Anouska Lancaster: ‘I Couldn’t Imagine Life Without My Dogs’

Sipping a herbal tea in her gorgeous and very colourful Family Room, award-winning interior designer Anouska Lancaster bends down to stroke her two dogs, cocker spaniel Otto, 6, and three-year-old cockapoo Stanley. ‘Life has been crazy busy the last few years,’ Anouska tells K9 Magazine. ‘But having these two monkeys has so helped in releasing stress. Otto may be the greediest dog on the planet and Stanley is obsessed by chasing pigeons, but they’re just gorgeous and bring so much joy.’

The glamorous TV presenter, who runs Noushka Design – a renowned interiors’ brand that encourages imagination and creativity – has renovated a host of well-heeled homes as well as nightclubs. She exudes a lovely, warm personality, exactly what you’d look for if you’re letting a stranger into your home to transform it. ‘I don’t have a separate work and home persona,’ she explains. ‘When I work with clients, they become part of my life as it’s an invite that requires trust, and I truly believe that it’s so important to get to know someone and their personality.’

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'
Credit: Dave Tuckett

The bubbly designer especially loves working with people who have dogs. ‘That’s always a bonus,’ she smiles. ‘There’s nothing better than getting a warm, crazy welcome from a pooch, especially as I really miss Otto and Stanley if I’m working away from home.’

Owning dogs is in Anouska’s blood. ‘I grew up with parents who showed Afghan Hounds, so we drove all over the country to competitions including Crufts, and when I was six-years-old I was crowned junior handler of the year in 1986.’

Regarding renovating a home when you have dogs, Anouska is full of great tips. ‘Make your home a mix of old and new, such as getting an old Chesterfield sofa for the dog to jump on. Also, use soft furnishings to make your home cosy which can be easily removed and cleaned to make areas dog friendly.’

She also advises renovating one room at a time - focusing on art or wallpaper that you love and work backwards. Using wipeable paints are brilliant for dogs and children, plus remember that patterned fabrics are great for hiding paw prints. ‘I love beds by George Barclay, they have a stunning range in fabulous colours which can be a great talking point in the room, our boys love theirs’

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'

Anouska lives with her husband Greig in a magnificent Victorian house in Berkshire with her two children from a previous relationship and Greig’s two children. Apart from their two dogs, she also loves riding Zak, a horse she loans in Windsor Great Park. From the outside her life may seem picture perfect, but Anouska has been through tough times.

‘Where we live now has been my favourite project. My husband and I bought it in 2014 to make a new life for ourselves,’ she explains, before adding,

"I came from a destructive marriage, so this home was a symbol of a new start for me and my children with Greig and his two children"

Hailed by Vogue as being one of the UK’s most influential interiors’ experts, Anouska relishes relaxing with her family and dogs in the home. ‘It was important to me that this place was a safe sanctuary which would be full of joy and happiness. We renovated it together, so it was a project that made the six of us as close as we are today; and cemented our beautiful blended family – with the dogs, of course!’

Chatting about Noushka Design, Anouska explains how it was created. ‘I was so bored of seeing uninspiring interiors that were dull and lifeless. I truly believe you should dress your house like you dress yourself, would you go out just wearing either beige or grey cotton? Honestly, life’s too short, go for bold and brave colours.’

The interiors guru is also adamant about breaking down the stigma that home design is an exclusive product. ‘There’s a common misconception that it’s purely for the rich and famous,’ she explains. ‘Interior design should not be class or wealth related. It’s important to be accessible to everyone.’ Anouska has worked for a few well-known clients, but ever the professional won’t divulge names.

‘People come from all walks of life and I’ve designed for an eclectic mix of clients, ranging from single bachelor DJ’s living in London to a family of six living on a farm in Berkshire.’

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'
Bed by George Barclay

Anouska and Greig love bringing the dogs down to Port Isaac in Cornwall where they’ve renovated two beautiful fishermen’s cottages, Hillside and Rose and they aim one day to make Rose Cottage their forever home once the children have flown the nest. ‘It’s just so beautiful and the dogs love running on the beach. They’re truly are the heartbeat of the house and I think we will always have dogs, I just couldn’t imagine life without them.’

