There’s something of the diva about Sera Hersham-Loftus, as she lounges on a daybed covered in a profusion of silk throws and embroidered cushions.
It’s the sort of sultry, seductive setting she specialises in as an interior decorator, which has made her a favourite with celebrities from Yoko Ono and Rachel Stevens to Patsy Kensit.
“My signature is a mix of romanticism, passion and playfulness,” she says, as she treats me to a tour of her home, revealing as we go the secrets and inspiration that went into creating such an intimate space.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, it feels like the perfect time to be here. Sera’s home simply oozes romance.
But St Valentine’s Day isn’t the only reason she’s invited me in - Sera has also recently published a book, Seductive Interiors, showcasing her heavenly home.
“I like to live in a loose, informal style and use my rooms like an artist uses a canvas - to test out ideas,” she explains. “That means the decor’s constantly changing to reflect new approaches. I’ve always been passionate about moving the energy around in rooms so that they never get boring or stale.”
She stresses that it needn’t be expensive to refresh an interior or make it special for an occasion.
“I don’t buy anything that’s madly expensive - most of my furnishings come from flea markets or vintage stores. I collect antique textiles and keep them in closets all over the house.
“Then, when I want an effect, I can drape them over furniture, turn them into wall hangings, use as tablecloths or simply disguise a messy corner.”
There’s a charming faded grandeur feel to the three-storey house, whose exterior is painted brown and explains it’s name, Chocolate Towers.
Although it’s akin to entering a Hollywood film set, it’s also served as a family home for Sera and her three children.
On the ground floor, there’s a ‘jungle fantasy dreamscape’ in the living area where a sofa takes centre stage, flanked by potted palms, a profusion of peacock feathers, a disco ball overhead light, and a fur throw on the painted board floor.
Unsurprisingly, it’s been a venue for numerous magazine fashion shoots, featuring stars such as Lara Stone and Kate Moss.
“An ultra-moody feel is essential for a space where you want to instantly relax and feel nurtured,” says Sera.
The front parlour is painted black with white plaster details and has a shimmering wall of metallic effect paper featuring Marilyn Monroe.
A 1930s leather Chesterfield in another room, the ‘gothic parlour’, has been hand-patched by Sera with leather from old motorbike jackets, lace from vintage dresses and velvets from old drapes found in flea markets. Above it hangs a Biba nude vintage photograph.
“It’s all characteristic of my style which essentially is a concoction of enchanting soft lighting, antique and bohemian furnishings, oriental bric-a-brac, and more than a teaspoon of the blues and rock’n’roll!” she says.
There are no jarring overhead lights, as Sera prefers a soft lighting scheme relying mainly on lamps.
Hers are embellished with peachy fringed fabrics and lingerie lace. She once made a successful collection of lampshades fashioned from vintage corsets.
“I love looking for quirky, interesting touches which give character and personality to decor, but I don’t believe in clutter.
“I’d rather rely on a few star pieces to shine out, whether they’re floor-standing gilded vases or an ornate folding screen.”
Her roomy attic bedroom is an antique oasis, with arrangements of potted palms, highlighted by uplights, and occasional tables perfect for displaying trinkets, delineating each area.
Her bed is dressed with white bed linen and a French linen vintage bedcover, and a sultry colonial-style is achieved with muslin hangings and an ivory lace curtain.
“Dressing a bed with Indian sari fabrics, velvet throws, and piles of pillows and cushions will make it irresistibly sensual and feminine. I add to the atmosphere by burning frankincense and rose essential oils,” she says.
At one end of the bedroom is her bathing area which resembles an Asian retreat. The bath has intricately carved panels, 1930s screens, and a Fortuny silk chandelier and tall palm plants, all of which make it a romantic setting suitable for relaxing as well as bathing.
She’s worked her magic on actress and designer Sadie Frost’s home (which also features in Sera’s book), embellishing it with ‘home jewellery’, her bespoke lampshades and cushions.
The actress’s bedroom has a mahogany four-poster bed dressed in layers of silk and topped with an embroidered gold coverlet. There’s a relaxing area by a window, screened with plantation shutters, complete with a button-back sofa and arrangements of exotic blooms.
Her bathroom is a colourful haven for pampering and relaxation, which Sera describes as ‘Boulevard-strip-cum-Biba-babe’. Dark furnishings and pots holding lavish foliage are illuminated by candelabra lamps and a kooky neon strip light.
The staircase walls act as a gallery for paintings and photographs of Sadie and her family and friends.
“It’s a glamorous, bohemian home which oozes class and taste, and a sanctuary for anyone who enters,” says Sera.
She believes we should dress our homes as we dress ourselves - to suit our mood and reflect our changing tastes.
For anybody wanting to turn their home into a homage to romance, Chocolate Towers will certainly prove a wealth of inspiration.
:: Seductive Interiors by Sera Hersham-Loftus is published by CICO Books, priced £30. It is available to readers at the special price of £25 including p&p. Visit www.cicobooks.co.uk or call 01256 302 699 and quote GLR7WK.