Kemi Lawson, founder and editor of Cottage Noir @cottagenoir
Colour and texture with a splash of Nigerian and Jamaican heritage best describe Kemi’s home style. You can see her gorgeous remodelled home complete with some Alternative Flooring on her @cottagenoir Instagram. She is also a co-founder of the brilliant lifestyle online store called The Cornrow, offering affordable and vibrant design that puts the modern black aesthetic on the front row.
Here’s our Q&A with Kemi…
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi I am a 40 ‘cough-cough’ year-old businesswoman/wife/slash mother of two little girls. I live in a cottage in the suburbs outside of London. I am passionate about creating a happy and inspiring home for my family to enjoy.
Views of Kemi’s 1750’s cottage with Alternative’s Margo Selby Stripe Sun Seasalter carpet
Why Cottage Noir and The Cornrow?
Cottage Noir sums up my interior’s identity! The Cottage part is because I live in a 1750s cottage replete with all the original features I could ask for – beams, working fireplaces, nooks and crannies. The Noir part is because I am so proud of my identity as a Black British woman, with both African and Caribbean heritage. This pride and heritage come clearly through in all my interiors choices for the cottage.
The Cornrow is my recently launched online retail business. It’s a business that is really a passion project come to life as it enables me to share all the beautiful home products that I have created or sourced on my interiors journey on Cottage Noir. It features modern, affordable products, all tailored to a modern Black aesthetic, for everyone to enjoy.
The girl’s rooms with Alternative’s Wool Milkshake in Marshmallow carpet (image on the left) and Alternative’s Wool Milkshake in Raspberry carpet (image on the right).
Describe your home and who do you share it with.
My home is a Grade II listed cottage set at the entrance of a nature reserve. It’s a great location as you can take these lovely nature walks but it’s also within easy reach of a tube station!
I share the home with my husband, my two little girls aged 7 and 8 and, pre-lockdown, a revolving host of friends and family members who come and stay in our little guest room!
Where does your design inspiration come from?
So many different sources!! From hotels that I have been lucky enough to visit (particularly the ones designed by Kit Kemp who I am very inspired by), Instagram, magazines, tv shows (anything with George Clarke!). However, I am most inspired by my heritage, having spent time in both Nigeria and Jamaica. I am attracted to the colours, textiles, art and textures that remind me of these spaces.
How do you put decorating schemes together?
One of my mantra’s is to be as joyful as possible, so if I like a print or a pattern I try and make it work without thinking first, does it go or will it clash!! It always works out!
I collect as many samples and magazine cut outs as possible and put it all together on a mood board. I have one mood board per room. I found that was the best way to keep track of what I am inspired by and how it all fits together.
Do you find Instagram or Pinterest helpful?
I find them incredibly helpful! You can see “real-life” examples which is always more helpful that seeing them in showrooms. You can also see things you wouldn’t have considered before but realise you love, like I have recently fell in love with @untillemonsaresweet’s yellow kitchen floor!
However, I found that there is something missing on both platforms when it came to looking for inspiration the modern Black aesthetic that I was aiming for so I had to come up with it myself! I am on both platforms, Instagram @cottagenoir and Pinterest @thecornrow.
The ’Naughty Step’ – detail from Kemi’s home with Alternative’s Margo Selby Stripe stair carpet.
What do you like about Alternative Flooring?
Alternative Flooring just leapt out to me amid all the other floor choice options. The product was modern, great quality and the information was so clear, imaginative and well designed! Who wouldn’t want to step on Barefoot Bikram or Wool Milkshake carpets!! The brochure and photography were really clear, which helped when so much of my decision process was online.
Tell us about the flooring choices in your home.
As it’s an old house, I felt it would be in keeping to use natural floor coverings, so the house is a mixture of stained wooden floorboards, wool and sisal. And I love all three. We also have two sets of staircases (as it is 2 cottages knocked into one) and when I see staircases, I see stripes, so we have the Margo Selby Stripes on both staircases and the adjoining hallway which really lifts the space.
Detail from the girl’s room with Alternative’s Wool Milkshake in Marshmallow carpet.
Favourite room and why?
It changes all the time but right now it’s my bedroom. It’s got a blue cloud mural wallpaper, and the flooring is wool milkshake blueberry which really goes perfectly with the wallpaper. I got the largest bed that we could squeeze into the room and the comfiest mattress we could afford and that’s really about it in the room, I have kept it really simple and cosy.
Are we now braver with pattern and colour?
I’m not sure. People say they are but I feel when it comes down to it people take the safer option. But I think gradually as people see more examples on social media this will change. Right now, I feel people feel safest with pops of colours, like on a rug or a cushion. However, I hope to change all that! Colour really lifts the spirits and it’s a missed opportunity not to use it as liberally as possible – in my opinion!
Describe your style in three words.
Vibrant, soulful, welcoming
Next big thing or what are you working on?
It’s all about The Cornrow. I am having the most creatively satisfying time ever sourcing wonderful home accessories and lifestyle products from amazing black owned brands and creating my own products working with skilled artisans and artists. It’s really an aesthetic that everyone can enjoy! Do check us out on Instagram @thecornrow or on www.thecornrow.com
Watch our video of Kemi at home in her cottage with Alternative Flooring!
See more of our designs and explore our collections here
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Find more flooring and interior design inspiration on our Alternative blog.