Get the look: Interior designer Claire Elizabeth on her global inspirations
Having spent the last 23 years travelling for a living, Claire Elizabeth Wood-Woolley certainly has an eye for the best interiors trends around the world.
It is no surprise then that Claire swapped her long-held job as a flight attendant on Virgin Atlantic for a new career as an interior designer, her company Claire Elizabeth Lifestyle offering clients a mixture of the ultimate global styles to suit all budgets.
She is self-taught and now has a waiting list until September.
‘My passion was always interiors,’ she explains. ‘I love being international and seeing different vibes, different trends – and of course better weather.
I was long-haul, so any day could be New York, South Africa or the Caribbean, all over, and I would find flea markets or high-end shops and always loved to go and spend hours in there.’
Claire sources pieces from everywhere and her home is also a melting pot of different influences.
‘I had large clay beaded chandeliers made in the Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, and had them delivered to me in Johannesburg once,’ she tells us.
‘They were the same size as me and bubble wrapped – so huge.
‘I brought them back in the hold luggage with my suitcase and had to get two pilots to help me move them through the airport.
‘Another time I bought two extra heavy dark lamp bases back from Florida. I was travelling on standby and there was a snow storm on the east coast of the US which sent passengers through Florida instead which meant I couldn’t get on the flight three days in a row.
‘And finally I have an amazing soapstone mask I brought home from a market in Havana. It just sits so well with the international decor in my home.’
If she had to sum up the look of her home, though, Claire says the Victorian property in Surrey borrows fundamentally from the US, but mixes Belgian and French rustic styles.
‘I always say I am American-scale French rustic. It’s very much lots of wood but pale woods, chunky with some marble, big pieces, baskets, big weave, nothing frilly and small.
‘It’s definitely the look that makes my heart beat faster – that’s when I know I’m onto the right look.’
Travelling has allowed Claire to see how interiors change wherever you land – and just like languages, everywhere has its own unique beauty.
‘I don’t know why it is but everything is different,’ she adds. ‘In America it is more large scale, they have the beauty of large rooms and higher ceilings.
‘In Africa, it is much more earthy and textured.’
One of Claire’s favourite rooms to show off her signature look is in the kitchen.
Here, the almost 12ft-high ceilings allow her to oversize the accessories – just check out the huge jute-wrapped wine jug lamp on the Calacatta marble surface – and focus on creating a stunning interior that is warm but not overly polished.
The room used to be a drawing room and when Claire bought the property in 2009 she pulled up the old carpet to reveal an original strip oak floor. Claire sanded it back and treated it to make it look raw but protected.
The overall look blends the dreamy, sun-faded whites of the Hamptons with a clean-cut Parisian chic, with bold, chunky accessories. The kitchen has been supplied by Neptune kitchens.
Claire says the love of travelling has not gone – and thankfully her new job allows her a bit of, er, global research.
‘I try and factor travel in so I can still bring that international element to my business. It’s nice to have an eclectic home built on pieces you have put together over time – it makes a home a home.’
Farrow & Ball Wimborne White
‘It’s a warm white. The house can’t take cold colours.’
Buy it for £52 for 2.5L from Farrow & Ball.
KitchenAid Stand Mixer Tilt-Head 4.3L
‘Every kitchen needs one, it’s extravagant but pays for itself every day.’
Buy it for £399 from Kitchen Aid.
Elstead Provence Stick 1 Table Lamp Light, Polished Nickel
‘It came from Chehoma in Belgium and I bought it from a shop no longer there in Reigate.’
Alternatve: Buy it for £138 from Olivias.
Burkeville Terracotta Plant Pot
Buy it for £112.07 from Wayfair.
Nespresso by Magimix Vertuo Next Coffee Machine
‘I’m not very good at having stuff on display but it’s good for a busy lifestyle.’
Buy it for £179 from Currys.
Stoves Sterling S900DF 90cm Dual Fuel Range Cooker Stainless Steel
Buy it for £1,749 from Currys.
Tea towel from TK Maxx
‘They always have a different mix of them over there – it really complements my kitchen.’
Alternative: Buy it for £5.00 from John Lewis.
Nkuku Karuma Ceramic Small Mug, blue & white (set of 2)
‘The colours fade in like your eyes are going funny. I love the pattern.’
Buy it for £20 from Nkuku.
Heonriksdal dining chair with long cover, oak/blekinge white
Buy it for £70 from Ikea.
You can find Claire’s work at her website Claire Elizabeth.
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