Pearl Lowe on moving to Sussex, seaside style and leaving scandal behind
- Credit: David Watts
She was one of the notorious Primrose Hill Set, along with Kate Moss and Sadie Frost, who were famed for their wild parties but Pearl Lowe says she loves the peace and 'faded glamour' of her new seaside home near Rye
Words: Katy Rice Photographs: David Watts
On a rainy spring day, the skies heavy and grey, a 1940s house on a potholed track somewhere between Rye and Hastings stands out like a ray of sunshine. Long and low, its white exterior is covered in hundreds of seashells, and the glass of its row of windows and French doors, the frames painted green, are overlaid with floral-printed laminate sheets, lending a mysterious hidden air to it.
You can see it’s a house that belongs to someone with an eye for design. Sure enough, it’s Pearl Lowe who opens the door and ushers me into the long and light open-plan kitchen that extends right through to the garden at the back.
With her two dogs, one-year-old Labradoodle Doris and Angela, a 13-year-old King Charles spaniel, swirling excitedly around each other at my ankles in a bid to get my attention, Pearl, 52, is chatty and warm as she makes us both a cup of tea.
The petite designer, renowned for her gloriously decadent interiors style, is elegant and understatedly glamorous in one of her own beautiful 40s style vintage-inspired dresses and it suits her perfectly.
She is full of energy as she moves around the kitchen, designed by bespoke cabinet company deVOL, its wooden floor painted in Linen Wash by Little Greene, its walls in Farrow & Ball’s Pointing. Its pale colour palette is the perfect backdrop to the exquisite antique pieces, jewel-coloured velvets, colourful throws and faded rugs, eclectic montages of pictures on the walls, swags of dried flowers, fringed fabric lightshades and her own design pretty lace curtain panels that let the light flood in from the windows.
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'I walk into this house and I feel really happy,' Pearl says, sitting down at the round dining table covered in a vintage tablecloth and large enough to seat eight. 'When we first saw it, it was very colourful, bright fuchsias, oranges, yellows, blues, very funky 1970s colours. I walked in and loved it. I go into a house and let it speak to me. I could see myself here. The kitchen was painted in French grey and I quite liked it at first, but I woke up one day and went ’no’, it felt oppressive. I wanted light colours.'
Just a 10-minute walk from the beach, the house has undergone an amazing transformation since Pearl and her musician husband, Danny Goffey, the drummer with the band Supergrass, bought it just a year ago, during the pandemic.
'We only saw it once before we bought it and didn’t realise the enormity of what needed doing to it,' she says, her brown eyes wide with horror at the memory. 'It’s been crazy. We had to take out old piping and put in two new boilers, it needed a new kitchen and a new laundry room, the decking was mouldy and someone put their foot through it. We’ve even had to put a new cesspit in! We were a bit, like, ‘what have we done?’ But we moved in in February and stayed until October, a magical time.'
It may look like a house straight from the pages of an interiors magazine but it’s very much a family home, with four bedrooms and extra bedrooms in cabins in the garden. Their daughter, Betty, who is 16 and in her GCSE year at school, shares a cabin with her brother Frank, who is 22 and an artist with his own business called Let’s Be Frank. Their two older children live in London. Alfie, 25, is in the band Cousn with his cousin Billy and is also a DJ and music producer who has worked with artists such as Jessie Ware. Pearl’s famous model daughter with the singer Gavin Rossdale is Daisy Lowe, 33, who has modelled for Vivienne Westwood, Marc Jacobs and Louis Vuitton.
Both daughters have modelled their mother’s fashions on her website, where she sells floral and classic dresses, swimwear, lace curtain panels, lace tablecloths, accessories including scarves, vintage home items, vintage fashion and vintage children's wear.
She creates dresses that are “made to flatter and accentuate the feminine figure” and can’t abide models who are too thin. 'I love girls with bodies, like people did in the 1990s, people like Helena Christensen and Cindy Crawford,' she says. 'Betty and Daisy have exactly the look I’m going for.'
Pearl and Danny, 48, who will begin an international tour in April with Supergrass, chose Sussex by the sea because of their shared love of water and because they wanted somewhere within a three-hour drive of their main home, an 11-bedroom Edwardian house near Glastonbury in Somerset, which showcases her trademark blend of grandly romantic and cool rock ’n’ rolls interiors with its jewel-toned velvet sofas, her own hand-dyed lace curtains and gleaming lacquer cabinets.
The decor was detailed in her 2019 glossy book Faded Glamour, and Pearl is sharing glimpses of her new “dream” home in Sussex in her latest book, Faded Glamour By The Sea, which was recently published, featuring sumptuous photographs of its rooms and its quirky details.
She also takes readers on a tour of the amazing homes of friends that have inspired her, among them the beautiful retreat in Denmark belonging to the supermodel Helena Christensen, a long-time friend who is “adorable, the sweetest, funniest person” and has “the most exquisite taste”.
There’s also the Malibu beachfront house of interior designer Rachel Ashwell, who is credited with inventing the shabby chic design concept, the home of the Hastings artist Claire Fletcher, known for her love of beach huts, and stylist Atlanta Bartlett’s home on Romney Marsh.
