“...The biggest personal milestone aside from my beautiful children has been finding my inner confidence, my own voice and essentially my own style. All those things I had questioned for so many years. I dropped out of school at 16, moved to London and started working full time and never really gave myself the time and patience to listen to what I really wanted from my life.”
For Sophia Fanciulli, moving out of London to renovate in Kent was a catalyst for some much larger change in her life and in her career. Rekindling a love for interiors and the process of design, the project itself - The Oak House - provided new terrain for Sophia to refine the unique hallmarks of her personal style, as an innovative Interior Designer. Creating contemporary but sophisticated living spaces for her UK- based clients, we caught up with Sophia to hear how a busy mum of two manages the juggle of parenthood, work and the endless pursuit of creative refuge.
Physically, where are you right now? Are you at home, on holiday, in the office or elsewhere?
I'm at home, in my home office.
Your home, The Oak House, was a renovation project that transported you from the city to Kent, a house with land within commutable distance from London. While an obvious physical change, how did the move itself change other (and unexpected) aspects of your life, from the tempo of your day-to-day, to reigniting a passion for interior design, providing room for creative exploration, a new career direction and broader creative expression?
It had such a profound impact on my life in so many ways. Firstly being the tempo change, I had lived in London for 14 years prior to the move and I was very much that typical Londoner that was always in a hurry to be somewhere. In Kent where we are now it's a much more gentle slow pass of life, no one has road rage, people pass you on walks and ask how you are, it's a complete culture change but one that I have very much welcomed. Especially now that we are a family of 5 and have two young children that I'm in no rush to see get bigger and older just yet. The renovation project then itself created the biggest change for me personally, it opened my eyes to the full process behind interiors and creating a home that reflected us. The best education I found was the hands-on process I got whilst decorating our home, the confidence boost I needed to make that career change and ultimately pursue my life long passion for interiors.
The Wave Chair in Sophia Fanciulli's beautifully renovated, Oak House.
With views from almost every aspect of the house, there’s a real connection between its interior and the beauty of the outside world, through all its seasons. How much did the natural environment shape the design of the extension itself - from lighting and its outlook to decisions around material use to balance function with aesthetic?
So much of this house was shaped by the environment even the decision to paint it black, which some might say doesn’t lend itself to nature but for me when green goes against black it really pops, it shows off green to its truest form and for that reason I knew the best way to highlight the beautiful nature and greenery around our home was to paint it black. We added as much glazing to the property so we could to not only give ourselves as much of we view of the outside as we could but also to ensure that the home takes what it can from the outside and brings that into the home, to have rooms flooded with daylight and sunshine (on those odd few days that it's sunny in the UK) is what really makes our home feel so special. I also wanted the inside to feel connected to the outside and that's why we chose to clad the main living room with the reclaimed wood so that it created a visual connection to the outside view. I can imagine from people seeing my home that they may believe I don't like colour but that could not be more untrue, I love colour however in my own personal home and space I wanted the palette inside to reflect the palette you see outside so that those two spaces complimented each other.
For every good idea there are many more we reject. Do you ever salvage ideas that didn’t come to fruition at a later stage or do you just move on?
Gosh we had so many, some which we did move on from like adding a swimming pool and a marble fireplace to the living room, however we did end up following through with the annex built at a later stage after initially rejecting the idea. We needed a break from the building work and the daily tradesman at the house so we shelved the idea to allow ourselves some peace at home and to enjoy the summer undisturbed however the moment the summer ended I had the itch to get going again so we then built the annex a year later and it is now one of my favourite spaces in the house.
What have been some personal milestones that you have achieved outside the expectation or perceived expectation of others?
I think for me the biggest personal milestone aside from my beautiful children has been finding my inner confidence, my own voice and essentially my own style. All those things I had questioned for so many years. I dropped out of school at 16, moved to London and started working full time and never really gave myself the time and patience to listen to what I really wanted from my life.
The Bohan Lamp in situ.
What have been some of your most profound personal challenges and have they ever informed your creative process or interrupted it?
Definitely being a mother that wants a career at the same time. I love working, I love meeting new people and most of all being creative however I love my kids more than life so its been the greatest challenge for me to find a way to be able to do both, find a balance like we all talk about and try to give all of myself to both of those roles. Motherhood has taught me to be the ultimate multitasker, to plan and be organised however there are still those days that one can interrupt the other. You don't get to be flexible as a parent, it's a job that can’t be put on hold so that's why I choose to work for myself instead of trying to join a design firm. I needed to know I could have that flexibility and therefore control when I work.
What are your personal and creative rituals, if any?
I would love to say I do 20 minute yoga every morning followed by a 20 minute walk with nature however the reality is that I'm in my pyjamas most the morning, running around the house trying to find matching socks for the kids and dishing out snacks every 10 minutes. I wake up 10 minutes before everyone else and have a coffee in peace. I would say that's the closest right now that I'm getting to a personal ritual but it's one that I love and cherish. I sit there and make a note of my days to do list and if it's a day spent in my office working on designs then I do tend to take a break around lunch time and go outside to listen to a podcast and get some air. It's the boost I need to ensure I have a productive day as working from home can otherwise feel a lonely space for me as I thrive most when I'm out and around others.
Where do you go to find creative refuge?
I would say travelling and exploring other countries is definitely my favourite way to find creative inspiration so I try to travel with my husband as much as I can. If I'm at home you will find me going through my collection of interior books. I will bookmark and turn over pages to ensure I can go back and reference the images that have caught my eye. I also take no shame in spending hours on Pinterest and instagram saving images that I love and making note of design ideas that speak to me. As a designer now we all have so much at our fingertips to fuel our creative outlook and I'm so grateful to be part of this generation that can pull from all of that and provide to the client so much more option and choice than we've ever had before.
What piece of wisdom currently resonates with you and how does it inform your approach to life right now?
Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth. It's so important to consider that we will all have our own opinions and perspectives and that's what makes the creative world so incredible. It can be viewed, seen or heard so differently depending on who’s looking & listening. Some will love it, some will hate and some will just admire from afar and not share an opinion at all.