Julia O’Dowd is creative director of Cotton Tree, a vibrant interior design practice in small market town in Suffolk, which serves a mixed client base all over the UK. She started working alongside her builder’s merchant father, focusing on interiors while he concentrated on construction.
Her business is now thriving and takes her into all sorts of country and city home.
Q: What are your specialist areas in interior design?
A: I work on a wide range of different projects. I create schemes that look loved – and that last for the long term. I always focus on precision and delivery!
Q: What sorts of homes do you typically work on?
A: Generally those that are family homes but need to be refreshed – perhaps after 30 years or so! We love doing large projects but beach houses and bachelor pads are just as fun.
Q: Which interior design styles do you carry out?
A: We don’t have a style “per se” – we focus on quality and do our best to facilitate our clients’ preferences and specific loves. We do lean to “country comfort” over minimalism. We love colour.
Q: Is it possible to achieve a country house look if you don’t live in a country house?
A: You bet. I have a flat in town which is just the most delicious bouquet of “remarkableness!” It a mix of canvases, roses, linen and oak.
Q: What sorts of fabrics would you typically bring in to create a country house look?
A: The recoloured archive fabrics are just divine, but a touch of chintz adds to the lustre. I also always make sure that we line all our linen. I think that adds to the look of high quality and stops that “new curtain” look.
Q: What colour schemes might you use in achieving this particular style?
A: This season I am using nutmegs and teal, with a twist of bark and tigers eye. There are also lovely water colour cottons about too, with heathers, lilacs and creams as their core palette.
Q: Which items of furniture might work well with the style?
A: I love old polished oaks and deep fruit woods for tables and chairs. These seem to almost glisten and can look wonderful in mirrors and picture frames – it all looks so warm. Believe I me keep all the Suffolk polishers busy!
Q: What finishing touches could you bring in to complement the look?
A: Where do I start? I love this element of my job! Rugs – old and new, paintings, old candle sticks, journal racks and library steps, not to mention tea trays and china. For flowers, tea roses and hollyhocks can look wonderful – I could go on and on…
Q: How easy would it be to slightly vary a country house look in the future?
A: I am a very strong advocator that the colour of the walls is key. With just a few brush strokes, you can change a room’s base colour to something quite different and, suddenly, the emphasis is away in quite a different direction and your whole room has a completely fresh look.