At home with illustrator Camilla Perkins

PUBLISHED: 12:40 27 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:10 11 August 2020

Camilla mixes contemporary furniture from shops like Made and Swoon with vintage finds. Photo by Sarah Hogan

Camilla mixes contemporary furniture from shops like Made and Swoon with vintage finds. Photo by Sarah Hogan

Illustrator Camilla Perkins opens the doors of her bright and beautiful family home in Ringmer

Camilla Perkins in her Ringmer garden. Photo courtesy of Camilla PerkinsCamilla Perkins in her Ringmer garden. Photo courtesy of Camilla Perkins

Camilla Perkins only moved into her 19th century Ringmer cottage two years ago yet she’s already thinking about her next move. The house is great, she explains, it’s just that she’s starting to run out of space. Perkins is a collector, you see, whose passion for print, textiles and art fuels her work as an illustrator but poses a problem when it comes to storage. “I’m obsessed with mid-century landscape oil paintings,” she says. “I’m always on Etsy searching for them. I also love French gingham plates, antique tapestry sketches and Chinese painted eggs. The other day I was genuinely trying to buy a wholesale lot of 15. It was lucky my husband made me see sense.” Still, it’s this rich range of influences that have helped to make Camilla one of the rising stars of British illustration, with a client list that ranges from Google to The Guardian. Her aesthetic is bold, joyful, lively – a visual representation of her ebullient personality. “I just draw the stuff I like – there’s a lot of food, flowers, holidays. I want people to look at my work and feel good.”

She has applied the same attitude to her East Sussex home, which is filled with a mix of jewel-coloured furniture, antique shop finds and striking Indian and African prints. Camilla and her husband Jack, a gardener, moved to Ringmer from a flat in Brighton’s Lansdowne Place shortly after their eldest daughter, Wren, was born. The couple both grew up in Sussex; Camilla in and around Hastings, whose fish stalls and cafes continue to inspire her motifs of lobsters and other seafood, and Jack in nearby Lewes. The cottage’s peaceful location overlooking the village green was an immediate attraction, especially after they bought their cocker spaniel puppy Ralph, who Camilla jokes is their “problem child”. “He seems to think he owns the green and barks at everyone who walks past.”

See designer Anna Hayman’s maximalist Ringmer home

The 'Bar' sign in the kitchen was painted for Camilla's wedding. Photo by Sarah HoganThe 'Bar' sign in the kitchen was painted for Camilla's wedding. Photo by Sarah Hogan

The quiet of village life suits Camilla, who admits that she has actually enjoyed lockdown. She gave birth to their second daughter, Alma, the Friday before it began, and was relieved by the excuse to hole up as a family and avoid the usual stream of visitors that a new baby attracts. “I’ve actually managed to get a lot of work done,” she says. “My husband has been taking Wren out and Alma sleeps a lot, so I can sit and draw.” Government-imposed isolation has also provided her with an opportunity to work on their house – which has just featured in Bold British Design, a new, coffee table tome that offers a peek into the homes of 21 British creatives. “It was a lot tidier when those photos were taken!” Camilla laughs of her entry. She thinks British design is marked out by a sense of fun. “There’s a certain eccentricity…a slight madness in the mix that somehow works.” It’s certainly true of her own home, where one is as likely to find a vintage toy car in the kitchen as a bright yellow, Charleston-inspired fireplace in the bedroom. “I like neutral walls so I can fill rooms with pops of colour from accessories, fabric and artwork” she explains. “I mix contemporary furniture – my sofas are from Made and Swoon – with vintage pieces and I love anything that’s been pre-owned because it’s unique. I enjoy thinking about where it might have been before, who owned it or who made it.” Pre-lockdown, she could often be found “barging around” Lewes’ many antique shops, employing her children’s double buggy as a vehicle for all her treasures. “I also love the charity shops in Uckfield – I got a wonderful set of engraved wine glasses there that I use all the time.”

As a child, Camilla’s family moved every few years as a result of her mother’s talent for renovating houses then selling them on. Even at a young age, Camilla’s artistic talent was put to use painting fireplaces or creating hand-printed wallpaper. “I would never admit it to her but my mum has been a pretty big influence on my taste in interiors,” says Camilla, who recently painted 40 botanical illustrations for Alma’s nursery, with the idea of papering one of the walls with them. “In the end it was a bit overpowering so I picked out my favourite 10 and framed them instead.” The house is packed with similar examples of her abundant creativity, from the ‘Bar’ sign in the kitchen which she painted for her wedding, to the stairs, where her bestselling Power print hangs. Her home is also filled with the creative output of other artists. “I’m already running out of walls for all the artwork I’m addicted to buying,” she laughs. Hester Finch, who sells her striking figurative oil pastels through the same online platform as Camilla – Partnership Editions – is a particular obsession. “I would buy everything she ever made if I had the space and the money.” She loves Dutch artist Bobbye Fermie’s atmospheric figurative work and has also bought several pieces recently from the Japanese artist and illustrator Sanae Sugimoto, whose surreal prints conjure scenes from folklore and mythology. “I got one for each of my daughters because I would have loved them when I was little.”

Flowers for the Solstice. Illustration by Camilla PerkinsFlowers for the Solstice. Illustration by Camilla Perkins

If there is an overarching theme to Camilla’s colourful, eclectic style, it’s this emphasis on following one’s heart and only filling one’s home with things that bring joy, whether that’s a vintage chair reupholstered in a bold print or, well, 15 Chinese painted eggs…

Bold British Design by Sarah Hogan and Emilio Pimentel-Reid is out now, published by Quadrille.

Camilla's home features in Bold British Design by Sarah Horgan and Emilio Pimentel-Reid, published by Quadrille, £30 hardbackCamilla's home features in Bold British Design by Sarah Horgan and Emilio Pimentel-Reid, published by Quadrille, £30 hardback

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