Nikki Tibbles of Wild at Heart is one of the UK’s premier florists. It was while working in advertising that she offered to do the flowers for a friend’s wedding and found her calling. With the range of colour and texture it was, she says, the perfect medium to express herself.
“If I was a flower I would like to be a peony in that I would have a very short life but it would be full to the brim. Peonies are soft and blousy and pretty – everything I’m not in real life. I am impatient. Nothing is ever done fast enough and could always be done better.”
When decorating her London home she asked friends Audrey Carden and Eleanora Cunietti of the interior design firm Carden Cunietti to step in. “They were brilliant at helping me to pull it all together with the right paints and fabrics,” she says. “I spent many hours looking through their pattern books.”
There are no rules to the way she puts flowers together and it’s the same way with the planting in her garden and in her new venture, landscaping. “For example, in my garden I have olive trees in planters underplanted with geraniums and an illuminated faux cherry blossom by The Enchanted Tree that glows bright neon pink after dark and makes me smile. We all need things in our lives that do that for us.
“Landscaping is a new thing for me. I was asked to reimagine the exterior of Bicester Village, the designer outlet shopping destination in Oxford and then invited to Kildare Village to give it a new enchanted garden look using local plants, oversize rose blooms, foliage and artisans to craft some reclaimed planters.”
Describe your style?
“My home has lots of colour and print. I live in Bayswater, Knightsbridge in London. The kitchen is bright yellow and grey, strong patterned rugs abound, the dining plates are daffodil yellow and so are the bookshelves.
“Upstairs is where the office and TV room are. The walls are covered in a huge floral print wallpaper by Ellie Cashman – the first print she ever did and have matching curtains; printed velvet in the TV room where there is an open fire. An innumerate number of vases adorn the shelves and surfaces – I collect them.
“Through the door is the office, a brighter space that leads out to the terrace. The marble table is from antique dealer Retrouvius and the antique chairs have been reupholstered in a Manuel Canovas fabric. Underfoot the rug is from Caravane. The sofa here is upholstered in a deep pink tweed that looks like a Chanel jacket. The walls are bright blues and plaster pinks.
“The bedrooms are much calmer. They’re painted Dior grey with white with a plush fabric on the beds.”
Which room in your home do you most enjoy?
“The kitchen is where everyone congregates. As well as the yellow shelving, which houses more of my vases, there is a vintage see-through table by American designer Paul Evans that was bought in instalments from Lamberty Antiques.”
The items you love most?
“I collect vases. I have hundreds of them. I never buy a vase unless it is nice enough to have on show and display them on the shelves of my bookcases. My favourite one is a giant fish bowl with a mosaic of black horses that I bought for £5 at Kempton Antique Market.
“I’m not at all material and really I love my dogs more than any possessions. I share the house with six, yes six, rescue dogs that came to me via my rescue dog charity; Wild at Heart Foundation where we try to find homes for some of the 600 million strays worldwide. We rehouse about 50 dogs to the UK a month. My six have got the run of the house. They can sleep on the sofa or on my bed. There’s Lenny, a big French mastiff that weighs about 65kgs; Smith, a cross between a Belgian shepherd and a Finnish Spitz, he’s 45 kilos; Tia, a little black hunting dog, 35kg; Ronnie a Romanian shepherd dog and two puppies from Puerto Rico.”
The artists you admire?
“I buy a lot of outsider art by mentally and physically disabled people who paint, sculpt and create. I’m currently working at Kildare Village landscaping the grounds and discovered KCat in Kilkenny on my travels. I also buy form Into Art in London.
“When my mother passed away she left me a small amount of money and I spent it on art – a striped piece by Anselm Reyle that I bought from Max Wigram Gallery. I also like the galleries run by Josh Lilley and Sadie Cole.”
Biggest interior turn off?
“For me it would be a symphony of beige. I go into many apartments in incredible buildings that are bland – done in 50 shades of beige. My favourite trait is generosity; generosity of spirit and I like my flowers to also feel generous, to be loose and wild, the antithesis of beige.”
Travel destination that stands out?
“I don’t travel for pleasure but travel a lot for Value Retail as I’ve been landscaping all the outlet villages across Europe, outside Barcelona, outside Milan. When I’m not working I love to be in my house in the country in Sussex. I am very happy there.”
If you had €100,000 to spend on anything for the home what would you buy?
“I would install the biggest sound system and have all my friends over and throw a party. I already have a Linn wireless streamer going into the house along with Meyer speakers and Technics turntables to play all my vinyl. I would use the rest to rehouse dogs at the shelter.”