At home with interior designer Anna Hayman
PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 February 2020
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Designer Anna Hayman has made her Ringmer home her canvas
There is not a single white wall in designer Anna Hayman's Ringmer home. Every flat surface is splashed with colour, from the inky dining room to the striking black kitchen.
"White is a strange non-colour to me," she explains, as we drink coffee on burnt orange velvet sofas. "I feel like it blocks emotion - and I'm a very emotional person." Even the ceilings have been painted to match the walls. "When I see a bold colour on a wall but a white ceiling it feels to me like someone just hasn't committed to the colour." A lack of commitment is not a charge one could level against Hayman, a petite, confident blonde in towering snakeskin platform boots. But it helps, she explains that she has found the house she wants to live in until she is old. "When you're not worried about resale value, you don't worry about painting the door frames gold."
Hayman moved into the 1920s property in 2017, with psychotherapist husband Henry, their two boys Harrison, 10, and Spencer, 7, and Myrtle the dachshund. "Everything was woodchipped - including the ceilings - but that was the only issue. We didn't have to make any structural changes." She was in the process of setting up her design company when they moved. "I thought, great, I can make this place my canvas. And that's what I did for a while. But it's a lot of upheaval for the people you live with if you're always changing their living space." Today, as demand for Hayman's work continues to grow - her designs are stocked everywhere from Liberty to New York's Bergdorf Goodman - she has relocated her work to studios in nearby Easons Green that she shares with a swordsmith and a carpenter. But the house remains a showcase of her talents as a designer.
The first thing one notices, coming through the front door, is the dramatic black and gold staircase, the risers papered in Hayman's Art Nouveau-esque Pearl wallpaper. "I didn't actually like this design when I got it back from the printers," she admits. "But I had the sample roll so I thought I'd just try it on the stairs. When I posted a picture of them on social media, people just went crazy. It's become my bestselling design." The stairwell (and ceiling) is painted in Little Greene's Ho Ho Green, an earthy sage. "My core colours as a designer are brown and green," she explains. "But browns going into rusts and orange and gold, and greens going into teal and turquoise. I think it comes from growing up in the middle of nowhere in Burwash, surrounded by fields and trees."
Upstairs, Hayman's bedroom is a masterclass in maximalist style. A theatrical-looking fringed pelmet picked up in Brighton's Vine Street Vintage hangs above an Arts and Crafts antique bed that's strewn with cushions printed in Hayman's Makemba and Bibana - a print inspired by Barbara Hulanicki's '70s fashion empire Biba. "I've always been obsessed by the way Biba and Liberty referenced the designs of the 1920s and '30s," she says. "Those decades are so alluring." The Bibana print is repeated on the walls: "You can use my wallpapers in quite a pared-back, statement way or you can layer them up as I've done here." The rich mix of pattern and texture lends an intimate, sultry feel to the room - although its moodiness pales in comparison to that kitchen. "We had a workman round a few weeks ago and you could see he couldn't quite work out what to make of it," laughs Hayman. "In the end he went with: 'It's…black.'" It really is. The brick walls glisten with gloss paint, accented by original Art Deco wall lamps - one of many eBay finds - and burnished bronze worktops that look like aged metal but are actually MDF painted black, covered in gold leaf and then coated in resin (bland-design.co.uk). It's a kitchen that looks purpose-built for parties and, Hayman confirms, it is usually the spot where everyone likes to gather. "We had a great get-together just before Christmas," she recalls, "Our 101-year-old neighbour was the last one to leave!"
We eventually settle down in the sitting room, which is lined with Henry's Sigmund Freud books, its uneven walls painted a pale terracotta. "When we took the woodchip off I fell in love with the texture of the plaster underneath," says Hayman. "I just put a warm wash over it to warm it up." The fireplace is, she thinks, an '80s addition, but she has left it where it is because she likes its geometric lines, reminiscent of her beloved Deco. "Twiddly Victorian stuff just doesn't work here," she shrugs. "You have to go with what the house wants." A wall of aged mirror panels reflects the design of the adjacent lattice window and lends light and atmosphere to the room, while a fringed lampshade in Hayman's Tigrana fabric sits on top of a piano she will play when the mood takes her. The designer is a concert-grade pianist but in a tussle between music and art, it was the latter she went on to pursue. She worked for many years as a visual merchandiser for high street fashion brand Monsoon before her husband persuaded her to follow her dream of becoming a designer. "I've always been obsessed by pattern," she says. "It's something about the mathematics. I want to work out how designs fit together and why some remain so appealing to people regardless of the era." She took a lino printmaking class with the late crafter and ceramicist Ralph Levy and immediately knew she had found her calling. Her only regret, she says, is that she didn't take the plunge earlier. "I think this is what I was always meant to do."