The Expert - 3 Things Lonika Chande Always Splurges On, No Matter the Project Budget
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3 Things Lonika Chande Always Splurges On, No Matter the Project Budget

Words by Gabrielle Savoie
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Photo by Milo Brown

There is nothing Lonika Chande won't try (except perhaps an all-white room).

A yellow kitchen here, a green patterned sofa there… The London-based designer loves a good dose of color. In her own home, a compact Victorian terrace in West London, navy kitchen cabinets have a firetruck red interior, the primary bedroom’s pea green striped headboard is complemented by sunny marigold vintage textiles on the windows and canopy, and a bathroom’s rust clawfoot tub is surrounded by French blue walls. She offsets the bright hues with playful textures, subtle patterns, and layers of vintage furniture, art, and other treasures.

Lonika's discerning eye for curated interiors feels both measured and bold—and it caught the attention of many: In 2020, she was the winner of the House & Garden's List Award for Design Talent. We chatted with the in-demand designer about the color combos she’s excited about right now, the three things she splurges on in every project, and the design rule she loves to break.

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Photo by Milo Brown

What architectural style and design era is inspiring you right now?

We’re currently working on a Georgian house in an English seaside town and are feeling very inspired by the proportions of the building and the beautiful sash windows. 

Name an architectural pet peeve that always needs fixing in any project—big or small? 

Sadly, a lot of the time original features have been stripped out of properties, and we find ourselves putting architectural features back in in the style of what would have been there originally—sourcing items like reclaimed doors, fireplaces, cornices, moldings, and skirtings. 

You’re designing a room—where do you start?

Interestingly, paint is one of the last things we look at. Layout comes first, and once we have discussed and worked out the best floor plan for the client, there is usually a fabric, a rug, or an antique textile that forms the basis for our scheme.

Favorite question you’ve ever received in an Expert consultation? 

I often get asked how to make small but impactful changes in a rental property. I enjoy these because there is so much you can do to put your stamp on a place without making dramatic structural changes.

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Photo by Milo Brown

What are you dying for a client to request?

More wallpaper. I love the impact it makes, and would love to use it more.

What fabrics, wallpapers, and color combinations are you loving right now?

Stripes, always. Wallpaper borders are also back. As for color combinations, I love rust tones combined with softer blues.

Where to save / where to splurge?

I would always splurge on good quality bathroom fittings that stand the test of time, a decent sofa, and the best mattress you can afford.

I would save on sockets and switch plates. I would also choose a more cost-effective fabric (plain colored linen works well) for items where you would need a large quantity like curtains or a sofa, and splurge on a favorite textile for a smaller chair, blind, or headboard. I always opt for a well-made sofa upholstered in a less expensive fabric, rather than the other way round.

What should you always buy vintage?

I buy lots of vintage tables and chests of drawers. All our bathroom designs tend to include a pretty little antique cupboard for useful additional storage. We also buy a lot of second-hand armchairs for projects: big squashy George Smith-style chairs and pretty dainty antique nursing chairs for bedrooms and children’s rooms. These pieces become completely unrecognizable once reupholstered, having been given a new lease of life in a client’s favorite fabric.

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Photo by Milo Brown

Describe your dream sofa: what does it look like, how is it built, and how does it feel?

It would be a timeless, elegant design, immensely comfortable with a seat that’s deep enough to snuggle into. The Elmstead sofa by Lorfords pretty much fits the bill with a fully upholstered back, swept-out arms, tapered wooden legs with castors, and feather and down seat cushions.

Formal dining room or eat-in kitchen?

An eat-in kitchen. We don’t have this at home currently and I really miss it. I love hosting friends in the kitchen or sitting and chatting with my husband while he cooks. I find most clients prefer a multi-functional kitchen/dining space where possible, rather than dedicating an entire room to formal dinners, but perhaps that comes down to the more relaxed homes we tend to create.

Design rule you love to break?

I don’t believe in design rules per se, but there is a notion that smaller more pokey rooms should be painted in a light color to make them feel bigger. Instead, I would suggest painting the walls in a bright or even darker tone to make them feel warm and exciting.

Where there is no cornice, I would also generally recommend painting the ceiling in the same color as the wall (or at least a complimentary neutral as opposed to the often-used brilliant white), so your eye is not drawn to the junction between the two. It makes the ceiling height feel higher as you are not so aware of where the walls end and where the ceiling begins.

What are your go-to finishing touches that always elevate a room?

Vintage fabric for cushions to help the room feel like it was put together gradually over time. I love big art books to make a room feel lived in, or if clients enjoy reading fiction, lots of Penguin classics—I cannot stress the importance of books enough. I always add greenery: a blossom from the garden or whatever happens to be in season. Potting herbs in vintage terracotta pots also goes a long way in a kitchen. Consider a natural fragrance or a candle to make a room smell as good as it looks and elevate the entire experience of being there.

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Photo by Simon Brown

What hotel anywhere in the world represents ultimate luxury to you?

Hotel Tresanton in St. Mawes—a British seaside holiday combined with understated luxury, comfortable beds, and good food.

What’s next for you?

We feel very lucky to be working on some very exciting residential projects. I will also be renovating my own home, which has been a long time coming.

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Photo by Milo Brown

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