As she launches her beautiful new book, Faded Glamour By The Sea, Pearl Lowe tells us about her move to the Sussex coast – and why you should always, always pay attention to your instincts when buying vintage.

Pearl Lowe - Buying vintage

Textile, fashion and interior designer Pearl Lowe fell in love with creating beautiful worlds at a young age. By the time she was ten, she had already designed a full collection of clothes for her mother’s Covent Garden boutique. And yet, despite that formative experience, her enduring love of music saw her join a band as its lead singer, tour Europe extensively, and live a high octane and peripatetic life between gigs.

When she had her first child, however, it was all change once more, bringing home to her how seminal those early forays into design had truly been. In 2001, she launched her own range of cushions, tablecloths and lace curtains, swiftly following it up with collections of vintage-inspired women’s and children’s wear, all from amid the beautiful rolling hills of her Somerset home.

Pearl Lowe - Buying vintage

But when lockdown hit, she found herself longing for the sea and, in the name of following her dreams, after a short search, she duly found her new coastal paradise – and has since decamped her passion for gloriously faded glamour there, where she can hear the roar of the sea and feel the salt on her skin.

Now, having just launched her latest book, Faded Glamour By The Sea, she shares with us what made her fall in love with her new home and how she has transformed, piece by piece, it in her own image.

Pearl Lowe - Buying vintage

Your book Faded Glamour By The Sea is utterly beautiful. Can you tell us about the idea and your gorgeous house?

Thank you so much! In lockdown, I was so desperate to get down to the coast – so much so, that I started looking at houses to buy online. It was a pipe dream at first, but I somehow managed to make it a reality. I started looking in Cornwall at first but then a little cottage on the east coast caught my attention. It was the same distance as Cornwall from our house in Somerset, but so much closer to London. After a couple of viewings, we put in an offer.

Pearl Lowe - Buying vintage

What is it about being by the sea that has such a magnetic pull, do you think?

It's so relaxing looking at the landscape. I have suffered from insomnia most of my life, but somehow the sea air helps me sleep. Also, my favourite thing to do first thing in the morning is to go on a long walk on the beach with my dog, Doris. She loves it too!

Pearl Lowe - Buying vintage

In what way has the move to the coast affected your interior choices?

It hasn't massively affected my interior choices. I might have added some boat paintings and large shells here and there, but I have kept my usual aesthetic. I still buy a lot of French antiques for the house.

The house was built in the1940s. How has the era fed into the renovation?

In truth I didn't take too much notice of the forties era. Although I love 1940s fashion, I am not so keen on the interiors of that time. In fact, I would say that the house has more of a touch of the 1960s to it. There's a sweet vintage sixties brown leather sofa in the kitchen, a sixties round marble top tulip table and chairs, and we have a wooden 1960s sideboard in the living room.

Pearl Lowe - Buying vintage

How did you choose the house itself – what made you fall for it?

The moment we walked through the door, we knew we wanted to buy it. It had a magical, hippie vibe to it. The garden was so beautiful, and it had a massive pond that I could see could be made easily into a pool. I think it was the two-bedroom cabin in the garden that sold the house to us. It was so enchanting.

What do you think are the decorative highlights of your new home?

Bert & May gifted us some beautiful tiles that have transformed the bathrooms and our laundry room. We replaced all the sanitary ware with traditional Burlington pieces. We added a beautiful Devol kitchen and laundry room and it has all made such a difference to the house. Also, we found some reclaimed wooden planks for the decking and for around the pool, which I love.

Pearl Lowe - Buying vintage

And your most treasured find?

Our Florentine cupboard in the kitchen. I bought it online so that we could have something for our TV to sit on in our front room. I only measured the length of it, and it fitted the space perfectly. The seller kept calling it ‘a beast’, which I thought was a bit odd seeing as it was only 180cm long. She said it needed four men to lift it. Anyway, it arrived on Easter Sunday and it was enormous. My kids were laughing so much, as it was so high, it hurt their necks when they watched the TV. I kept telling them it was fine. But in the end, I gave in and we smashed a built-in dresser in the kitchen and put it there. It is in a perfect position and it makes our kitchen. A happy mistake!

You are known for your love of ‘faded glamour’ as the book’s title alludes. What is it about that style and history that so makes your heart sing?

Everything was made so well – the materials, the fabrics, the craftsmanship. Especially in the 1920s – I am obsessed by the furniture and textiles from that era.

Pearl Lowe Bath Tub Garden

You also take us on a tour of some of your friends’ coastal homes – can you tell us a little bit about that experience? What is it about their homes that made you fall in love with them?

I choose houses that I wish I owned. I get so inspired by some of my talented friends with their incredible eye. I love nothing more than walking into a flat or a house or a hotel and being amazed at how beautifully things have been put together and how I would never have thought of putting things together in the way they have.

Pearl Lowe - Buying vintage

Can you share your top three tips for buying vintage pieces for the home?

Always buy things you love and can't live without on the spot. Otherwise, they will be sold and you will think about them forevermore.

Don't buy things that are broken in the hope you will fix them. The chances are, you never will and if you need to pay someone to, they will charge a lot and it won't be worth it.

Don't listen to anyone when buying vintage. Don't listen to your parents, your sisters, your brothers, your kids, your friends. Listen to your gut, as no-one knows better than you what you should be buying for your space. The only time I listened to one of my friends, it went horribly wrong and it then became a very expensive mistake.

Faded Glamour by the Sea by Pearl Lowe (CICO Books, £25), Photography by Dave Watts © CICO Books. Buy it here.

By Nancy Alsop
August 2023