Most people will tell you to “make yourself at home” out of politeness when you visit their house. But when friends invited the designer Wendy Morrison at their Georgian farmhouse in Dunbar, Scotland, she took the invitation literally. Well, well, not right away: her hosts were getting ready to move to Houston at the time, while Wendy and her family were planning their return to the seaside town after a few years in France. It was a happy coincidence that the house was soon available. “I will always remember this visit. It felt like home,” she recalls. “There’s a long hallway, the sun was shining…it reminded me of the house I grew up in.”
In 2017, Wendy and her husband, Gregor, bought the place but delayed the renovation. Instead, they decided to live with his slightly restless disposition. “When you live in an old house, you realize it was designed specifically that way for a reason,” she explains. “This is how it works.”
Getting creative with patterns has always come naturally to Wendy, who remembers buying clothes from charity shops in her hometown of Edinburgh as a child, cutting them up and turning them into different clothes. After designing everything from womenswear to sportswear to leisurewear for a range of brands and then freelancing, in 2004 she turned to interiors and founded her own company (well that she made a recent fashionable comeback for her collaboration with Monoprix). “I understand that a lot of people use the word maximalist to describe my style,” she says, “but I think it’s just a term that’s popular right now.
These days, she renders her jungle-inspired prints (when there’s an opportunity to add birds to a design, she takes it) into silk rugs and wallpaper. The latter can be found in nearly every room in his home, skillfully and delicately hung by his go-to installer, Barry, who insists on being there even when the panels are cut. “He gets pretty nervous about it,” she laughs. In the main living room, Wendy wrapped the walls in her Mandela Treatment, which features a slender black tree on a pale gold background. The birds perched on the long branches seem to have jumped on the surface of the Leopard zebra palms carpet on the floor, a piece she created in a nod to the flamboyant decors of Tony Duquette.
“It looks like there’s a lot going on, but the black and white of the zebra is very grounded,” she says. In fact, she used a heavy dose of black paint throughout the house (the main staircase is painted a rich charcoal color) to keep everything from looking overwhelming. The whimsical doses of pattern introduce a playful energy but, in some spaces, like the living room-office with the leopard-print sofa, they’re there to mask the horrors.
“It hides dog hair pretty well,” Wendy notes. Also handy for hiding messes? All the antique screens she can quickly wedge in front of a cluttered table or a pile of backpacks on the floor.
Considering how fragile it all is, guests are surprised to learn that Wendy shares the space with three men (in addition to Gregor, their two sons, ages 13 and 16). “They’re so big and strong you think they could get into anything,” she says. “So I wonder how long things will last.” With the exception of a brand new giant TV that Gregor recently bought to watch the World Cup, Wendy pretty much has free rein on everything interior, like filling the house with hand-stitched silk light fixtures. hand by BeauVamp. The artist, Alice, and Wendy struck up a friendship via Instagram and will often trade rugs for fringe lamps.
While Wendy wants to honor the original bones of the house, a kitchen makeover is on her to-do list. From a functional point of view, the space simply does not meet the needs of the family. “There isn’t enough work space in our closets,” she notes. Plus, it’s isolated from the rest of the house, so the goal is to eventually move the cooking area to the front of the building. Currently, cosmetic upgrades in the form of black paint, fresh buttons, and a single sheet of brass get the job done.
In the master bedroom, a flamingo pink suspension by coldharbour lights plays on the opulent accent wall which is covered in Wendy’s quaint, shimmering paint Joy of living treatment. “I think that’s the key to a bedroom,” she says, “having a sanctuary where you can hopefully rest and refresh.” She also worked the green in the family bathroom, coating the paneling in an almost lime-green hue and painting the tub accordingly. “Green works well in a bathroom because I always feel like there’s too much energy from the water,” she continues. “It balances everything.”