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My favourite places: Helen McClure, interior designer

Trust an interior designer to have an eye for lovely places both near and far. Godalming-based interior designer Helen McClure from At Home by Design chats under-the-radar gems.

I’ve been around the world a bit, visiting over 65 countries and living in the US, UAE and Singapore, so it’s incredibly difficult to choose just a handful of places. I’m fascinated by how we are connected to the places we live, and this has had a real influence on my approach to interior design. It’s not about pulling a look out of the pages of a glossy magazine, although it’s always nice to be inspired. To me, great interior design is about creating spaces that make us feel us – to be able to exhale and feel everything is how it should be, to feel at home, to feel connected. 

Antique shops

The Packhouse at Runfold, near Farnham.

A lovely way to spend an afternoon is perusing the wonders of antique shops. They are another window into how we used to live and a great way to connect with our past. I also feel better if belongings can be repurposed, reused or upcycled so I try to look at how I can do this within my designs. It’s often more cost effective for clients, and certainly more environmentally friendly. Petworth is a jewel if you’re looking for a little town to wanted from one antique shop to another, and west Surrey has a plethora of treasure troves with Bourne Mill Antiques, The Packhouse and The Antiques Warehouse, all in Farnham, being just a couple worth popping into.

Interiors shops

Rose and Co in Godalming.

Finding the right accessories, or a unique piece of furniture, can be tricky as an interior designer. Each design is focussed on the client, who is unique, so I spend hours and hours trawling websites, and nosying around shops to find the perfect vase, or throw. I love the culture around our independent shops, created through passion. Church Street, in Godalming, is home to a couple of prize finds. 

Wattle and Daub in Godalming has a brilliant balance of new accessories, curiosities and salvaged vintage pieces. And throw into the mix workshops on wreath making, photography or tile making and you’ve got somewhere worth visiting. I also love Rose and Co., another gorgeous store in Godalming, which offers hand-picked, ethically sourced, eco-friendly items, from tableware to decorative items, as well as gifts and jewellery.

Cake

After all that moseying around, sustenance is in order. I have a confession – I’m not your average woman: I used to hate cake! These days, I’m rather partial to a slice coffee or carrot cake. I do a lot of sport, and that’s how I justify the calories, but I think I could probably find an excuse even if I didn’t! I’m pretty focussed when I’m at work. I’m often so in the zone, I forget to take a break, so stopping for a coffee and a piece of cake is a good way to find some balance. I love to pop into Eliza’s Tea Room at Secrett’s in Milford, which sells a wide array of cakes from Butter and Cream Cakes, which is also in the village. 

Cocktails

When you find somewhere that has amazing food and brilliant service you want to go back. And this is how I feel about The Rose and Crown in Godalming. I go back for its extensive cocktail list, served with some friendly chat. And when the weather is sunny I may be found sipping a Negroni in the courtyard garden. Roll on summer!

Pub

When I was a student, a pub was a dark and dingy establishment with sticky floors. Boy, we’ve come a long way! There are pubs that you pop to for a pint, and there are pubs where you stop and linger. There are pubs for a quick bite, and there are pubs with food fit for a king. I like to think I’m a discerning customer. I hate lazy service, especially when service charges are automatically added to the bill. But above all I hate lazy cooking. My bug bear is reheated roast potatoes. Having worked in pub kitchens as a student, I know what a tricky juggling act it is, but some pubs just get it right. My roast dinner of choice is at The Half Moon, at Kirdford near Billinghurst in Sussex. And I love their roast potatoes!

Map shops

Maps tell you so much about how the world has changed. It gives you an insight into how people used to live, and that helps us to connect with where we live. When I lived in Singapore, I used maps to learn about the land we lived on, and learnt that the Second World War white flag of surrender was handed over to the Japanese by the British just up the road from my house. This singular act changed the way of the world dramatically, signalling the end of the British Empire. Where I live now in Surrey does not have such a dramatic history, but the quiet commons where I run hide its military past. They used to be home to huge Canadian camps, training troops during the First and Second World War. There are so many brilliant map shops and I love nothing better than spending an afternoon sifting through antique maps. Stanfords, in Covent Garden, may be a seller of modern maps, but it is uniquely tied to the birth of the Ordnance Survey, having originally been the sole agents for selling their maps. You’re never lost if you have a map.

athomebydesign.co.uk

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