One step ahead of the crowd, interior designer, presenter of BBC3’s Flat Out Fabulous, DJ and former pop star Whinnie Williams has transformed her home into a personal homage to 1970s, mid-century disco glam – with an Elvis room thrown in for good measure. “I’ve always loved the 1970s, the experimentalism, the colours, the textures and shapes,” she says.
Step into her five-bedroom Victorian townhouse on a quiet street in Margate and the 70s vibe is evident – wooden panelling, textured walls, gold swan-head taps, sunken beds and shag pile. Yet the most extraordinary detail is the cost: much of what you see is secondhand.
With a background in set design, Williams also creates wallpaper and fabric collections for her interiors brand, Poodle & Blonde (www.poodleandblonde.com). Co-founded with Kierra Campbell, the look of P&B is influenced by a mix of mid-century, 1970s earthy tones and a passion for animals. A collaboration with Made.com all but sold out and they have also worked with Soho House and Mama Shelter.
When she bought this house with her husband, the director Tom Dream – who recently directed the Gucci campaign starring modern train-spotter and TikTok star, Francis Bourgeois – it was broken up into bedsits with few surviving original features. They embarked on a transformation to restore the building to its roots as a Victorian family house. Today it functions as home, location house and studio for the couple and their pets: two poodles, eight rabbits, two guinea pigs and a handful of chickens.
Williams explains that she is inspired by icons from the last century, the likes of Serge Gainsbourg, Françoise Hardy and Peggy Lee driving her vision. “I love a feminine world with iconic women, massive hair, eyelashes and thigh-high boots – really glam. I always feel like an explorer of genres and eras,” she says.
This exploration into the culture of the 20th century is key to both Williams’s interior aesthetic and her personal style. The dining room has a distinct Wes Anderson feel to it, with a smoky glass-topped, geometric dining table and chairs, complete with brass edging and brown upholstery. They found it for £30 in a local charity shop, alongside a G Plan cabinet fitted with an original turntable. The ceiling lights are from a Chiswick car boot. A graphic backdrop of green and gold wallpaper from Woodchip & Magnolia completes her nod to cine chic.
Williams’s skill at working on a budget is legendary. Flat Out Fabulous, aimed at Generation Rent, will, according to fellow presenter DJ Tyler West, “turn a nasty yard into a sick pad without rinsing your wallet.” Williams says: “It’s important to work out what you want to do inside your house – hosting, drinks, dancing. Then design the room with that in mind and make it a proper home, not a show home.”
In the sitting room, which is designed for karaoke and pets, a vast brown sofa bought for £200 is her favourite purchase. “It is such a good chill space; eight people can sit on it, it’s massive and I like that it is battered, gross and old and you don’t have to worry about spilling anything on it.” The flooring is a utilitarian Forbo, a material usually used in schools, but here Williams has made it feel stylised and chic.
The entrance hall sports a dramatic matt black staircase with P&B’s signature dalmatian-spot paper on the walls. Upstairs, her recently completed Elvis room includes a carpeted sunken bed, complete with integrated record player and gold lamé ceiling. “I wanted each room to have an obvious purpose, for people to be taken to another place when they come here, and for it to feel special,” she says.
The bathroom has a thick 1960s amber-tinted glass door which opens into a sugar-pink retro bathroom, another online find. She found the sink and loo on eBay, pictured covered in dirt and dumped outside, and snapped them up, along with a set of gold swan-head taps and Italian marble tiles.
She is also partial to a theme, and so the main bedroom is inspired by Margate’s subterranean shell grotto. A plastic fireplace, picked up for £10, is covered with thousands of shells. She painted the ceiling a pale pink pearlescent – “ceilings are always overlooked” – and hand painted the murals. Her vast, sky-blue velvet shell bed with brass trim was an Etsy find and includes a matching dressing table and stool. “I never get bored of this room, it is a mixture of art deco, the 80s, French, a bit 70s, it is really every bit of my personality and it feels calming. I love waking up here.”
A lack of concern with fashions or fads means the house feels truly original. “People think it comes easy, but it is a real process. You’re going to make a mistake, fuck it up with a bad floor; that is part of the journey. Be brave, paint over it. Just don’t rush, take your time.” As Elvis said, “A little less fight and a little more spark, close your mouth and open your heart.”