Her dark materials: a fabric designer’s East Sussex home

For someone who makes a habit of covering the surfaces of her home in colour, glitter and pattern, Anna Hayman is surprisingly restrained with festive decorations. “I still have baubles and little statues from when I was a child, so I prefer to use those sparingly, rather than go crazy with new ones,” she says. “Otherwise the rooms would just look too overloaded.”

That’s because, year-round, Hayman’s home is her own den of maximalism. She designs patterns for fabrics, wallpapers and tiles and her home has always been a space where she would try out ideas, often repainting rooms on a whim. “For the sake of my marriage, I’ve slowed down a bit now,” she smiles.

Hayman lives in a 1920s house in East Sussex with her husband and their sons, Harrison, nine, and Spencer, six. She immediately felt drawn to this home. “It has history, but is still solid and well built. There wasn’t much work to do. We just stripped lots of woodchip off the walls and I got painting…”

Paint it black: the kitchen.

Paint it black: the kitchen. Photograph: James Balston/The Observer

Several colour schemes later, the rooms are (for now) decorated in shades of turquoise and burnt orange, peach and gold. Then come the layers of pattern.

Hayman didn’t go to art school; instead, after leaving school at 16, she went straight into retail, working at Monsoon. “It was only after having a family that I realised I was quite frustrated and I wished I’d done something more artistic,” she says.

Three years ago she decided to try a lino printmaking class taught by a local crafter and ceramicist, the late Ralph Levy. “He saw that I needed to be creative, so he let me use a studio space and gave me the encouragement I needed,” she says. From the start, the act of cutting into the lino felt natural to Hayman. “It was as if I had an affinity with it. My father was a wood-turner, so it was my way of tuning into his skills.”

She began by printing kitchen textiles and mugs in bold mid-century colours, but she then ventured into more elaborate motifs, using the darker tones and metallic that she’s now known for.

‘We just stripped lots of woodchip off the walls and I got painting…’ Gold walls in the living-room.

‘We just stripped lots of woodchip off the walls and I got painting’: gold walls in the living-room. Photograph: James Balston/The Observer

When her designs were picked up by interiors store Rockett St George in 2017, her work reached a wider audience and she’s now stocked in Liberty and Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

Another career highlight was having her work featured on the front cover of Thames & Hudson’s encyclopaedic Pattern Design by Elizabeth Wilhide. Hayman herself is fascinated by the way in which similar patterns tend to re-emerge time and again in adapted, reimagined forms. “Stylised florals, for example, are perennially popular, but are always reworked to suit the mood of their era,” she says.

Her own work draws on art nouveau and the reworking of those motifs in the 1960s and 1970s, notably under the auspices of Barbara Hulanicki’s shop, Biba. “I can’t imagine a time when there won’t be a place for pattern in our lives,” Hayman says.

‘I can’t imagine a time when there won’t be a place for pattern in our lives’: bold wallpaper in the bedroom.

‘I can’t imagine a time when there won’t be a place for pattern in our lives’: bold wallpaper in the bedroom. Photograph: James Balston/The Observer

Her home is not far from Charleston and the Bloomsbury group has been an influence on her work. “I admire the extravagant, fearless approach to decorating that they had,” she says. Gold paint has been daubed around her doorways, skirtings and mirror frames. Her own wallpaper design covers the staircase risers and the landing is painted in a chalky, rough-finished peacock blue.

In her bedroom, Hayman’s fringed lampshades, a Biba-esque wallpaper and a gold ceiling continue the playful, creative theme. Furniture throughout the house is mostly secondhand, bought at local charity shops or at boot fairs and much of it has been reupholstered or repainted by Hayman.

The kitchen is decorated in gold and glossy black (Rust-Oleum is Hayman’s go-to brand: “it gives brilliant coverage”), which works because of the light streaming through the large windows. But while Hayman’s fabrics, lampshades and wallpapers have been taken up with gusto by lovers of dark, moody interiors, she learnt that dark isn’t always practical.

Her own dining room, which faces north, has recently been repainted in a plain, almost monastic white. “When the children couldn’t see their homework or the food on their plates, I realised it was time to rethink the black walls,” she smiles. But the decorated cushions, fabrics and rugs will stay: “Patterns will always bring me joy.”

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