InigoInigo Logo

A Room of One’s Own: Tamsin Saunders’s ‘treehouse’ garden studio

Leafy, sequestered and bower-like, Tamsin Saunders’s west London studio is somewhat more arboreal than most, despite being firmly rooted to the ground. Built around a stately chestnut tree and lined with reclaimed wood, it’s a testament to the possibilities of inviting the outside in – and a reflection of the interior designer’s entirely singular approach to space

Sophie Sims
Sarah Rainer/Emli Bendixen
A Room of One’s Own: Tamsin Saunders’s ‘treehouse’ garden studio

Tamsin Saunders has a way of finding beautiful things, just as they have a habit of finding their way to her. She shows me a photograph she took on a walk with her cocker spaniel, Raffi, this morning, of some greeny-yellow moss glowing in the sunlight against the vibrant red bricks of an old wall. “This would be a colour palette for me,” she says. She zooms in, making the picture a blur of pea and rust: “I’m always looking for the beauty in things. In everything; even in the tiny little things.”

Nature, “the greatest artist of all”, is something Tamsin finds particularly easy to see the beauty in. And it’s central to her practice: “When a client asks me, ‘Does this green go with that green?’ I say, ‘Well, look at the leaves outside.’” Tamsin’s approach to interiors seeks to dissolve the boundary between the outside and the inside, inviting the natural world into rooms – whether that be tonally or more literally, as demonstrated by the assortment of dried-up horticultural delights lined up on the windowsill of her garden studio, the reason I’m here. “Home is a feeling – it’s about all the senses, so I like allowing the light, colours, tactility and patterns of nature to seep into the essence of every room.”

Home and Found, which Tamsin set up in 2013, works with clients to created spaces that feel “personal, gentle and warm”, making them “more generous, kind and truer to those that live in them.” The language that Tamsin uses to describe her work often returns to the natural world; Ellsworth Kelly’s quote that “art is a fruit that grows in man, like fruit on a plant” is used on Home and Found’s website and she tells me that she often describes decorating as being like “building nurturing nests” for her clients.

Tamsin’s garden studio is a nest of sorts. Hidden beneath feathery vines of old man’s beard, it feels as though it’s been at least partly reclaimed by nature. “I wanted it to feel hidden, almost like it had sunk into the garden,” she says. Built around a mature chestnut tree, the studio has a hand-carved door, originally part of a Victorian folly, that looks like it’s covered in bark. Inside, roof lights are set among the chestnut’s boughs, fostering the illusion of being in a treehouse. “I like rooms to feel connected to and part of the landscape,” Tamsin muses as we gaze up past reclaimed-wood cladding at the leaves above. “I wanted this studio to feel as if it had literally grown up around the tree.” Her love of the outdoors is deep-rooted: “My parents gave me a patch in the garden when I was around seven. I grew lettuce and radishes from seed.” Nature has remained a perennial passion: “The garden is definitely my favourite room.”

When sitting in Tamsin’s studio, it’s easy to think of the glorious textiles, patterns and colours used in Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s home at Monk’s House, or Charleston. But, Tamsin tells me, the true inspiration is the originality of the Bloomsbury Group, rather than the motifs: “The homes of artists and architects are special because they are so original. What they created was a singular, personal response to what they were seeing, to the colours, the light and the beauty of the world around them.” 

Tamsin’s approach is similarly experiential. She shows me photographs of tiled walls, turrets and arches from a trip to the Alhambra in Granada. Captivated by their gently faded patterns and ornately carved surfaces, she and her eldest daughter Freya (who also uses the studio to hand-painted reclaimed lamps, which she sells through her business, Black Lion Workshops) block-printed the walls using potato stamps. The intricate patterns that run around windows, doors and along the tops of the walls are Freya’s original designs too, inspired by things Tamsin and her late partner, Simon, encountered on their travels, including some 13th-century cave paintings.

Although an embodiment of Home and Found’s approach, the studio has been shaped by those around Tamsin, including her children and Simon. Another hand-painted detail on the wall is based on designs she and Simon once saw in a Cornish church, a “magical building that had been hidden away in the dunes for hundreds of years”. Simon, along with Tamsin, is responsible for finding many of the objects adorning the space; the pair would often visit markets in England and beyond in search of the beautiful and the rare.

There are an astounding number of once-in-a-lifetime antique finds in here, from a pair of painted chairs once belonging to the late sculptor Elisabeth Frink, to a collection of Welsh lovespoons and pottery. Tamsin delights in wondering about the history of an object and about the person who crafted it. “I love the beauty of things made by hand. I always say to my clients, ‘If you like it, if you can afford it and if it fits, get it, because you will never see it again.’”

This appreciation of the one-off and the hand-crafted is the crux of Home and Found: “With all the houses I’ve designed, there’s nothing that could have come from a shop.” There’s something in the fortuity of paths crossing that excites Tamsin: “I love discovering things that were previously lost or discarded, almost like orphaned objects, and finding new homes for them, where they will be treasured and loved once more.” Through her business, she has been able to pass on her enthusiasm – and talent for finding – to others. “I’m drawn to things that other people won’t have noticed and I’m attracted to them because they are different or unpredictable. I love things that aren’t obvious – it’s the randomness that I embrace… And, sometimes, the mystery of it all, too.”

Further reading

Home and Found

Home and Found on Instagram

Feeling inspired?

InigoInigo Logo

Like what you see?

From decorating tips and interior tricks to stories from today’s tastemakers, our newsletter is brimming with beautiful, useful things. Subscribe now.