Read the full K9 Magazine interview with Anouska Lancaster:

Kim: Hi, how are you?

A: Sorry, just grabbing a piece of paper just in case I'm making notes of anything. No, no, all good here. I hope that something's gonna come out a bit later. It's just a bit disappointing, the weather at the moment.

K: Yes, weird one, isn't it?  I'm quite happy when it's a bit cooler. I've got three dogs and my oldest is 14 and she struggles when it's properly hot. So, cooler weather is welcome in our house.

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'

A: And you know, it’s not the same when it's hot and you're not on holiday. You've got to have a pool and you work. It's not quite the same as having that sort of summer sunshine heat that you have on holiday. It's kind of not so easy to cope with it in the UK.

No, it's weird, isn't it? It must be to do with air conditioning or something, I guess. But yeah, it doesn't ever quite feel the same if you can't quite fully relax is it.

A: I know, we're the same. It's hard as it because there are some things available to book online but you’re never really sure if they can happen and flights are getting cancelled every day. We’re still waiting on refunds to other trips that we’re cancelled so I think we could stay a little longer.

I heard you have a lovely place in Cornwall?

A: Well we rented that out so that one's fully rented all summer out because it's such a demand for Cornwall. But we have got another one that we’re mid-refurb on. Well actually no, we’re coming to the end now so we're going down there tomorrow and taking furniture down. So we're gonna dress it. And hopefully, we'll manage as a family to spend a week or two down there in August when it's all finished. So, yeah, that's the drive. A bit of a summer holiday in Cornwall would be lovely.

In the photos, your dogs looked amazing. They looked so comfortable in front of the cameras. Wow.

A: It's so funny because I'm in my office now and they're both curled up together in that lovely sort of berry coloured dog bed. They absolutely love those dog beds. I can't even get them out of the dog beds. They're free to us the sofas because we use to have the rule that they weren’t allowed on the sofa and that gets broken every day, but they love the beds so much. So yeah, we've got our sofas back which is great. So yeah, they love them.

The photos from the shoot are amazing.

A: Dave is brilliant. He's so patient. He's dog mad and so he loves dogs. He's so patient and he photographs his dog all the time that he knows all the tricks to kind of get them to do what they’re told. But it was so funny because they were so hyped and excited when we started the shoot and you know, we can’t get them to lie down so excited.

And then when he packed up his camera and we were all finished, they were all so exhausted, they just collapsed into the dog bed and he sneakily got his camera back out of the car and that’s the best time isn’t it, like with children, when they think you’re not actually watching.
It’s the best time.

The pictures are gorgeous. And thank you for this opportunity. It's so lovely of you to include me and the doggies in the magazine. It's such an honour.

Oh, no worries. To be honest, a part of it is personal interest. I was really interested to find out about how you, because you use a lot of colours in your photos, so I thought, I was really interested to find out if there are any particular tricks of the trade as far as when you’re designing your home, if there’s particular textures or paints or colours or anything like that because I know that you pull a lot of design inspiration from the people you are designing homes for. But I thought that there may be some other things that some sort of tricks that you can give out to pet owners about, I wasn’t quite sure how, I mean I don't know about it so it’s kind of intriguing to me?

A: Well, yeah, that's right. Where I start is that obviously the client and I have to kind of get in tune with each other. For example, with my home and my style, I would always encourage them to start with a piece of art or a wallpaper or a fabric that they really love. And then we tend to go backwards from there, because I think, a lot of interior designers and people make the mistake where they come up with a colour scheme, and then they almost get it back to front because then they go looking for bits of art and wallpaper that matches in their head.

So, I would always say, find a wallpaper you absolutely love and then pull the colours from that piece of art because art, wallpaper and fabric really give a great insight to that person and what they're all about and you can tell an awful lot by their art.

So I would always encourage someone to pick that first and that would be the focal point and that gives me a really good starting point to sort of know their style and their taste.

Are there any other particular, because if you are a pet owner, it's kind of you have few more challenges that gets in or around the home with mess that gets chucked out or whatever it might be. Are there any particular tips or textures or any kind of guidance you would say if you have pets?

