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Mon 3 Mar 2008 01:55 PM

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At home with Jane Packer

"Like most girls I used to make perfume from rose petals. But since I was 15 I've believed that flowers are an important part of interior design," says florist Jane Packer whose home is living proof of this deign ethos.

"Like most girls I used to make perfume from rose petals. But since I was 15 I've believed that flowers are an important part of interior design," says florist Jane Packer whose home is living proof of this deign ethos.

Jane Packer started her flower business more than 20 years ago from the basement of this graceful Georgian terraced house in north London. She's one of the country's most famous florists, having made her name as the woman who designed the Duke and Duchess of York's bridal flowers.

Colour is obviously important to Jane. A black and red sitting room is one of many bold statements, not for the feint hearted which she pulls off effortlessly...

Determined to be different, right from the start, Jane broke away from the conventional florist's mould by adapting the principles learnt during her time in fashion design to the flower industry. She evolved a fresh approach, searching for new sources of inspiration and pursuing the least conventional and most innovative ideas.

Needless to say, her reputation has grown as fast as her business. She has written a number of best-selling books and now presides over five shops and a flower school in London, a concession in The Conran Shop in New York and a shop and school in Tokyo.

Amazingly, she still lives in that very same house she started out in. A wreck of place that was riddled with grotty bed-sits, it didn't always look this good. ‘My husband Gary and I had a flat in the same area, but we'd always looked at these houses and loved them,' says Jane. ‘When we eventually bought this place, we lived in the attic and slept on a mattress on the floor for ages to keep the costs down - it was so depressing!'

The plan was to re-convert the building back to its original family house status, but the money they'd set aside for its decoration was quickly used up to plug a more urgent hole. ‘It all went in essential and very extensive damp proofing work,' explains Jane. ‘It had to be done, of course, but ultimately we had nothing to show at the end of it - except for a dry house!'

Fast forward a couple of decades and the house has evolved into a stylish and yet totally unpretentious family home. Filled with all the paraphernalia teenage children bring, there are some unusual extras lurking amongst the designer and one-off furnishings: a drum set and a football table in the dining room for starters. ‘This is how we live,' shrugs Jane. ‘You might as well embrace all this stuff rather than hide it.' Her daughter Lola and son Rebby, clearly agree that the funky, yet graceful surroundings are perfectly conducive to teenage requirements.

Colour is obviously important to Jane. A black and red sitting room is one of many bold statements she has introduced to the house. Not a look for the feint hearted, she pulls it off effortlessly. Sofa, armchairs and bean-bags are all deeply black, while rugs, throws and vases filled with roses come in various shades of red.

3 IDEAS TO TRY1.Interior designers insist that a touch of black lifts any room. Jane chose black stair carpet which is both practical and super stylish.

2.Paint a simple frame directly on to the wall and hang a mirror in the middle of it. The mirror will immediately seem more important.

3.For visual impact, group different shaped vessels and vases of the same colour together.

The walls and shutters have been painted a soft dove grey, which harmonises beautifully with the stronger shades. ‘I'm really drawn to these colours. The three together look dramatic but cosy,' says Jane. Family photos and mementoes are very much on display and in the window is a beautiful rocking horse with its own charming story.

Made for Jane's son Rebby, by her carpenter father, the horse's belly has a secret compartment that contains photos and notes all about the creative process of making the piece.

Jane's unique sense of style isn't the only thing that sets her home apart. She's got some clever deign ideas up her sleeve that are both quirky and easy to achieve. The sitting room mirror, for example has an ornate frame painted directly onto the wall around it, immediately making it seem more important. ‘I like to use things in an unexpected way. It creates a more interesting visual experience,' she says.

Downstairs the basement has long since been turned from a fledgling flower business into a comfortable eat, live and cook-in kitchen. Terracotta tiles cover the floor and vintage cupboards with chicken-wire panels add a rustic homey vibe.

Another of her quirky ideas, Jane was inspired by similar cupboards she'd seen in America and has filled hers with beautiful glass vessels and vases. ‘There was no real plan for the décor in here,' she says. ‘It's all things that have been added over the years which I am constantly editing.'

Upstairs, in Jane's bedroom, the eclectic mix continues. Wardrobes from the Arts and Crafts period and a big brass bed set the tone. The fireplace is filled with interesting glass objects and a fabulous Perspex mirror that looks as if it's been carved from ice hangs from one wall and is garlanded with chunky strings of beads.

Threading the floors together is a black felted carpet that runs up the stairs and along the hallways, an inky ribbon that's as dramatic as it is practical.

Everywhere, as you might expect, are vases of sweet smelling blooms. ‘Like most little girls, I used to make perfume from rose petals. But since I was 15 I've believed that flowers are an important part of interior design,' says Jane. ‘My current tip would be to use just a few branches of very tall flowers - and always keep the containers interesting.'

WHERE TO BUYJane Packer:+44(0)20 7935 2673; www.jane-packer.co.uk

Mint:+44 (0)20 7224 4406

Farrow & Ball:+44 (0)1202 876141; www.farrow-ball.com

Wish Lifestyle:+44 (0)1702 477570

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