Viva the vibrant: shoe designer’s colourful Fulham home

Cleo Barbour is as bold with colour in her house as she is with her signature stilettos. Ruth Bloomfield is bedazzled
Cleo Barbour in her Fulham home
Shoe designer Cleo Barbour manages to harmoniously bring together contrasting colours and styles in her Fulham home
We have become so used to interior style being all about neutrals, white and Zen-like calm, it is a shock to the system to visit Cleo Barbour's house — a blast of colour from her turquoise front door, which opens on to lime green walls and fuchsia pink banisters is only the start. This is a woman confident with her own take on interiors. Colours? Check. Bold floral curtains? Check.

This 25-year-old shoe designer is very much at home with her own — almost reckless — mix of patterns, periods and styles and marched on regardless to create a quirky, glamorous home on a measured budget.

Décor has been sourced everywhere, from medium-pricey Designers Guild to cheap rural charity shops, with her grandmother's attic proving a particular treasure trove. "When I go shopping if I see something I like at the right price I just get it, and in the end it all seems to mix in."

With her parents' help Barbour bought the three-bed Victorian terrace house in Fulham five years ago for £500,000. They saw it as a good investment price, and with its corner site it was slightly larger than its neighbours. The good location puts her in striking distance of west London's shops and bars.

It was an old and dirty house that had been owned by an elderly lady. "The truth is, it was just filthy and horrible, and the state of the carpets was down to poorly house-trained dogs." Barbour's quick and cheap transformation was to paint the living room a spirits-lifting turquoise, and the bedrooms a cool lime, before regaining her courage and going for shocking pink in the bathroom to match the banister hand rail.

Cleo Barbour's living room
The living room is where granny’s old sofas, in new Designers Guild fabric, sit underneath some of Cleo’s favourite paintings
The furniture came from granny's attic including the squashy sofas, which she re-covered in Designers Guild fabric. Granny also had a pair of rather lovely Art Deco vintage mirrored tables, and an old-fashioned school desk, now painted blue.

The dining table is from Alfies Antique Market (alfiesantiques.com) in Church Street, Edgware Road. "I love it there, I fall in love with things all the time, but it is so expensive I just buy one and save for the rest." The desk is from the less expensive Nine Elms Sunday Market (9am to 2pm, Wandsworth Road) and cost £10. "I bartered it down and in the end felt quite guilty."

Barbour, who shares the house with a friend, has found home ownership a huge learning curve, not least when, two years after moving in, she decided to try to increase the value of the property by remodelling the kitchen. The plan was to merge the kitchen and dining room, divided by an arch into a single room, and add French doors on two aspects to bring in light.

Vintage French bed in the master bedroom
The vintage bed in the master bedroom clearly identifies Cleo’s love of antique French furniture
"It was a nightmare. I spent £20,000 on the work, which included installing a white Magnet kitchen, with a Corian work surface in lime. It all started off fine. They knocked through the walls, put in the doors and then the delays started. The plasterer turned out to be a cowboy, who messed up completely, and it just went on, and I kept having to hire people to sort out other people's mistakes."

This modest job, meant to take two months, took six months but taught her a valuable lesson. "Go for good people with a local reputation, look at their work beforehand and pay a fair price. I learned my lesson. "When I did up my shop I did not take any nonsense."

'When I go shopping if I see something I like at the right price I just get it, and in the end it all seems to mix in'



Barbour was born in Cheshire and came to London to study shoe design at the London College of Fashion's Cordwainers College, where alumni include Jimmy Choo. She worked with some fashionable names — Salvatore Ferragamo and Nicholas Kirkwood — then set up on her own.

Her first collection was sold at the prestigious Dover Street Market and she now has a boutique, Cleo B on Ebury Street (cleob.com), where her customers include Lily Allen.

Cleo Barbour's furniture
The furniture comes from pricey stores as well as charity shops and her grandmother’s attic
Evidence of her passion lines her bookshelves — rows of shoes displayed as ornaments next to her most expensive investment, a Fifties hairdressers' cabinet bought at the Battersea Park Antiques Fair for an eye-watering £3,000. In it she displays some Clarice Cliff ceramics "borrowed" from her mother.

She spotted a stunning Moroccan chest for £300 in the local Caravan Serai on Fulham High Street. And, as is currently fashionable, mismatched her kitchen chairs (a fiver each) all from a clearance shop on North End Road, Fulham.

Her mother made her cushions, and Barbour's paintings include three abstracts she did for art A-level. One painting that is not her own work is a gilded version of a traditional Chinese blossom tree by Xenz (xenz.org), bought from London Art Fair (londonartfair. co.uk). Her special painting was her 21st birthday present: a floral work by James Aldridge (jamesaldridge-artist.co.uk) whose murals adorn the restaurant at the Tate Modern.

Loving French antique furniture, Barbour scoured specialist shops for her bed, which is now re-covered. But buying vintage has its drawbacks. "I had to get a mattress made because the bed was an odd size."

A Fifties hairdressers’ cabinet
A Fifties hairdressers’ cabinet sits next to Cleo’s shoe display unit
However, she still cannot resist her Saturday visits to antique shops in Lillie Road in Fulham for inspiration, or The French House on Parsons Green Lane (thefrenchhouse.co.uk).

A more recent discovery is the architectural antiques and reclaimed furniture store Lassco at Brunswick House in Nine Elms (lassco.co.uk). "But I shop anywhere. If I am in a little village I will end up going into a charity shop and buy a vase for next to nothing."

A backcloth to all this colour is the white stained floorboards, inspired by a visit to the Saatchi Gallery. "When I saw its floors I thought they were amazing. I contacted the company who had done them but the prices were just ridiculous. So I found a local flooring firm, persuaded them to visit the gallery then replicate the effect at a price I could afford."

Ever the budding businesswoman she thinks her next renovation, when she has made some more money, will be a loft conversion for a fourth bedroom, and an extra colour for the palette.

Photographs: Graham Jepson

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