A: Definitely. My style, I would always mix old and new together because for me, that gives the best look. It gives that eclectic look. Everything doesn’t need to be matchy-matchy so to me I would always mix old and new and what I’ll try and do is anything that involves the dogs I would use for the olds.

For example, we have one room that has been photographed so much that it has won awards. But if you noticed the sofa is actually a blue vintage chesterfield leather and it’s really old. So that’s when I know the dogs are gonna end up on the sofa. So I chose the old element of the room to be the sofa, and then I don't need to be precious because I think there’s nothing worse. You know you want your home to look lovely because at the end of the day, it is a home, it's no show house.

I know, the dogs are gonna be on that. I know the kids are gonna spill ice cream on that sofa. We have to live in this house. So for me, a tip for dog owners is to pick or mismatch your interiors. Sort of pick your old elements with the back of your mind that there are the ones that are gonna be loved and used the most. So, in that room, there's a coffee table that is an old box. It's an old trunk and I put a piece of glass on top of it again.

So, it's gonna get bashed, it's going to be moved because of the pets and the dogs and it does. And sofa can get scratched and if anything, it doesn't matter if it gets scratched as it actually adds to the look.

The place that I am currently renovating at the moment, I've done the sofas beautifully. So I bought old sofas but I’ve upholstered them in faux leather and that means, I know that the dogs are going to the beach and I know they’re gonna be sandy, so I've done them in a pink faux leather which is wipe-clean that you can put throws over but they look beautiful because of the shape of them. So, that would be another tip is to pick shapes that are really striking.

With the materials, you know, be practical with your materials. So that the sofa has pink faux leather so they’re beautiful, and from a distance, you would think that it is a beautiful soft linen because of the softness of pink. But you can go light colours if you're using a leather or a faux leather.

I mean, that would be another tip, because people tend to think that if you've got pets, you have to go for dark colours. But if you're using a leather or a faux leather, you know, you can go for those light colours. If you don't like leather or faux leather, I would suggest go for a patterned fabric because it's much much easier to hide the stains and something with texture like a weave or something like that.

I would stay away from anything that's flat surface like a linen or a flat cotton because, you know, once you get a paw print on that, there's no going back. So, patterned fabrics are another great one specially if it’s got an abstract pattern, hides a multitude of stains. And then you might wanna go for new elements, something that isn't affected by the dogs, so your lamps, or your lampshade or the arts on the walls. So, it's just thinking about which bits are going to be old, which are going to be new, which are more expensive.

That sofa in that room would probably be £250 from Sunbury antiques market. But actually when you see the whole room together it looks very opulent and that’s because of mixing old and new and you don’t need to spend a lot of money on furniture and things. I mean, for me I really like bargain hunting. I love going to flea markets and preloved furniture stores.

Because you get items that are really interesting and I think your home has to be a collection of things that inspire you, of things that are beautiful. And if everything looks the same, it just ends up looking like a show house and there’s no interest, it needs to be a mix of textures and colours and patterns.

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'

With three dogs, my walls are always a nightmare. I always feel like I need to be washing them down or cleaning them. It’s a nightmare. Are there any particular types of paints that are better for others than pets or is wallpaper better than paint? Do you think as far as hiding those sins?

A: On our walls, because we’ve got lots of children as well, we use like bathroom, um, kitchen paints and something like a diamond finish on a paint is brilliant because it means it can be wipe-cleaned with a sponge. And we have a room in our house that is basically the dog’s bedroom and they go in there at night. And that’s painted in dark dark walls and they’re wipe-cleaned as well so we really catered for the dogs in that room.

I think it’s called a diamond finish or it could be an acrylic eggshell and it’s really great if you’ve got dogs. Again you don’t have to go dark with the walls, I mean it saves you wiping them all the time. But if you’ve got that wipe-able finish it’s a really top pick for children with sticky fingers or with dogs. With wallpaper as well, what I tend to do is try to put the wallpaper in areas where you’ve got furniture in front of it so that your children and your dogs are not sort of running their hands along it or kind of brushing up against it.

