From a trompe-l’oeil marble ballroom in the south of France to scenic canvas “wallpaper” for the stately Ballyfin hotel (second picture) in Ireland, no two projects for Sussex-based decorative artist Lucinda Oakes are ever the same – but all are handpainted. “I’m inspired by 18th-century art – particularly Italian, French, Swedish and English floral work,” says Oakes, whose father was the head designer at textile firm Colefax and Fowler for 30 years. “I also love Chinese painting from the same period, and I’ve recently been looking at paintings and marbling in Italian churches and villas, which are rustic yet theatrical.”
These influences might find their way on to a silk cushion (from £550, first picture) or a detailed whole-room mural (£10,000-£80,000) applied directly to the walls in distemper paint, creating a beautiful, chalky finish. “Every commission is different,” says Oakes, “and can take anywhere from one week to nine months to complete.”
Recent projects include fantastical fire boards (£6,000, third picture) and fourfold screens (£8,000, fourth picture) depicting elaborate shell collections, bountiful fruits or Chinese porcelain; exquisite wallpapers (£10,000-£80,000 per room) featuring lush chinoiserie landscapes in water-based emulsion; and a delicate mural with a grisaille cartouche (from £15,000, fifth picture). Her textile creations – silk and velvet cushion panels as well as blinds – feature trellises, trees and impossibly intricate details, right down to the palm fronds, insects and bird feathers
Working for private clients as well as for renowned interior designers such as William Yeoward, Oakes sends regular digital updates of her progress – her sketches and colour swatches – from her Hastings studio. The end result is always an exuberant, lovingly crafted work of art – with a unique touch of magical realism.