After documenting the transformation of her Victorian villa on social media, Olya Lammas decided to trade in her career in fashion to follow her passion for interiors 

“I wasn’t planning on buying a home like this!” says interior designer Olya Lammas. We are standing in the double height hallway of her detached Victorian villa tucked away on one of Tunbridge Wells’s most charming streets, Hungershall Park. Olya admits she didn’t know the road existed until the estate agent took her and her husband to see the property. “We had moved from London in 2014 and lived in a converted stables, however I needed somewhere with more space,” she says. “This house had everything we wanted and also some things that I never knew that I wanted.” Olya points out of the window. “When I was in London I never dreamt I would wake up and see cows!”  

As the animals quietly graze in the green fields across the road, it is easy to see how Olya and her family immediately fell in love with the house, even though she needed to completely re-decorate the whole building from top-to-toe. “I changed pretty much everything: the lighting, the heating, the flooring and the fireplaces.” Indeed, it has been the transformation of her house that has simultaneously heralded in a new career for Olya and her company, A House To Love. 

“I bought the house and at the same time closed my fashion boutique. I worked in fashion for years in London but when I began working on the house suddenly people began to ask me about my style and my decorating tips. It’s as though the house has helped me to completely change career!”  It’s a change that Olya has embraced with open arms. “In some ways interior design is very like fashion, you need to use your imagination, you need focal points and a sense of balance, you need to create a mood and yet for me, interior design feels so natural, I just love it and wish I had done it years ago, I understand myself so much better now.” 

Olya’s enthusiasm is infectious. You can understand why her client list is growing fast as she shows me how she created each room from scratch, using artwork, pieces of furniture or an accessory as her inspiration, a springboard of mood or colour from which to create her overall design. Having trained in technical drawing at Chelsea College of Art, Olya said she didn’t want to become too constrained and decided not to carry on studying as she felt that the best interior designers are untrained and she wanted to rely on her eye and intuition. 

“I love the work of the interior designer Kit Kemp, her
style has been a big inspiration for me, her use of pattern
and her ability to mix styles and periods with maximum impact,” says Olya. 

Although influenced by Kit, it is very obvious that Olya’s home very much reflects her own hand-writing and style. She pulls out a book on Kaitag textiles from Dagestan (think Suzani but with even more chic) and explains how these antique pieces are starting points. Olya, who is a bit of a textile obsessive, has even been known to source fabrics from Argentina where she discovered they are still making raw textiles created on manual machines, which Olya uses for wall coverings and natural raffias. It is the pursuit of unique and very special fabrics and the attention to detail and a love of pattern and texture that is apparent throughout the interior of the house. 

“I start with a concept,” says Olya. We are looking at two pieces of art depicting surrealist-inspired Japanese warriors that mirror each other on opposing walls in her living room. “I discovered these at a dealer in Antwerp, where I source a lot of my antiques and art. I saw them and before I had any idea how much they were, I decided to take them as I knew they would be the starting point for this room.”

From the soft colour of the walls to the bespoke Wendy Morrison silk rug, the round mother-of-pearl coffee table from Anthropologie USA to the Jonathan Adler light fitting and William Yeoward lamps, these two paintings gave Olya the road map for her design. However, it is Olya’s unique skill with colour, inserting pops of blue within the scheme in the blue velvet stools and blue hydrangea plant that really lifts the design. Just like her design guru Kit Kemp, Olya has deftly mixed styles and periods, adding an antique French mirror alongside the rustic-style objets, ikat and velvet cushions. 

One of the most impressive spaces is the double height entrance hall. Flooded with light from the room’s huge windows as well as from the gallery above, you can see why Olya sees the space almost like a gallery for her ever-changing collection of antique furniture. As well as designing interiors for her clients, Olya also sources and deals in furniture and art. Having kept the walls neutral and the floors stained dark, she has allowed the geometric patterns of the Sahara Tuareg reed and leather rug, as well as the pieces of furniture and paintings, to have space to sing. Consoles, benches, cabinets and chests are a mixture of eras, some pieces sourced from vintage markets in Paris, other items from more conventional routes such as retailers Harvey Nichols and Sweetpea & Willow. 