So again going back to that photo, the wallpapers on that back wall, there is a sort of a Singer sewing table in front of the wallpaper by the sofa and there is a chair and another table on the other side so actually the children and the dogs don’t get that close to the wallpaper but you could use a wallpaper and you could put a coating over it as well.

So I’ve done a wallpaper in the bathroom before and a lot of people get quite nervous using wallpaper in the bathroom because it can peel but actually if you put some sort of a soluble water proofer almost like a varnish over the top of it that then prevents condensation getting into it or marks getting into it. And it basically makes it water proof and wipe-able so you could always do that with wallpaper as well.

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'

That’s a really good tip.

A: Yeah, it works brilliantly in this bathroom that I did it with. Because it’s a small bathroom with lots of steam and it’s absolutely perfect, the wallpaper.

Wow, brilliant! I’ve got an old cottage, it’s about 300 years old and there’s 3 different areas too with the original part and another pretty old part and a part that’s about 3, 4 years old from there but the old part is kind of brilliant because it’s kind of a lot of old bricks and things and you know, the dogs can do what they want there. They can’t do anything to that.

A: Well I think it’s having that in mind, I think you have to be practical with designing your home and you have to be really realistic about where those dogs are gonna be spending their time so we know in that dog room it’s gonna get messy when we come in from overly muddy walk in the winter they go in there. They’re gonna jump up the door, we know that.

So you’re just gonna have to cater for that. And then there might be rooms in the house where you don’t let your dogs in and then I think you could be more flexible with the fabrics and your wall covering and floorings as well is another one. We have Karndean floor running through our whole ground floor because it’s so durable for the dogs.

It’s so easy to care for and then we have carpet upstairs and I say that the dogs are not allowed upstairs, that’s how we started. The dogs were not allowed upstairs and then slowly, the children, I think they do whatever they want when were not here. So the dogs do go upstairs but you can have practical flooring as well which is brilliant for that because it’s so durable with the claws, muddy feet. Again I would steer away from carpets in areas where the dogs are.

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'

Yeah, we’ve done everything wrong in that regard. Throughout the years I’ve kind of owned two Labradors which were cunning yellow, so golden. And then I had a Labrador and a Rottweiler and I’ve got 3 Black coated dogs but still got hair everywher apart from the main sort of kitchen conservatory area and so everywhere is just permanent shedding zones.

A: We dog sit for my sister-in-law and she’s got an old Lab so he sheds more than ever because he’s so old. And it’s just like white hair everywhere and I must say that on our Karndean floor we’ve got really really dark Karndean floors like very very dark brown and the I think people think what if your floor’s dark you can get away with it? Not when you’ve got white hair shedding, you could sort of see it’s like snowing in our house when he’s come to stay.

But it’s easy to sweep when you’ve got hard floors because it does get into the carpet and some people as well go for like that grass kind of cloth. But for me that’s not always ideal because dog’s hair can get easily stuck in that as well it kind of gets caught. In some ways, it’s easier to have some sort of a normal pile carpet because it hoovers up much easier.

But yeah, hard flooring is a bit of a safety net for the house because we’ve got 4 children, 2 dogs, there’s always people coming and going but that’s the beauty, I think when you renovate a house and you have that in mind I think you know these are things that you’ve learned along the way.

If you moved into a house and you need a new flooring, fair enough. But when you move to a house and it is the way it is and you don’t have plans to change it, you just have to do the best you can really. But we knew when we bought this house and we renovated from top to toe we kind of had it in the back of our mind that it had to be a house that was just gonna be lived in but beautiful at the same time as much as possible but it has to be a home. It can’t be a show house, you know, a home is not a home without dogs.

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'

Did you grow up around dogs?

A: Yes! I've always had dogs. It’s what made me laugh. My parents are dog mad. My Mom and Dad used to have Afghan Hounds. So, we had four Afghan Hounds when I grew up and I had a Lhasa Apso puppy for my sixth birthday. My parents used to take us all around the country doing dog showing, so I was dog handler of the year 1986 when I was six years old. And it's so funny because I used to show the Afghans and they were taller than me.

