Interior Designer Emma Sherlock on decorating with Dahlias

As we celebrate October and our love of Dahlias, we chat with Hampshire-based interior designer Emma Sherlock about ways to decorate your home with Dahlias and discover how she became devoted to Dahlias (and escaping to her greenhouse) during Covid lockdowns …

On her new found love of Dahlias...
It’s a relatively new thing for me.  My parents are great gardeners and grew lots in the garden of my childhood home but I didn’t really get into it myself until lockdown.

On planting and playing with Dahlias during Covid lockdowns
It was very therapeutic!  I was desperate to feel like I was doing something constructive and creative to counterbalance the horror of home schooling and with much less frenetic weekends I had more time to get stuck into it.  I planted some tubers but they were quite hard to get hold of so I ended up planting quite a lot from seed which miraculously did work.


 

"My greenhouse was the only place I could be by myself so it
sort of became my place of refuge!"

 

On the feeling when planted Dahlias start to bloom
It’s unbelievably satisfying - they don’t need too much looking after so as long as pinch them out and keep them away from frost they grow really easily and flower like mad throughout late Summer and into Autumn when the rest of your garden is beginning to look a bit over itself.  I love deadheading and find it hugely satisfying and this helps them to keep flowering (Sophie Conran sells the best secateurs I think.)  The only thing you have to beware of is the dreaded earwigs, I didn’t pay much attention to preventing these the first Summer I grew them and merrily had dahlias in vases all over my kitchen,  I did begin to find earwigs all over the place but when my son found an earwig in the cornflakes box one morning there was absolute uproar

What are your favourite Dahlia varieties?
I love the pom poms and cactus dahlias but my absolute favourites are the whoppers I order from Halls of Heddon - White Alvas, Dark Red Zorros and Clearview Edies.  I also love Labyrinth and Belle of Barmera.

How do you think they work best when decorating interiors?
I tend to use them on their own but in lots of different ways - I love putting single whoppers in single bud vases on a mantlepiece but also bunching lots together in masses of different vases on my kitchen table.  I’m not at all precious about how I mix the colours, the more of a clash the better.  And really you just need lots and lots - don’t hold back on numbers.

Tell us a little about Emma Sherlock Interiors
I’m based in Hampshire and work on residential projects in the country and in London.  I have a small but brilliant team and work from a studio at the bottom of my garden.  This year we’ve been working on a house in London, a house in Wiltshire and a house in Hampshire with Gavin Houghton

What is your signature interior style or does it change? 
I’m a big believer in your home being uplifting and bringing you joy, this for me comes through comfort and colour so I try to make sure the houses I work on have both of these in spades.  The more a room is layered the more relaxing it is I think and I try to also make them a bit unexpected and imaginative in the way I approach the decoration

Do you gave a favourite project? 
I did a small London flat a few years ago and persuaded my client to use lots of colour, she had an egg yolk yellow sitting room, a pale pink bathroom and she let me wallpaper her kitchen, it’s still a favourite

 

"I love a geranium but I also plant lots of paperwhites, hyacinths and amaryllis in the Autumn"

 



Tell us about the recent project with Gavin Houghton
We’ve been working on a Regency House in Hampshire for a couple with a young family for the last 18 months and it is now in its final stages and really coming together.  It’s been a real pleasure to work on as we’ve done everything from re-wiring the house, to designing all the joinery, commissioning some wonderful furniture and decorating it from top to toe

After working with Gavin for many years at Vogue, how does it feel to be collaborating again?
It’s been great, we were a bit of a double act at Vogue and worked together for a long time and did lots of shoots together abroad so it has been very easy to slot back into working together again.  I have loved designing collaboratively with him, and we have managed to incorporate lots of both of our ideas into the house.  I hope it’s a good balance of both of our styles

What’s your best tip for how we can make small changes in our homes that can make a big difference?
I think the trick is to keep shopping, even on a small scale - I never think a house is “done” - they should always evolve and I am constantly adding to mine.  I’m a firm believer in a house needing lots of pictures so buying pictures would be my top tip.  These don’t need to be expensive, you can be clever framing old prints you find in a junk shop.  New cushions always help spruce up a sofa, and also plants always makes a home look well-loved I think.  I love a geranium but I also plant lots of paper whites, hyacinths and amaryllis in the Autumn (de Jaeger sell very good quality bulbs) - they are the best way to decorate your house at Christmas.  I always try and hold some back and keep them in the dark so that some bulbs flower in January, they are a real pick-me-up after Christmas.  Failing that and if you have no budget then move furniture and pictures around - it will make you feel as if you’ve moved house!


Let’s play favourites ...
Flower - Dahlias (obviously!) Lavender and Parrot Tulips
Scent / Fragrance - Chanel Cristalle - it’s the only scent I’ve worn since I was 20
Travel destination - Northern Cyprus and Venice
Place in England - Cornwall
Book - The Mitford Sisters by Mary S Lovell ignited my eternal fascination with the Mitfords sisters lives and writing; Any Human Heart by William Boyd, A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza and I’ve recently adored reading The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead
Wellness ritual - walking my new Jack Russell puppy - Basil. And I also think going to a party and dancing is very good for you!  
Colour - it's impossible to pick just one but I often veer towards green
Muse -  John Fowler, Oliver Messel, Bunny Mellon and Robert Kime are at the top of my list
Season - Summer definitely, I love the sun and long light days.  I only survive the British Winter by way of a cocktail of Vitamin D and my Lumie light

Restaurant or Meal - In a perfect world, and ignoring all logistics it would be Breakfast at the Wolseley, Lunch at Harry’s Dolci in Venice and Supper at my parents kitchen table cooked by my Mum, Nicky Sherlock.  (The best cook in the biz for those in the know)
Era or decade - The 1920’s
Time of day - Cocktail Time!
Quote - Taken from Anya Hindmarch’s Book - If in Doubt Wash Your Hair  (which should be given to all girls leaving school as a life manual I think!) - “You can do anything if you are determined enough” - I have it on my pinboard above my desk

See more of Emma's work at www.emmasherlock.com and follow Emma at @emmasherlockltd.