The magnificent wooden staircase, which is also carpeted in a natural jute, plays host to a series of antique African textiles on its flanking wall. Olya is rightly proud of these very authentic and very personal pieces, woven by and for women. “They were like their ID documents,” she says. “Each one was entirely unique to its owner and has all her details on it, her family, her village. They aren’t just textiles,” she says, “they are quite beautiful pieces reflecting an individual woman’s life. I hope I have done them justice.” 

Throughout the house, window treatments have been kept minimal. In the living room, Olya opted to keep the existing wooden pelmets, one of the very few elements that remained from the house’s former life. In the hallway she has employed a very soft Zimmer + Rohde animal print on blinds that allow in as much of the surrounding light as possible, flooding the house all day long. In the bedrooms too, she has kept the blinds minimal. 

Olya is keen to show me her husband’s study. “I am not into one style of design,” she says as we enter a room with a very different mood from the living room and hallway. Undeniably masculine in its intent and varied in its style, the focus of the room is a piece by the artist Louis Midavaine, a copy of one of Toulouse Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge paintings from the 19th century. This bold piece of artwork has been married with a green The Rug Company rug and a bright green Conran velvet sofa. Dark blue cabinetry along one wall sits happily with the soft pinky browns of a leather Mid-mod chair and two dusty pink velvet cushions. “It’s a room of straight lines,” says Olya, “something that would appeal to my husband, a room for him.” 

The downstairs loo of any large property can be a forlorn and forgotten space but not with Olya. Her lavatory is a room whose generous proportions have been decorated in a stylish contemporary geometric printed wallpaper. There is a pop of instantly recognisable orange from a bookcase, packed with Penguin classics, which Olya painstakingly sourced from eBay, next to which sits a rather fine antique mirror. The generous marble sink is flanked by two wheatsheaf lighting sconces that sit either side of the mirror. 

Although Olya has not yet done any major work on the family kitchen and dining room she has already worked her stylist magic on the space. Tom Dixon ‘Etched’ lampshades sit above the island to which Olya has added a Carrera marble top. Metal bar stools from Out There Interiors give the space an instant feeling of cosmopolitan chic. In the dining area, like the rest of the house, Olya has combined looks: a Balinese bench, an antique oak dining table and a Moooi spherical pendant. 

As the house is also home to four boys, it is with a sense of relief that, as we move upstairs, I find Olya has carved a feminine recluse within her dressing room. “It’s ironic I have this wonderful space, as I gave most of my clothes to charity from when I worked in fashion. My wardrobe is different now but I am glad I have this room in which to escape.” 

The room is an essay in chic tones. A soft silk Nourison rug underfoot pays homage to the pale parchment-effect doors, which Olya designed with a team from Beyond Joinery in London, created with Xylocleaf panels and polished brass edges. The Buster + Punch etched brass handles and the Rima & McRae antique glass back panels for her bag and perfume shelves are the cherry on a very pretty cake of a room. 

The house, which is still a work in progress, has several bedrooms leading off the generous upper landing. Olya has completed two of the guest rooms so far and is planning the re-design of her own master bedroom in the next few months. “Although each of the bedrooms has its own look,” she explains, “I wanted them to relate to one another as you glimpse them from across the landing.” 

The dominant palette is blue, however whilst the larger bedroom tiptoes from the contemporary in the artwork to the chinoiserie influence of the antique Chinese screen and porcelain pots, the smaller bedroom is a children’s dream, with its geometric Nina Campbell wallpaper and Button & Sprung over-sized headboard. As with the rest of the house, Olya has let the unrivalled countryside views from the windows do the talking. She has also continued her love of natural textures with rattan and jute in accessories such as rugs and lampshades. 

As with her client work for her company A House To Love, Olya has curated a space for an individual, a house that fits her and her family’s lifestyle. She has designed a home that flows from room to room, allowing everyone to have their own space, whilst allowing the separate elements to talk to each other. Creating a comfortable interior within a very large building is no mean feat, but Olya has designed one where her life, her family and her new business all come together in perfect harmony. 