My Mom used to have to hide outside the ring because if the dogs saw her, they would just take off and take me across the dog ring. So yeah, I've always had dogs and every weekend, we would load the dogs and go showing all over the country. We used to drive everywhere. So we've always had dogs our whole lives, really. Which is, I’ve grown up with dogs which is lovely. But our dogs are easy maintenance Afghan Hounds and their coats, not so much!

Are they Otto and Stanley?

A: Yes.

Who's who? Which one is which?

A: Otto is the Cocker Spaniel, the blue roan Cocker Spaniel. And Stanley is the scruffy little Cockapoo. We've had Otto first. We got him in 2014 so he'll be six in September. And then Stanley is three. We got him afterwards because we just felt it would be lovely for Otto to have a friend. And they’re just inseparable. They're funny because such different characters.

Otto is so greedy. You've never met a more greedy dog. I mean he’s just obsessed with food. The kids call him Garfield, after the cat, because he’s just so obsessed. And Stanley is really fussy and isn’t bothered at all. So yeah, they're really different. They're just inseparable. They're just lovely around and the children just adored them. So, it is lovely having dogs at home.

How did you choose each of them? How did they come into your life then?

A: Ah, that's a good question. Well, Greg, my husband, he had a Cocker Spaniel before so he's always had dogs as well and his Cocker Spaniel had such a gorgeous temperament. So, we went for Otto first.

The children were so into it. I remember the girls at that time because they're 14 now. So, at that time, you know, they're much younger six years ago and they were so into it, they were doing PowerPoints about different coloured Cocker Spaniels because they were so excited.

And then just walking Otto we met some Cockapoos and you know, we love the temperament of the Cocker Spaniel but we'd loved these Cockapoos that we've met and they have lovely temperaments.

And actually we thought it would be nice to get a Cockapoo. So Stanley came along a little bit after and again, you know, just doing research, finding a good breeder. But yeah, I mean, I would have as many dogs as possible, but we’ve got a mad house as it is so four children and two dogs is enough to keep us busy here.

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'

What does a typical day look like for you, Stanley and Otto?

A: We set the alarm every morning and we would get up with the doggies and put them outside. We're lucky enough to have a really big garden that they can go charging around. And I tend to, you know, get stuck into when school is happening during the school run and dropping the children at school.

And then I tend to come back and do a couple of hours work and I can catch up on emails somewhere about eleven. And we normally go on a dog walk or I’ll take the dogs on a jog to get their energy levels out. And what we're trying to do is an evening dog walk with the children after school, particularly in the summer.

With lockdown, the dogs, we go for a really long lovely dog walks everyday. And actually, Otto was exhausted, I don’t think he would walk so far. I don't know if you saw those funny memes going around about dogs hiding from their owners because they didn't wanna go walking!

Stanley has so much energy, and Stanley is very athletic. He could just walk, walk, walk. He doesn't even just walk, he trots everywhere when we go on a walk. But poor Otto, he's more about the food in his life and less about the walking, I mean, he loves his walks but he gets tired a lot quicker and he gets really hot as well and he would go and find a muddy, wet puddle somewhere and we'll go lie on it which to cool himself down.

He loves his little walk of the day but I must say that during lockdown he was exhausted. So I think lives have gone back to normal now. There’s more of a balance being back at work and a bit more back to normal, but they have their little walk everyday. And in the evening, Stanley will get in his position on the sofa although now, it's on the dog bed, he loves the new dog beds.

About 6 o'clock, we’ll get them on the sofa and he’ll lie upside down with his legs straight up in the air and will just not move all night he has his spot and even if Otto tries to get in his spot he’ll give a little growl to say back off, that this is my end of the sofa and he doesn’t move.

He literally doesn't move all night. And Otto is the complete opposite. Otto will just follow the children around the house. He always wants to be with someone. He doesn't like being left. He doesn't like his own space. And Otto is so obsessed with food so much that he's always got his head in the dishwasher.

He's always got his head in the cupboard, he always around the children’s legs when eating. And hovering around the table. So they have such different characters. It's really sweet. Otto is never, never still. He’s never really relaxing, always up and down, he's always guarding the backdoor.

