Nicola O’Mara is best known for her fabulous coastal property renovations along with her choice of perfectly tailored furnishings and carefully thought-out styling. Here we discuss how to create the best cosy cottage ambience for Autumn/Winter 2022:

Autumn in Cornwall is just magical and one of the best times to visit. The winds are wild, the walks are exhilarating, the beaches deserted, the waves captivating and the pubs and restaurants are welcoming and cosy. You can walk all day and watch the everchanging, colour of the ocean and then nestle down in the evening with a good old fashioned film or book; light the candles and feel like you’ve escaped the crazy, busy life of work and the city…”

Nicola Omara, Designet

NO: ”Living and working in Cornwall, we’re either surrounded by light, bright and contemporary new builds, or gorgeous little cosy Cornish fishermen cottages. These properties tend to be quite small and dark, so rather than trying to whiten the interior, which many people do, I try and work with its natural atmosphere, I enhance and embrace the darker spaces by adding moody colours and tones. White can sometimes make the cottages seem cold and hard, but I find that adding a dark colour to the walls, creates a beautiful and cosy atmosphere; it’s like being wrapped up in a soft woollen blanket, creating that hugge feeling. We’ve worked on many cosy cottages, but a few of our recent projects which can be viewed on our website are; Grandad’s Cottage, located in The Lizard; Hideaway Cottage in Port Isaac and Kilter House down in Coverack…

C&B: ”Which fabrics and colours do you use to create an inviting autumnal ambience?”

NO: ”When we’re designing interiors, we always take into consideration the properties style, its location and inspiring qualities. We focus on natural materials and fabrics, so if the property is located near woods or trees, we suggest greens, browns, rustic autumnal colours and shades, that coincide with its surroundings. We love to play with darker muted tones, but add a brighter colour or texture as an accent to lift the whole design. I’m a great lover of wool, natural linens, felts and textured weaves when designing cottages – they work so well against the naturals materials of slate and stone that you often find in an old cottage…”

C&B: ”How do you suggest altering the styling of a property from summer season to autumn?”

NO: ”When it comes to styling properties for the winter, we bring out and enhance those gorgeous rustic tones and colours in the form of chunky knits, hats, tweed jackets and wellies, we combine this with mugs of hot chocolate, cakes and biscuits which sit next to an open wood fire. The interiors are dressed with dried flowers, catkins, bluebells and ivy, which seamlessly sit beside a large scented candle…”

C&B: ”Which brands do you find are best sources for the fabrics, paints and accessories?”

NO: ”I love to visit Chelsea Harbour in London and be inspired by all the new and exciting fabric collections each season, and I also visit Maison et Objet in Paris every September too. This is a huge trade fair which takes days to walk around, but it is so worth it. I return every visit with new suppliers and list of products that I’m inspired to use in our next project. I combine my interiors with a selection of paint suppliers, but I do love to use Farrow & Ball paint, as well as The Little Greene Company; their colours are so muted, soft and chalky, which really suits the interiors here in Cornwall…”

C&B: ”Are there any special elements that you introduce to ensure the environment is relaxing ie candles, cushions, log fires…”

NO: ”I dim the lights, light the candles and you can never have too many candles – I learnt that from visiting Cophenhagen in the winter! Add large plants in aged, large and rustic urns and use varying height hurricane lamps around the room, for interest. I throw in more cosy cushions, the ones you want to cuddle and sink into and add soft and tactile throws and blankets. I light the fire, pour the red wine, open the delicate box of wickedly tempting chocolates, pop on cosy socks and then immerse myself into a well worn book…”

C&B: ”You make that sound so welcoming… we love log fires and it’s always interesting to see how they’re stored; which type of log storage do you suggest?”

NO: ”Ideally reclaimed rustic log baskets, that have been locally sourced; I always opt for large baskets, always large! There’s nothing worse than a small basket of logs! Sometimes I stack the wood safely near the fire so it can dry out and its therefore easier to burn. If I’m designing an interior from new, then I opt for a specifically designed log space, be it a column next to the wood burner or a space under a floating shelf – this can act as a piece of art, focal point and can add interest to a room…”

My favourite of all flowers is the Verbena Bonariensis, it is a rather wiry perennial, but is incredibly strong when the wind blows, the colour is magical and it also attracts birds, bees and butterflies…”

Nicola Omara

C&B: ”The scent of a log fire burning is fabulous in winter; still on the subject of indoor/outdoor vegetation, which garden plants are best for a coastal location in the colder months?”

NO: ”There aren’t many plants that can survive the wild Atlantic winds in the winter, so sadly there are not that many that thrive in Cornwall – many are burnt by the salt air. One of the most sturdy and evergreen plants in the area is the Rosemarinus (above left), which is a type of Rosemary. It’s so pretty and it smells beautiful too; it grows along walls and hedgerows and creates amazing shapes and is a perfect addition to that winter BBQ!”

ABOVE: (left) a dish by Nathan Outlaw; (right) desert from The Pandora Inn

C&B: “Talking of delicious meals, can you suggest any cosy restaurants, hotels or bars in your area that are perfect for autumnal visits?”

NO: ”There are so many amazing places to eat around Cornwall and I have probably visited most of them. One of may absolute favourites is Nathan Outlaws restaurant in Port Issac, along with ‘The Mariners’ in Rock. Traditionally there is the ‘Port Gaverne Inn’, where you can sit next to a large open fire and enjoy a glass of wine and then there is ‘The Old Coastguard’ in Mousehole and ‘The Pandora Inn’ in Mylor…”


C&B: ”On a personal level, what do you wear on site visits in the Autumn months ie coats, gloves, boots, hats?”

NO: ”The winters in Cornwall can be very cold, the wind piercing, the building sites dangerous and we are prone to large hailstorms, so I always wear a good, thick and warm waterproof coat and a pair of fur lined boots with wool socks. I am a huge fan of winter clothing and I love thick woolly jumpers, jeans and hats and sheepskin mittens. I have short jackets for site visits and long full-length padded coats for house visits. Sometimes my scarves are so long, that they wrap around my head two or three times; I need to be covered up from head to toe!”


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