Interiorssneak peeks

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover

by Quelcy Kogel

As my city erupts with condos and prices escalate, the idea of owning my slice of real estate has become more appealing and more pressing — I want to nab an old home before they’re all snatched up! Whenever I feel homeowner envy, I talk to my friends with the best horror stories: the burst sewage pipes, the knee-deep water in the basement, and the toilet that fell through the floor. These stories remind me to be patient, because investing in an old home is a risky commitment on so many fronts.

Lou Watkins wisely considered both her love of aged, storied homes and the costs associated with a home’s creaking old bones. Her happy medium was a house built in 1930 in Bristol, England. It offered the character she craved without the need for extensive revitalization. The home mainly needed cosmetic touches, a realm in which Lou really shines.

Lou began sharing her decorating progress on Instagram, shyly at first, but she quickly found her niche. She says, “I love the support, enthusiasm and creativity of the Instagram interiors community and have sourced several pieces in my home through the network I have made through social media. I love vintage so much, I co-host the #howivintage hashtag to showcase, share and celebrate all finds vintage — which is fast approaching 20,000 posts from all over the world! So there is a lot of vintage love out there!” There’s also a lot of vintage to love in Lou’s home, so enjoy! —Quelcy

Photography by Lou Watkins | Portrait by Colin Poole & Annabelle Grundy.

Image Above: Lou was a teacher in a past life, so her book collection is especially significant. “Nowhere feels like home until my books are unpacked, so the first room I decorated was the garden room. A friend co-designed with me a built-in bookcase which he then made for me out of MDF. As soon as my books were on the shelf I felt so much more settled.” 

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

Lou loves entertaining guests, so she was drawn to the open flow of her 1930s home. She describes this little seating area as a place where “guests can relax and sample the wine on offer whilst food is being prepped,” and she confesses, she’s usually not the one doing the cooking. “My decorating skills are better than my cooking skills!”

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

In planning the decor of her home, Lou wanted to take advantage of the open flow of the floor plan while also defining the purpose and use of each room.

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

Lou explains, “The living room and dining room are used more during the evening, so I’ve gone for darker shades, lots of lamps, richer velvets, artwork, more tactile fabrics to make these rooms more cozy and intimate; it’s also where the drinks trolley is for those after-dinner cocktails!”

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

Lou chose the dark wallpaper to add even more ambiance to this room, which she uses a lot for entertaining. The corner bar cart makes it a natural place to gather.

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

Farrow & Balls’s “Inchrya Blue” in Lou’s study offers what she calls a “a cocooning feel” and keeps her focused when she is working from home. She credits her Ladderax modular system as the perfect vintage storage solution for her paperwork and as a display for her eclectic mix of colorful ornaments and modern art from Nickie Kelly and Tipperley Hill.

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

This corner of Lou’s study is full of powerful female icons to motivate her work.

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

The nook below the stairs features a Second World War retro poster and Victorian nursing chair, which Lou describes as “the perfect place for putting on shoes on the way out!”

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

The creamy palette of the master bedroom makes for a relaxing place to read all those books from the garden room before hitting the hay.

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

Lou was drawn to the history of her home’s features, but she says, “the house was somewhat ravaged by the 1980s, and I’m having to gradually reintroduce character; but it does have some original features, including the fireplaces in the bedrooms which quite bizarrely are off-center. That perplexed me originally, until I discovered older houses share their chimneys with the adjoining house, so you have to have the fireplace to one side to make room for your neighbor’s adjoining it. It makes for quite a quirky, sweet lack of symmetry that I actually really like, but it also made for a slightly skewed hanging arrangement of the bedroom mirrors!”

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

Lou’s enthusiasm for mid-century modern shines in the upcycled chest of drawers by Boogaloo Boutiques. Her gallery wall features a mixture of vintage pieces and modern prints.

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

Lou confesses, “I’m a bit of a chair addict — every room has somewhere to curl up, throw clothes down or chat.” An alternative chair choice in the master bedroom emphasizes the positive motto on Lou’s mantel. “Every day may not be good, but there is something good in every day.”

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

Lou says the guest bedroom “doesn’t take itself too seriously!” She chose the Graham & Brown wallpaper for its art deco feel.


Lou in her garden room/library, the place that truly made her home feel like her own.

A 1930s Bristol, England Home for a Book Lover via Design*Sponge

What makes Lou’s home feel most like home is her collection of books, but she’s also grateful for the garden. “The garden is a great source of joy for me, I find gardening so relaxing. I read a quote that said ‘to garden is to believe in tomorrow,’ and I love the metaphor that sowing seeds today is to plan for flowers in your future. My home is my ongoing investment of time and imagination to create a space I hope will continue to blossom and change with me.”


Garden Room/Library

Walls – Dulux Polished Pebble
Chair – DFS
Stool – Suburban Salon
Table – Vintage Island
Brass birds – This Little Piggy Vintage

Kitchen Seating Area

Walls – Dusted Moss by Dulux
Lloyd Loom chairs – from grandmother
Table – Venoor Living
Prints by New Icons of Print and Tipperley Hill

Living Room

Chair by Next
Walls – Farrow & Ball Clunch
Table – Retroworld Online
Neon – Violet & Thistle
Rug – Ikea

Dining Room

Wallpaper – B&Q
Walls – Farrow & Ball Clunch
Cocktail trolley – Rockett St George
Neon – Light Up North


Walls – Farrow & Ball Inchrya Blue
Ladderax – Retroworld Online
Chair – Nathalie Gagneaux Creations
Frida and Wonder Woman prints from Hilary & Flo
Rug by La Redoute


Table – La Redoute
Basket – Heavenly Homes & Gardens

Master Bedroom

Wallpaper – Laura Ashley 
Walls – Dulux Chalky Downs 
Beside tables – Ebay
Lamps – Ikea
Chair – Made
Drawers – Boogaloo Boutique
Rug – Cowboy Kate
Artwork – Arbol House, Nickie Kelly, Pati Robins, Tipperley Hill, Society 6, Junique Artshop

Guest Room

Wallpaper – Graham & Brown
Lamps – Made and Abigail Ahern
Artwork – Society 6 and Junique Artshop
Mirror – vintage find
Chair – vintage find
Wicker tables – eBay





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  • Dear Lou, Your home is a delight to see. Your way with wallpaper, color, prints and prints (both meanings) is great. You make it look easy! Your home also reminds me of England. Thanks for listing your print sources. Thank you for showing us such a personal, loved and lovely home.

  • Lou I adore your bonkers mix of styles, patterns and colours – yet somehow it doesnt feel cluttered or clashing, everything is just where it should be.

  • Lou, I love your home. I share your love for old homes as I have a 1929 Spanish Colonial and, like you, I love to curate beautiful old things paired with mid century pieces. I think a home can’t have too many books or bar carts. Thank you for sharing.

  • Your house is fantastic! I am a book lover and I know how much my books add to the coziness of a room. Is there a certain place you go to find all of your amazing pillows? I love them all!

  • Your house is wonderful. I am a teacher and feel the same about books- have to have them unpacked before a place feels like home. The desk in your study gave me a start- I own the same one, and have had it since 1970. In California. I have never seen another like it until now.