If you haven’t yet heard of set/interior designer Amy Exton and her Margate Location House, prepare to drink the Kool-Aid. Her signature ‘acid-aesthetic’ can be seen splashed across every room, transforming every nook into a Club Tropicana dream.
We chatted to Amy about how her set design work influences her interiors, her passion for Elvis Presley, and how to boldly go where no wallpaper has ever gone before…
Hi Amy – thanks so much for showing us your Margate Location House, it’s an incredible acid trip! Where do you start when you’re faced with a blank room?
I usually start with a single piece of furniture and then design the room around that. My 19th century wooden bed was the first thing I had for my bedroom. I wanted the walls to be quite rich, as I think dark colours make a room feel nice and cosy, but I didn’t want it to seem too dark and gothic. So, I offset the teal walls and the dark bed with really brightly painted furniture - my chartreuse wardrobe and pink chest of drawers. It made it feel like a tropical South American boudoir.
I’ve just bought one of those Mae West lip sofas for my bedroom, so I’m going to redecorate with that in mind. I’m going to stick to a red and pink colour palette, similar to my bathroom, which is still one of my fave rooms in the house.
There’s a bold, playfulness to MLH that seems to be straight out of a film, or music video. How has your set design influenced your interiors?
As I rent my house out for photoshoots, it’s like a huge set. And because it’s my own personal project, I haven’t had a brief to stick to, so I’ve been able to go mad with it. The style of the house is the kind of thing that, in an ideal world, I’d like to create for my set design commissions too, but more often than not the briefs are too restricting.
Do you mood board colour schemes? How do you envision them in the space?
I go through a lot of tester pots! But even with testers, you can’t really see what the colour will be like until it’s covering the wall, because it changes in different lights. In general, I just go for it and hope for the best!
We’ve spotted a lot of recurring imagery; classical busts, animal prints and figurines, cherubs, plants and Elvis. Do you plan these themes beforehand, or do they come organically out of your interests?
They’re all just things I’m naturally drawn to; I’m not too sure why. I actually wrote my dissertation on Elvis and became completely obsessed; my dog is called Presley! Graceland is definitely an inspiration for my interior design. The living room was originally going to be designed with Graceland’s Jungle Room in mind, but I ended up painting it coral and going a little off-piste. I’m actually redecorating that room soon and it’s going to have a heavy Graceland influence this time (unless I veer off-piste again…).
With plants, I just feel like they bring a room to life, quite literally, and tie the different elements of the room together. I do struggle to keep them alive though. I’m learning slowly.
We have to talk about the zap print wallpaper in your kitchen/diner. Did you design it? Where did you get it made? What was the inspiration? Tell us everything!
I actually painted that! It took a long time and a lot of masking tape, but it was really good fun. I love prints and want to carry on designing them, and applying them to my interior projects. With the wall in the kitchen, because I didn’t have anyone to stop me, I just went a bit mad. I’m actually going to be painting over it next week as I’m re-decorating the kitchen, but I’ll be making more prints in the future. I definitely want to print my designs on wallpapers and homewares somewhere down the line.
Any top tips for sourcing one-of-a-kind furniture and for up-cycling?
I get a lot of my furniture from around Margate, there are some great second-hand furniture places around, and I get a heads-up when they get anything in that they think is up my street. I got the giant bust and the sexy crushed velvet sofa in Margate. I also get a lot of stuff on eBay and other online marketplaces. This year I’m going to start hitting up antique markets and auctions. I used to love a car-boot sale but I feel like they’re not as good as they used to be.
I originally got into interiors by up-cycling furniture, and that’s something I’m going to start up again now that the house is finished. I’m a bit obsessed with spray painting things in block colours: cherubs lamps, busts etc. I currently have a few items from around the house up for sale on my website, but it’s something I’m going to start working on more in the near future.
What would you say to people who want to use colour in their home, but don’t know where to start?
I’d say just go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll just have to paint over it if you’re not happy with it. Or alternatively, keep the walls neutral and add colour with furniture, or the way you dress your rooms. As much as I love coloured walls in my own interiors, I do also love plain white walls when they’re contrasted with bright splashes of colour, like a bright sofa.
Who do you look to for interiors inspiration?
I find my inspiration all over the place and I’m inspired by all sorts of different design movements. The Memphis Milano movement is a personal fave, but I also had a bit of an obsession with William Morris when I was younger. That influence isn’t so obvious, but I feel like it will come out more in the future. I also pick up inspiration from set design in TV and film. I first got into interior design as a kid when I watched Changing Rooms religiously. That drummed up some pretty ridiculous design ideas in my mind at the time, which luckily I wasn’t allowed to apply to my bedroom, but I’d say that design ethos for just going crazy had a big influence on me. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen’s red and zebra print room, which the nation hated, is imprinted on my mind. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t influenced by that.
You host artist residencies at MLH – any artists we should be keeping an eye out for?
So far we’ve hosted residencies with Lizzie King and Aoife Dunne. They came to the house for a week and make a body of work inspired by the house and Margate in general. I’ve got a couple of artists lined up for the next residencies, but nothing concrete yet. Keep your eyes peeled in the summer!
Keep up to date with Amy’s renovations by following Amy and her Margate Location House on Instagram. You can also rent the kaleidoscopic Margate Location House (and Presley the dog!) for shoots, and buy Amy’s up-cycled furniture on her website. Or, for the full experience, rent MLH on Airbnb.