Escape to the country: why Pearl Lowe swapped London for leafy Frome

Having spent the 90s in a whirlwind of parties, drugs and depression, Pearl Lowe swapped Primrose Hill for Somerset, where she found solace in the county’s slower pace of life. As she launches a new book dedicated to her interior design feats, she discusses maximalism, addiction and her daughter Daisy

6 March 2020

Nobody could accuse Pearl Lowe of being understated. In her home in Frome, Somerset, it’s hard to know where to look first. In the living room, a tiger print ottoman vies with a floral sofa for attention, its black twisted tassels brushing against an equally vivid red antique carpet. In the master bedroom — one of 11 — a velvet bed frame in bottle green provides a full stop to an otherwise endless stream of pink, while the bathroom continues the sugarplum theme with cherry blossom zigzag tiles by Bert and May.

To say the house has been a labour of love for Lowe is perhaps putting it lightly; three years in, she’s on her third transformation. “It drives me mad; I hate the way I am,” she cries, putting her head in her ring-embellished hands. “My kids get really upset because I constantly change their bedrooms; my son went off to university and when he came back his room was so girly he wouldn’t go back in it.

Photography by Amy Neusinger, ©CICO Books

Born in London in 1970, Pearl Lowe’s path to designer wasn’t the most natural of trajectories. Back in the 90s, she was the front woman of the otherwise all-male indie band Powder and a prominent member of the Primrose Hill set, a group of celebrity socialites that included Sadie Frost, Kate Moss and Jude Law.

“I loved being on stage for that one hour, but I hated being the only girl,” she admits of her music career. “It was really tough; travelling on a bus with loads of sweaty men was just really not appealing, and there was all the other bullsh*t that went with it. “If I was in a band now, I would 100 per cent employ a girl to come on tour with me. That’s why I didn’t last. I was quite violated and I just felt really victimised. I was a strong, powerful girl and the press would try and bring me down; it was vile.”

Rock and roll tales of Lowe’s heroin and cocaine addiction kept the newspapers keen, the gossip further exacerbated by paternity rumours concerning her supermodel daughter, Daisy (Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale was revealed to be her father in 2004).

Today, in a coffee shop in Paddington, not far from her former stomping ground, Lowe admits she wouldn’t recognise her old self now. “I’ve been 15 years sober, so it’s a really long time ago; I’m normally in bed by 9pm now,” she laughs. “When people show me interviews from back then, it honestly feels like a different person.”

Indeed, her life in Frome sounds positively idyllic in comparison. When she moved there 15 years ago with her husband, Supergrass drummer Danny Goffey, and their three children, Alfie (23), Frankie (20) and Betty (14), her friends didn’t think they’d go the distance, so engrained were they in the London lifestyle. Today, they “thank the gods we made the great escape”.

Swapping the stage for Somerset allowed Lowe to channel her energy into a different passion: design. As a child she would rip out pages of Vogue and craft sweatshirts for her mother’s Covent Garden boutique, but a love of music blindsided her to her sartorial talents. Her passion for vintage clothes inspired her first fashion line, a collection of lace dresses that were sold in Liberty of London and The Cross in Notting Hill. Her designs caught the eye of high-street retailer Peacocks, and in 2010 they launched a sell-out collection that was worn by the likes of Courtney Love, Holly Willoughby and Natalie Imbruglia.

Photography by Amy Neusinger

“It was a blessing but also one of those things you regret slightly,” she admits now. “I learnt so much, and people tell me they still buy the collection on eBay. But stupidly I didn’t hang onto my high-end stuff, and it was really hard to go back into that world.”

She took a break from fashion after Peacocks went into administration, honing her interiors style and building up a collection of clients and contacts in the process. She briefly ventured into childrenswear, creating a collection of dressing up clothes inspired by her youngest daughter Betty, before relaunching her eponymous brand of bespoke dresses — vintage-inspired (of course), and made to flatter every woman.

“I’ve always been a curvy girl; I’ve got boobs and a bum and I just don’t look nice in high-street stuff. Lots of my friends buy from Zara but I always end up looking like a balloon,” she jokes. “That’s why I have to make my own dresses – they’re the only ones that flatter me. And if they flatter me, they’re going to flatter the whole nation.”

Daisy Lowe in Gold Shimmer Edith

They certainly flatter her daughter Daisy, who models all of Lowe’s designs. As a fashion designer, having a supermodel in the family must be handy, although Lowe, whose son Alfie is also in the public eye thanks to his band Cousns, admits she would prefer her children to have more conventional jobs.

“I would love to keep my children out of the limelight,” she says. “It’s really annoying actually. I don’t think it necessarily brings you joy. I would have liked them to have had regular careers and not be self-employed; it’s a hard life — but my husband Danny and I have been very relaxed parents. We’re not very strict, and very much try to make them live their own lives and see what works for them.”

She did impart one pearl of wisdom to Daisy, however – invest in property. “I pressurised Daisy to buy a house really early on and she’s so happy now,” she says. “It’s really important to invest, even if it’s just a little bit. We’ve always owned our own place — even if it’s been by the skin of our teeth.”

It’s her own home that inspired the launch of a new book, Faded Glamour, which riffs on Lowe’s unique brand of “gloriously decadent yet well-lived-in” style. Her 18th-century, Grade II listed house has such a fairytale charm it could have been plucked from the mind of Hans Christian Andersen. Whimsical turrets, yellow Bath stone and scalloped slates perfectly complement Lowe’s maximalist interior design.

Along with the designer’s house, the book showcases eight homes cherry-picked from her group of equally enchanting friends — jewellery designer Solange Azagury-Partridge, fashion designer Alice Temperley, and gallerists Manuela and Iwan Wirth are among the contributors. Theirs is a style that mirrors Lowe’s: maximalist with a vintage twist.

“Some people can’t stand what I do; it’s loads of patterns and textures and it’s too much for the brain to take in,” Lowe says of her taste. “I just go on my gut; that’s how I’ve always decorated.”

Gut instinct is a mantra Lowe lives by (“I’ve really learnt now, just don’t listen to other people”) and it seems to be working for her. Next in the pipeline is a jewellery collection, although she remains tight-lipped on the details, and a potential second interiors book that further explores the concept of faded glamour.

Photography by Amy Neusinger, ©CICO Books

“I’d also love to write a follow-up to my autobiography,” she adds, referring to All That Glitters, which was published in 2007, “because that was written so many years ago and people are only finding it now, which is quite embarrassing. I was in a dark place at that time; I was newly sober.” I ask her if she regrets writing it, and she shakes her head. “I don’t think you should ever regret anything,” she says. “I just think if I had waited a couple of years it would have been a very different book — you get labelled a little bit, and it’s hard to be labelled something you’re not.”

That chapter of Lowe’s life is finished now, a distant memory amidst a new era of country walks and teenage quibbles about bedroom designs. As we say our goodbyes, she jumps up from her seat, thrilled she’ll have time to make the same train as her son Alfie – back to Frome, to her family and to her fairytale home.

Faded Glamour: Inspirational Interiors and Beautiful Homes by Pearl Lowe is out now, £19.99, www.pearllowe.co.uk