Maximalist or minimalist, which one are you darling? Join me in this episode of The Art First Interiors as I chat to interior designer, surface artist and (she won’t mind me saying) unapologetic eccentric, Jennifer Devaney about her theatrical home and her ‘why not’ approach to home decorating. I discovered Jenni’s home on Instagram when her wild and wonderful squares popped up on my feed. In the world of interiors, we often talk about the importance of a home reflecting your true personality and what you love and yet, too often we worry so much about what someone else might think that it ends up a weak, watered down version of our first raw creative thought. Not this home. Jenni’s mantra is “just do it and (cue rude hand gesture) * them all!”. She says about interiors what I say about good art, that whether you love it or loathe it, it should at least start a conversation.
Like that iconic mine cart scene in the Indiana Jones film, you hold on tight as your eye is taken on a visual style journey through her little Instagram squares that’s fast, thrilling, changes direction frequently (often without warning resulting in spilt tea as you look on wide eyed) and sometimes teetering on the outer edges of decor danger but somehow managing to stay on the rails…phew! But somehow Jenni’s honest, wonderfully entertaining anecdotes and intriguing historical design facts draw you in close and you realise that if you just let go, relax and enjoy the ride, you can dust yourself off and emerge from those squares yes, a little stunned, possibly enlightened but utterly exhilarated.
We’ve all marvelled as she’s taken on not small Lockdown room transformations in her home that are off the scale in terms of adventurousness and eccentricity. Her rich life experience includes time spent studying drama, music and costume design and this as well as her love of period homes and exotic travel have shaped a style that is bold, rule breaking and sometimes down right over the top fantasy! Once you free fall further into her carefree style, thought process, experiments and boundless enthusiasm, they become absolutely infectious…. be warned!
Listen to the full Podcast here…
Jenni was influenced at an early age by the awe and splendour of period homes and palaces. The magic of these places is something she tries to capture in every room she decorates. She makes sure there are always unexpected surprises and fun details – things that don’t make sense. She talks about a maximalist style and how having a lot to look at in a room is actually more calming to the eye than a minimalist blank space which presumably in contrast, makes the eye panic and look for ‘the stuff’ – the familiar and comforting evidence of human presence. A room should have enough detail in it to feed the eye, making it pause, notice the layers down to the finest detail and while doing so stalling the mind. Mindfulness in maximalism, who knew?
We talk about how artists use inspiration from all sorts of sources, from books and film set design to philosophy and even psychology. How you can have imagined worlds within your home by borrowing colours, pattern and texture from other cultures and faraway places.
Her most recent home renovation was a guest loo that she didn’t know existed in the house! This became the canvas for a wild concoction of a river-pebble clad floor and wall, a gilded swan tap and … of course, an upper wall painted in Rorschach inspired inkblot test motifs. I rest my case.
Jenni by her own admission gets bored easily and so her mind is always on the go, looking for creative outlets and ‘impossible’ possibilities. Her home is an otherworldly labyrinth – a potent mix of styles, energy, colour and art with the ability to transport you to other eras and imaginary lives.
Of all the projects Jenni completed during Lockdown the most unexpected was the outdoor garden pagoda or ‘Gin Palace’ as she calls it. It’s truly a wonder, constructed in just two days, finished in the rudest red and adorned with paper lanterns and swaths of carnival coloured fabric and cushions. It’s warmth and charm matches Jenni’s personality perfectly. She has a child-like love (that I share) of magic and the pretend but without any pretentious undertones.
The fact that this architectural fantastical creation is sitting in a garden in a quiet Scottish town makes it all the more spectacular and irreverent. Slightly bonkers and absolutely fabulous all in one, it makes perfect sense to find her sitting inside it, draped in a kaftan with a silk turban on her head ready to read her tarots over a gin cocktail. She is a true free spirit who doesn’t take life too seriously and that’s a tonic for us all right now.
All images belong to Jennifer Devaney and you can also find more images and follow her @onealchemyhouse on Instagram