Period drama: Rachel and Mark Forshaw’s London home
10 months ago · Portraits · 11 min read

Period drama: Rachel and Mark Forshaw’s London home

If, like us, you’re guilty of spending vast amounts of time Insta-stalking other people’s interiors, then you’ll be pleased to know we’ve got another account to add to your list. Rachel and Mark Forshaw (of @tinkywinkymauve) have spent many months painstakingly doing up their Victorian house, alongside busy and demanding jobs in social care, where they work with children and young people.

Based in a leafy part of south-east London, the pair, who live with a much-loved British Shorthair called Claude, moved here from a more central spot last January. A true Londoner, Rachel admits she was a little unsure about moving further out at first, but is now firmly settled in the area. “It’s quieter, but not too quiet,” she says. “We tend to stay really local now, as there are so many great pubs and restaurants, and we’re still close to family.”

When they’re not busy decorating (they’ve still got more they want to do), the couple loves to travel, so, as always, we were quick to grill them about their favourite destinations. As they’re not ones to do much lounging around on the beach, we knew we’d get some good tips. Uzebekistan is next on the list apparently, picked for its architecture and natural beauty. Inspired, we headed straight for the bookshelf, which is filled with travel guides, and then set about trying to guess the origins of all the unique finds dotted about Mark and Rachel’s wonderfully welcoming home.

 

We love what you’ve done to the house so far. Did you have to do a lot of work to it when you bought it?

It was already very nice actually, so we didn’t have to too much to it, but it just wasn’t our style at all. It was very plain, and all of the walls were painted pale grey. I felt that it needed a bit more colour.

It sounds like the perfect blank canvas. Have you always been into colour?

My last flat was more neutral, but I just thought this house had such character, and the plainness almost detracted from that. So, I basically just went through the Farrow & Ball paint collection, picked all the colours I liked best and then narrowed it down. I wanted every room to have a different look and feel, so each space has its own shade.

 

Our Brooksby desk sits at the huge window overlooking the garden in this little study, which leads off the dining area and is painted dark green. The chair is from MADE

 

Rachel found this teapot in the souks in Marrakech. The tiny brass llamas are from South America, and were a gift from a friend

 

Well, it certainly worked. Did you do the decorating yourself?

Yes. Because both of us work full time, it has been a little tough at points, but we were so eager to get it all done, so we tried to do as much as possible whenever we we had any spare time. Everything took longer than we thought though, and it will probably be another six months until we’ve got things how we want them to be.

It must have been tricky fitting it all in. Does your work tend to be stressful?

Working with children and young people is really great, and so rewarding. But, it can be stressful at times, and resources are tight. Generally though, it’s really good.

Did you always want to be a social worker?

Definitely not. Both my parents are social workers and so I always said I didn’t want to be one. But, after I tried a couple of things, I realised I needed to stop resisting it, and that it probably was the right job for me. I took a year out to live in Turkey and then came back to do my masters.

 

Deep-blue walls make more of the basement snug, which doesn’t get a lot of natural light. The sofa and armchair (both IKEA) are dressed with cushions from Tunisia

 

The mid-century coffee table (left) was found at a vintage shop in Crystal Palace – the perfect match for the sideboard (right), which used to belong to Rachel’s grandmother. The shisha pipe is a Tunisian find, while the floor rug is from Istanbul

 

Wow, living in Turkey must have been amazing, tell us more.

I’d been to Istanbul a good few times and also spent six weeks travelling around the country, and I absolutely loved it, so I decided to apply for a job teaching English in Istanbul. I had such an amazing time out there, I’ve never been anywhere where the people are as hospitable as they are in Turkey.

Now we know who to go to for Turkish travel tips. Have you travelled a lot elsewhere?

Yes, quite a lot. I used Turkey as a base and explored Georgia, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. And I’ve spent a few months in Southeast Asia, too.

Of all the places you’ve been too, what’s your favourite?

If you’re heading to Turkey, I’d definitely recommend Olympos, which is beautiful and unspoilt. Other than that, I’d say Vietnam has to be one of my favourite places. It was top of Mark’s list when we got together, as he knew I loved travelling and he had always wanted to go.

 

Left: A poster from the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech | Right: “This was the first piece of furniture I bought for myself when I moved into the flat I used to live in. I found it in a junk shop,” says Rachel of this quirky antique chair

 

Left: The cosy upstairs sitting room has a traditional wood-burning stove | Right: A print of René Magritte’s ‘Empire of Light’ hangs above the sofa

 

And where did you get the travel bug from? Did you inherit it from your parents?

Maybe. My mum is American, and her family are from Kansas, so we would visit quite a bit when I was younger and then spend a month exploring other places in the U.S. I think travelling around at an early age might have rubbed off on me.

That sounds like a fun childhood. What was your family home like?

My parents live in a Victorian house, so I’ve always loved period houses. I think my mum has amazing taste, it’s actually quite different to mine, but I feel like I’ve learnt a lot from her. They live quite near so we’re lucky to be able to visit quite a bit. We have a Sunday ritual of going over for a home-cooked meal, which we love.

Nothing beats a Sunday meal with the fam. Do you host much here now that the house is almost finished?

Yes, we love entertaining, which is why we bought a big dining table, so we can have lots of people over for dinner. It was my birthday the other week and we managed to squeeze 17 people in. We had to match people with different chairs and stools depending on their height, which was quite funny. I really like cooking for big groups, as does Mark.

 

Mark and Rachel’s dining table (a John Lewis find) gets a lot of use, as the couple love to entertain. The chairs were found on eBay. The ceiling light is from Heal’s

 

Rachel and Mark eventually coaxed Claude out of hiding for us

 

Left: Treasured family photos | Right: The candelabra is left over from Mark and Rachel’s recent wedding. “We bought mismatched ones on eBay for the tables,” she says

 

The perfect hosts! What do you like to cook?

My favourite dishes tend to be Middle Eastern or Turkish. And I like making goulash soup. My dad’s parents were Czech and Hungarian, so I love food from that part of the world. My grandmother used to make the best roast duck with paprika and caraway seeds. I wish I had more of her recipes.

Delicious! Your home seems made for relaxed gatherings. Was that the kind of atmosphere you wanted to create?

I wanted it to be unique to us but but not in an eccentric way, just warm and personal. We’ve got a few different pieces from grandparents, and things I’ve picked up on my travels. I’m glad we didn’t have to buy everything new, as I love those treasures. Particularly pieces like pottery that my grandmother made. I use it as serveware when we have people over, which makes the occasion feel even more special.

 

Soft colours combine in the main bedroom. The bed and clothes valet are from MADE

 

Left: Rachel’s mum bought the white wicker chair over 30 years ago. The little mirror on the shelf behind it belonged to Rachel’s grandmother | Right: The whirling dervishes were a gift from the family Rachel stayed with in Konya, Turkey, which is a centre for Sufism

 

With a serious hankering for goulash, we headed out into the somewhat gloomy afternoon, reluctant to leave the cosiness of Rachel and Mark’s beautiful home… not to mention Claude the cat, who refused to acknowledge us at first, but became decidedly more friendly once we’d bribed him with a few biscuits. And no, we’re not above buying the affections of furry friends.

For more interiors inspo, head to Instagram, where you can find the visual diary of Rachel and Mark’s decorating journey at @tinkywinkymauve, or explore our other home portraits here.

Tess
Tess
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