With vintage and reclaimed pieces, a dash of glamour and a free spirit designer Sera Hersham-Loftus creates evocative interiors for the likes of Kate Moss, Sadie Frost and Eliza Dootlittle. Here, she opens her home in Little Venice, London, to Reclaim and shares how to get the boho look that everyone’s talking about.
Sera Hersham- Loftus’ apartment lies on an elegant street with a row of townhouses resembling cakes lavished in buttercream. But stepping beyond the pillared entrance, it’s clear that the outside is just the start of the seduction. For inside is another world, a feast of silks and shells, lace and lacquer, so beautiful and tactile that it almost makes you blush. Almost, because Sera herself is so cheerful and down-to-earth: ‘It’s all banged together,’ she laughs, ‘And I change everything, all the time.’ The apartment, once home to Marc Moore of S’Express ( ‘it was a real bloke’s pad, there was carpet, and concrete underneath that, and a DJ room!’ ) is all high ceilings and cornicing, panels ( some of which she designs herself ) full height windows and a giant glitterball from a New York disco. The essence of Versailles, with rockstar attitude. Right now, this bohemian look is the height of fashion, but for Sera, it’s always been her style. ‘I only design things that I like,’ she says. ‘I’m not like the usual interior decorator. So I’m not fulfilling a client’s brief, they come to me because they want this look. For me it’s my art form. It’s more than fashionable, it’s who I am.’ Sera was once a punk rocker, buying Victorian lacy camisoles and old granny boots from Camden Market (along with shaving her head.) ‘I got a feel for what it was like to go to a market and understand fabrics,’ she says. She moved to Israel and got a job designing sets for their ballet company, then, back in London, worked with Sadlers Wells on their stage design. That lead to styling interiors for friends, after which she created her ‘Rude Lampshades’ – table and floor lamps upcycled from corsets. Patsy Kensit bought the whole collection, then commissioned Sera to decorate her home. Sera’s place as interior designer to the celebrity set was sealed, and has since flourished to Sera working internationally as well as on TV and film sets, restaurants, film and fashion shoots. Yet she remains true to herself and her own style. As she shows me around her home it’s abundantly clear that every piece, from the tiny vintage crucifix on the mantelpiece to the antique chapel chairs from Seville, has a story. Nothing’s there with indifference, or without love.
One of the most important parts of Sera’s home is the abundance of plants, shells, flame and fire, elements that link the property to the power of nature the instinct. These create a similar feeling to walking on the seashore or building a fire in the sand. Almost every corner, and outside on the balcony, spills with lush foliage. Huge shells adorn fireplaces or smaller ones hang together; candles burn in large groups; open fires smoulder. ‘Plants are really important to me,’ Sera says, ‘I’ve got the outdoors, indoors, and I especially need it as I don’t have a garden.’
Back to Nature
A huge part of the boho look is taking cues from nature. Group lots of plants – the shape of palms and ferns work best – and pot in vintage stone or ceramic planters. Collect shells from the beach and pull together in a display, hang on curtain tie-backs or add to surfaces for a laid-back look.
Keep the Light Low
‘Lighting,’ says Sera, ‘is the most important thing.’ It’s true, the wrong lighting – such as garish white or strip lighting – can turn the most considered room into a place you can’t wait to escape from. And for a romantic interior such as this, it’s not just the furniture that has to look good, it’s the occupants. Sera makes full use of candlelight, grouping together pillar candles and using scarves and sequinned capes over shades to soften the light. And she’s recently created a line of parasol lamps, transforming 1930’s ladies’ parasols – which make the perfect diffusers – into striking lampshades. Crucially, Sera doesn’t have any overhead lighting at all, it’s all table and floor lamps, uplighters in the plants and daylight. But, the ceilings are painted black. ‘It helps to ground it all,’ she explains, ‘Otherwise things can get lost, it becomes too dreamy, there’s nothing to firm it down.’
Use Lamps and Mirrors
Try reclaimed lamps or cover shades with vintage fringed scarves or capes (ensuring that they don’t touch the bulb or get too hot.) Create an ethereal effect by placing storied mirrors nearby, to reflect the light. Hang a glitterball to up the fun.
Sera unifies the property with a love for beautiful global textiles and treasured pieces. Back from a recent trip to Kyoto, she uses antique Japanese Obis, usually worn around the waist, as window hangings. Vintage lace drapes in her bedroom, whilst African textiles have multiple uses as rugs, wall hangings or tablecloths, depending on her mood. Low chairs and sofas are turned into sumptuous areas for relaxing, with layers of fabric adorned with Sera’s own ‘Foxy Cushions’ made from vintage silk in pastel colours, backed with lace and in distinctive Art Nouveau shapes.
Display Global Treasures
Merge items from different cultures to create depth and interest to your interior. Boho is all about being free-spirited, so don’t worry if you see a piece that, initially, you think won’t match. Sera says: ‘If I see something, even if I don’t know where to put it, but I like it, I’ll get it.’
Sera is proof positive that using reclaimed materials doesn’t have to equal a wooden, industrial look. Her panelled sitting room, with echoes of a French chateau, is testament to this. ‘I was doing up a house in Amsterdam,’ she explains, ‘And next door there was another house for sale with all of its contents, so I bought all the floors and panelling, and installed it here. Everything’s reclaimed.’ The serene colours add to the overall look, tying it together. But whilst Sera’s style is very glamourous, her home remains comfortable, lived in. Her sketches and photographs are displayed in abundance on mirrors and doors, books are strewn on the floor, shoes and clothes are out in all their colours.
Celebrate Your Memories
Use reclaimed materials to tell your own story. Try covering photo albums, scrap books or portfolios (perhaps filled with your own or children’s art) with vintage velvet or floral off-cuts, then display them on open shelves for easy access to your creativity and memories.
Sera’s home is her haven, and her popularity is down to her skill in creating very personal havens for others. The home is much more than the sum total of its parts, it has an ethereal feeling, so it’s no surprise that one room is a ‘Peace Chapel.’ At the window hang those Japanese Obis, the stone fireplace, with its flame and candlelight becomes a shrine and scarlet candles burn below a golden mirror. The room, as with much of her home, is multi-functional. ‘This was a sitting room a couple of weeks ago,’ she says. ‘It’s an ever-evolving space of where I am in my life, it reflects me at that moment. But I think I’ll keep it like this for a while, it’s so peaceful and creative.’ Sera sits at the antique table to write – she’s currently penning her second book, out later this year, on household tips, Sera-style – and her daughter Anoushka holds ‘Goddess Gatherings’ in there, meetings and meditations created for women to support, inspire and empower.
You may not be drawn to meditation, but creating a corner to be calm or creative is a welcome addition to any home. Try putting a comfortable chair or large cushion on the floor and surround it with your favourite ornaments and trinkets, things that you like to hold. Add candles, maybe a book and soothing music.