February 01, 2024

Jocasta Innes, a legacy of painted interiors

By Sophie Harpley
Jocasta Innes, a legacy of painted interiors

One of my many childhood bedroom renovations involved yellow walls sponged all over by hand in clouds of white. My mum and I did the paint effect together and I suspect that Jocasta Innes' books had a lot to do with it too, because this was the nineties.


Rag-rolling, stippling and sponging were all the range and honestly I've never quite stopped loving these effects. When done subtly they're a lovely way to add age, texture and depth to a space. Don't get me wrong, on a recent flick through Jocasta's book 'Paint Magic' I would say about 80% of the suggested effects are 'too much'. But a chequerboard-painted Lloyd loom basket absolutely leapt off the page at me, as did some very tonal woodwork.


I'll admit I've actually used these techniques in my work too, when creating set designs for photoshoots it can be very hard to make a new MDF construction look like a real home, without clever paint techniques. Pretty much every brand I worked for in the tweenies (is that what we're calling 2010-2020?) wanted products photographed on a textured background the shade of 'setting plaster'. And why not, plaster is as timeless as the frescos of Pompeii!


But back to the 1980 and 90s and to the 'roll your sleeves up' attitude of Jocasta Innes. Because most of all I wanted to talk about the sixty-odd books this one woman wrote to spur on the decorative movement of her day. What a legacy. If you think your chequerboard painted wooden floorboards are 'a new idea' think again (or see below).


Here are a few images of Jocasta's home as it was for the many years she lived there 1979-2013 (courtesy of Spitalfields Life and The Gentle Author).

Spot the hand-painted borders in black with a scrolling pattern. Peachy walls looking a lot like Pantone's colour of 2024 too.
Painted chequerboard floor and tromp l'oeil marble and brickwork.
Bordering on too much? Yes, I'd probably choose just one of these effects today. But plenty food for thought!
Gingham painted tiles inside the fireplace - no surface is overlooked.
Now you're talking! My favourite page of 'Paint Magic' which describes this door as 'sponged lettuce green'.
The 80s-90s DIY classic that sold over 1 million copies.
Posted in Art & craft Interior styling