In the living room, Olya has inserted pops of blue in the form of velvet stools and a hydrangea plant that really lifts the design

In the living room, Olya has inserted pops of blue in the form of velvet stools and a hydrangea plant that really lifts the design

One of the most impressive spaces within the house is the double height entrance hall

One of the most impressive spaces within the house is the double height entrance hall

The focus in Olya’s husband’s study is a piece by the artist Louis Midavaine, a copy of one of Toulouse Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge paintings from the 19th century. A rug from The Rug Company and a bright green Conran velvet sofa compliment the painting’s palette

The focus in Olya’s husband’s study is a piece by the artist Louis Midavaine, a copy of one of Toulouse Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge paintings from the 19th century. A rug from The Rug Company and a bright green Conran velvet sofa compliment the painting’s palette

The focus in Olya’s husband’s study is a piece by the artist Louis Midavaine, a copy of one of Toulouse Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge paintings from the 19th century. A rug from The Rug Company and a bright green Conran velvet sofa compliment the painting’s palette

The focus in Olya’s husband’s study is a piece by the artist Louis Midavaine, a copy of one of Toulouse Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge paintings from the 19th century. A rug from The Rug Company and a bright green Conran velvet sofa compliment the painting’s palette

The downstairs loo has been decorated in a stylish contemporary geometric printed wallpaper. A bookcase is packed with Penguin classics, which Olya sourced from eBay. The marble sink is flanked by two wheatsheaf lighting sconces that sit either side of an antique mirror

The downstairs loo has been decorated in a stylish contemporary geometric printed wallpaper. A bookcase is packed with Penguin classics, which Olya sourced from eBay. The marble sink is flanked by two wheatsheaf lighting sconces that sit either side of an antique mirror

The downstairs loo has been decorated in a stylish contemporary geometric printed wallpaper. A bookcase is packed with Penguin classics, which Olya sourced from eBay. The marble sink is flanked by two wheatsheaf lighting sconces that sit either side of an antique mirror

The downstairs loo has been decorated in a stylish contemporary geometric printed wallpaper. A bookcase is packed with Penguin classics, which Olya sourced from eBay. The marble sink is flanked by two wheatsheaf lighting sconces that sit either side of an antique mirror

Olya has kept the walls in the entrance hall neutral and the floors stained dark, which has allowed the geometric patterns of the Sahara Tuareg reed and leather rug, as well as the pieces of antique furniture and paintings, to shine

Olya has kept the walls in the entrance hall neutral and the floors stained dark, which has allowed the geometric patterns of the Sahara Tuareg reed and leather rug, as well as the pieces of antique furniture and paintings, to shine

Olya has kept the walls in the entrance hall neutral and the floors stained dark, which has allowed the geometric patterns of the Sahara Tuareg reed and leather rug, as well as the pieces of antique furniture and paintings, to shine

Olya has kept the walls in the entrance hall neutral and the floors stained dark, which has allowed the geometric patterns of the Sahara Tuareg reed and leather rug, as well as the pieces of antique furniture and paintings, to shine

In the dining area, Olya has combined a Balinese bench, an antique oak dining table and a Moooi spherical pendant

In the dining area, Olya has combined a Balinese bench, an antique oak dining table and a Moooi spherical pendant

Beyond Joinery in London created with Xylocleaf panels and polished brass edges in Olya’s dressing room

Beyond Joinery in London created with Xylocleaf panels and polished brass edges in Olya’s dressing room

The magnificent wooden staircase has been carpeted in a natural jute

The magnificent wooden staircase has been carpeted in a natural jute

Belle Île wallpaper by Nina Campbell is a pleasing contrast to the over-sized ‘Rose’ bedframe that Oyla sourced from Button & Sprung

Belle Île wallpaper by Nina Campbell is a pleasing contrast to the over-sized ‘Rose’ bedframe that Oyla sourced from Button & Sprung

Belle Île wallpaper by Nina Campbell is a pleasing contrast to the over-sized ‘Rose’ bedframe that Oyla sourced from Button & Sprung

Belle Île wallpaper by Nina Campbell is a pleasing contrast to the over-sized ‘Rose’ bedframe that Oyla sourced from Button & Sprung

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