He’s always up at the backdoor looking out for foxes, looking out for birds. And Stanley is so chilled, he wouldn’t even notice that a song bird’s broken into the house. But I think Otto has got that real protective streak, he feels it’s his job to guard the house, he’ll never relax, he’s always checking all the doors. He's really cute. They're very cute in their own ways.

I grew up with a Cocker Spaniel. And she was a show Cocker Spaniel which I think Otto is looking at his pictures. And she was food obsessed as well but she also refused to walk sometimes. We take her out and she just put the brakes on, she doesn't move , we had to pick her up and she kinda enjoyed being carried.

But she was so clever. I mean, she was really sneaky when it came to food. She'd make a hole in a bottom of a bag of food. Then you'd go out and she'd come outside and check where you were. She'd then sneak back inside and start working away at the hole in the food bag, treating it like her personal dog food dispenser.

A: They are so clever Cocker Spaniels. And cunning. Otto is really so clever. And Stanley’s a little bit less so, he’s not very bright, Stanley. Otto is so clever. And if they’ve got a bone, Otto is greedy, just keeps going on it until it's gone if it’s one of those sort of chewy ones. But he will go and hide it in the garden, away from Stanley.

And he’ll know exactly where it is. He's just so switched on. Whereas Stanley, I mean bless him, he’s away with the fairies, I think most of the time. Otto could eat his bone as well but I don’t think he’d notice. I think he’s just too horizontal but it’s funny isn’t it they all have their own characters and how different they are. It's so sweet.

Anouska Lancaster: 'I Couldn't Imagine Life Without My Dogs'

And I think they could change over time as well. I mean, I've got three dogs just now. My oldest has been pretty similar. She's always quiet the same to what she is now and has always been. But my two boys they've changed as they got older. Christopher’s far more annoyed at shadows of people who walk past the window than he ever used to be. It is funny how they do change as well as they get older. You kinda see the dynamic change with them as well.

A: Well, yeah, definitely. Actually Otto does that as well. He's more one of a boss than the other one. But I mean, when we first got Stanley, Otto was not impressed at all. He hated him. Every time Stanley got on the sofa, he got off. He stayed away, and poor little Stanley had to chase him on and on and on around the garden. Now though they are absolutely inseparable.

I’m looking at them now, they’re both snuggled up in that bed. They love being with me the whole time so that’s why it’s so lovely. I put the dog bed in the office because normally it’s so distracting when I'm at my desk and the doors keep on opening and closing because they keep on coming in and out, whereas now I put the dog bed in here, they can hear my voice and they know I’m here, they would just sleep in the dog bed by my desk. It's much more peaceful. It really chilled them out.

That's good. Glad they like the beds. There’s not many brands that make colourful dog beds, to be honest.

And so when I thought of you I thought those ones would probably be perfect because they do tend to be kind of a bit brighter or you can kind of choose neutral tones with them if you already have quite a bright room and you’re looking for something that fits in.

A: They’re gorgeous. Actually Stanley is a chewer as well.

And he’s always chewed every dog bed that we've had so that’s why I didn't want to even open the dog beds before the photo-shoot and afterwards, I was worried that he was gonna chew them, but for some reason, this is the only dog bed we've ever had that he’s not chewed. It's really interesting because before these dog beds came, they've had these hard beds that we just fill with blankets because every foam-filled sort of bed. Stanley loves eating things he’s not allowed to.

It's really bizarre, he's not chewed it or marked it. He obviously realised that, you know, he shouldn’t destroy the thing that he loves. It's only taken three years! But you know, they're beautiful, really gorgeous. And then the little scarfs were really cute as well that we put them in the shoot.

Bandanas tend to look quite nice in photos don’t they?

A: Yes! It was such a fun morning and we actually had a little bit of sunshine as well which is quite incredible.

And finally. If you had one question you could ask your dog, what would it be and what do you hope they'd say?

I'd ask, if you could have one wish for a day, what would it be?

Otto: To be able to eat all day, with an endless supply of food.

Stanley: To be invisible for a day, so I could catch the pigeons in the garden!

Thank you very much Anouska.

A: Thank you. Bye!

Anouska was talking with Kim O'Meara.

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