bright colours with subtle tones. I usually focus on one element in the room in question and start from there. This might be a particular colour in a piece of artwork, a lampshade or detailing in a fabric.
Soane’ Britain’s Dianthus Chintz looks wonderful in this headboard designed by Rococo.
Take your time buying pieces (or hire me!) I can’t stress this enough. What I call ‘tick the box pieces’ might mean you have furniture to sit on at the end of the day, but those pieces are usually the ones you grow bored of quickly, are expensive and rarely good quality. I have heard so many people complaining that they’ve bought a sofa in a hurry and regretted it! Instead buy an old one and get it upholstered or perhaps change the cushions on your current sofa to give it a new look. Sometimes the small changes can be the most effective. Our current old sofa has already lasted years and I know it will last many more. The seat cushions however were looking very tired so I have had new covers made in a wonderful Robert Kime ticking fabric which I snapped up at a fabric sale.
Brown furniture has had a lot of bad press recently. I don’t know why but it does mean there are now bargains to be had. It’s always a key ingredient in a room. You need to understand how much is too much, but you can also alter a piece to make it more contemporary. There is nothing more satisfying than picking up a beautiful piece with an irreparable cover (like they so often have) and getting it upholstered in a beautiful fabric you’ve had your eye on. You don’t even need that much fabric for a dining chair and it will transform the room.
Has Social Media helped you to develop your business?
Undoubtedly. Instagram in particular has given me an opportunity to share my style, finds and general inspiration. It was never going to be easy entering a competitive industry and I have done everything myself from designing my website to designing furnishings and now, a piece of furniture in the pipeline. I have also met many talented designers because of it so I have a lot to thank it for!
On her Instagram, Rococo shares glimpses of her beautiful home, travels, latest finds, and handpicked pieces for sale like these vintage brass shell sconces.
Favourite London store?
I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I say Liberty (if it was worldwide Svenskt Tenn in Stockholm would definitely be a close runner up!)
It is the most wonderful Grade II* listed, Tudor revival building, full of history and home to many unique and decorative pieces. I love its homely atmosphere where’ll you’ll even see fireplaces dotted around. It has also been a special place which I have many fond memories – from taking my niece on her first shopping trip in London to look at the Christmas displays, to sharing trips with my mother who always tells me something I didn’t know about the building.
It is guaranteed to be one of the first stops on a day out in London and at Christmas it turns magical (just so long as you don’t visit in peak times!)
Thank you so much, Rococo!
Images: Tom St Aubyn and ROCOCO interiors