Looking at Anna and Tim Stark’s bright Oxfordshire home, it’s hard to believe it was painted top-to-bottom in beige when they moved in.
‘As a kind gesture, the previous owners painted over their orange walls in magnolia for us. They didn’t realise that we actually loved their brave colour choices,’ says Anna.
‘The former owners walked past the house a week after we moved in and saw our decorator unloading tin after tin of paint. They were so surprised!’
After ten years of living with each other, this was the first home Anna and her husband Tim bought together, and Anna had big ideas for it. ‘In 2002, I moved into the previous house Tim owned and it was very white and minimal. Over time, I added more and more colour to his place. Now he is used to my style of decorating and is a huge fan of prints and patterns,’ she says.
When they got the keys to their new home and discovered it had been turned into a blank canvas, they knew it wouldn’t stay that way for long. ‘Within the first week I started painting and I haven’t stopped decorating since!’ says Anna.
Welcome to our home…
We are Anna Stark, 43, Head of Design, my husband, Tim, 51, who owns a DJ PR Agency, our son, Tony, aged five, and our dog, Benny.
Our home is A semi-detached, three-bedroom townhouse, built in 2002.
‘It was the boring beige kitchen and white bathrooms that bothered me the most. It just wasn’t me.’
Tackling most of the DIY herself, Anna started adding the first of many punchy colours in her home by transforming the hallway first, painting the banisters black and the walls green.
‘It’s an unusual place to start, but as our staircase leads up three flights, it’s quite a dominant part of the house, so it was the easiest way to immediately inject colour into our home. Before I started it felt dark and depressing, but now it’s cheerful and bright with all the colour, pattern and art,’ she says.
Anna’s impressive collection of blue-and-white china takes centre stage in her home. When her mum, who lives in Poland, told Anna she was getting rid of her large collection of hand-painted ceramics, Anna had it all shipped over to England to display in her own home.
A bit more about our home…
Our biggest mistake was The grey walls in the living room. That wasn’t truly me and I felt like I was chasing trends at the time.
Next to do is Finishing off my home office in the garden.
‘It was the beginning of my ever-expanding china collection and it influenced the colour palette for pretty much every room in the house. Blue and white is my most-loved palette; I love to mix it with vibrant greens, yellows and pinks for a fresh, modern look,’ she says.
Among her growing collection are vintage and modern Delft, as well as Chinese porcelain. ‘There are over 250 pieces on display in our home and it’s growing all the time. It’s a timeless look that I love.’ Her favourite finds are antique Delft ginger jars from eBay and Etsy and a menagerie of blue-and-white animals, regularly brought home from trips to the Netherlands.
Not long after moving in, Anna gave her plain kitchen a complete makeover. The wooden cupboards were ripped out and new stainless-steel units were installed. The long, thin space was made to feel bright, light and homely, and Anna ensured she made space to display her china.
‘We thought about waiting until we extended outwards, but ten years down the line we are still yet to undertake any building work,’ she says.
‘It seemed like a huge expense and a bit of a risk at the time to get a new kitchen when we might have to do it again soon, but this space makes me so happy. Just imagine, I could still be living with a kitchen I hated if I hadn’t taken a leap of faith! I have no regrets.’
While the kitchen transformation was underway, Anna turned her attention to her bathroom. She had red poppy-motif tiles shipped over from Poland to echo the patterns in her pottery.
To complement the design, she went for matching plain red tiles and grouting in the shower unit. ‘My tiler’s eyes were on stalks when I showed him the tiles! But I love how zingy this room is and its energising effect in the mornings,’ she says.
Anna puts her love for colour down to her childhood. ‘Growing up in communist Poland was a bleak experience. Surrounded by greys and browns everywhere, I craved colour. The only colours I remember fondly were the vibrant shades of Polish folk art, which shaped my early aesthetics. That’s why I’ve filled the walls in my home with vintage floral and still-life oil paintings, as they remind me of those colourful moments as a child,’ she explains.
Her keen eye for pattern and colour doesn’t mean that she doesn’t make the odd decorating mistake, however – she painted her living room grey, but it didn’t fit with her usual style, and she soon covered it over with a mural of a Dutch floral painting. ‘It’s now my favourite room in the house, as it is so cosy and inviting,’ she says.
A self-confessed decorating addict, Anna admits that she will never stop changing up her home. ‘I’ve worked my magic on every corner and I’m always planning the next project,’ she says. ‘I love creating a vibrant, happy space for our family.’
Feature Maxine Brady. Photos David Giles.