It’s the first time the couple have owned two homes and it takes some getting used to, reveals Pearl. 'We move from one house to the other, forgetting there’s no food in whichever house we’re going to. We haven’t quite mastered it yet. We run the house in Somerset as a business, letting it out, so we’ve got used to locking the kids’ rooms and locking our things away in cupboards. This house will be rented out too. We’re both creatives and we’re not very good at business, but we’re trying to get better. We’ve kind of fallen into this business without meaning to,' she laughs. 'I love it in this part of Sussex and I love coming back to this house. I’ve got friends I didn’t even know were here - it’s mad that we’ve found ourselves here.'
Her friends these days are, she says, people like her, people with families, and not the members of the wild Primrose Hill Set she famously hung around with in the 1990s when she fronted the indie bands Powder and Lodger. Its celebrity members, who all lived in the Primrose Hill area of London, included Kate Moss, Sadie Frost, Jude Law, the Gallagher brothers, Meg Mathews and Sienna Miller as well as Pearl and Danny, and the British press documented their parties, the scandals, the drugs and the rock ’n’ roll in detail.
In her 2007 autobiography All That Glitters: Living On The Dark Side Of Rock And Roll, she explains that although her upbringing was “very conventional and middle-class”, she was “rebellious by nature”, despising the idea of “conforming”, and by her twenties, she was addicted to drugs, including heroin.
'As I grew up and went on a different path in my life, I realised that the only thing I had in common with a lot of the people I lost touch with from that time was drugs,' Pearl reflects. 'I got sober and I’ve changed so much. I do keep in touch with some of them and when I see them, it’s lovely, but they are not vibrationally on the same level as me.
'It was great while it lasted and I have fond memories of it and sad memories, because excess causes dramas. It couldn’t happen these days because of social media.'
It was in 1995 at the height of the Britpop years that she and Danny met, just as his band was enjoying chart success with their number one album I Should Coco and number two single Alright. 'From that very first moment, I was completely captivated by him,' she wrote in her autobiography. 'He wasn’t like anyone I had ever been attracted to before. He was friendly, he was confident and he had a sense of mischief to him.'
She says: 'Actually, my funniest days were the Britpop days when I was in the band and we used to play festivals. You stay at the festival for days, stay in a Ramada hotel and drink at the bar for hours. Everyone was really into their music and it was more fun.
'I don’t look back and wish I was back there. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been now. I’d much rather be with my family.' Regrets? 'No! You can’t regret your life. I live in the moment. I’m a positive person, I don’t look back and I don’t look forward. It was a crazy time, and it happened, and it was only five years of my life.'
As Pearl’s children grew up, she longed for a career that enabled her to spend time with them. She returned to her first love, design, and in 2001 launched her signature range of cushions, tablecloths and lace curtains, followed by lace dresses. She began designing bespoke collections of women’s wear and children's wear, which were vintage-inspired and handmade in Somerset.
A three-year collaboration with the high street Peacocks followed, and she also released a vintage craft book in 2013 as well as a book of healthy sweet treats with daughter Daisy.
This year, she is launching new ranges. Working from her studio in her Somerset house, she has designed a new range of bikinis and a new wallpaper range, and she currently has a collaboration with luxury homeware brand Coco & Wolf, which has a shop in Liberty, London. A collection of new dresses will also soon be appearing on her website.
Fans of Pearl’s style can also now buy antiques she owns but no longer wants. She uploads new items each week and it has proved to be a huge success. 'I can’t believe the reaction,' she says. 'I get the most amount of pleasure selling my old stuff. I love change, clearing a room and starting all over again. Change is a part of design and interior design is my way of trying new things.'
Danny, she says, is less interested in interiors. 'He doesn’t care, although he has put his foot down on flounces. Our bedroom in Somerset is pink and he really does not like it. He wants it blue. He thinks everything is flouncy and girly. The thing with me is that I get obsessed with something, and then really quickly I get bored with it. So I might change it!'
Faded Glamour By The Sea by Pearl Lowe, £25
Pearl’s favourite Sussex shops
Hawk & Dove
39 High Street Old Town, Hastings TN34 3ER
Fine apparel, accessories and classic pieces. 'It has everything from handpicked vintage pieces, knitwear, slip dresses and tableware. A real gem,' Pearl says.
77a, The Mint, Rye TN317EW
Sourced vintage interior pieces complemented by a selection of interior makers, plus its own in-house label. 'I buy rugs from Rae - it’s incredible,' she says.
57 High Street, Hastings TN34 3JA
Phone 07967 637540
Antique store and vintage retailer with artisan wares, based in a Georgian Grade 2 building.
The French Depot
15 Drury Lane, St Leonards TN38 9BA
Antique French beds, armoires, furniture, sofas and chairs.
32-34 Norman Road, St Leonards TN38 OEJ
Stylish home furnishings including pure wool blankets and sheepskins, vintage furniture, gifts and kitchenware and vintage clothing plus Michala’s Cute cakes tea room.
Merchant & Mills
14a Tower Street, Rye TN31 7AT
The “fabric godmother” bringing style and purpose to the overlooked world of sewing, supplying fabrics, patterns and tools to create a a desirable functioning wardrobe. It has collaborated with The V&A Museum in London and Alexander McQueen.
3 Market Road, Rye TN31 7JA
A vintage furniture business that is now a lifestyle store, stocking brands such as Studio Arhoj and Laboratory Perfumes, local brands Charlotte Miller and Kleen Soaps, rugs, and their own range of natural products including handmade skincare and interior scents.