Meet Lucinda Oakes
For more than 20 years, Lucinda Oakes has been creating wallpapers, screens, panels and fabrics, inspired by traditional trompe-l’oeil designs as well as the rich patterns of classical chinoiserie. Her commissions run the gamut from small pieces for private residences to large-scale installations.
My style comes directly from a childhood watching my father, George Oakes, at work. He was head designer and bespoke painter at Colefax and Fowler and often worked from home. Although I gained an MA in fine art, it was my father who taught me the techniques involved in decorative painting, sending me to the South of France to fulfil a commission he didn’t really want to take on as he’d recently retired. As a novice, painting directly onto someone’s walls was nerve-racking, but I loved the work straightaway.
I spend most of my time in my studio if I’m not working on site. Here, I paint large watercolours depicting subjects such as foliage and flowers, rustic garden buildings and fountains.
However, the materials I use depends on the project. Distemper is especially beautiful and powdery soft to look at, despite being a difficult medium to master. Oil on silk is also tricky, but immensely satisfying to work with as you can make lovely brushy marks, while achieving incredible detail. I enjoy painting on a large scale. It is challenging to make an entire room work in terms of colour and scale, but great to see a big piece of work come together. I use oils to paint fireboards (boards that sit in front of the fireplace when it is not in use), to create a traditional looking still life or trompe-l’oeil, and on silk. Bigger works sucks as folding screens, large paintings, wall coverings and murals require water-based emulsions and acrylic paint.
A couple of years ago I was commissioned to paint a large ballroom in a château on the Côte d’Azur. I was asked to give the huge white room the look of the interior of a rustic Italian church. My team of three painters and I transformed it into a trompe-l’oeil panelled room of multiple types of fantasy marble, in shades of soft greens, greys and whites. The distemper we used gait it a hazy, magical feel, as shafts of life shone through it oeil-de-boeuf windows.
I previously worked on making a scenic painted wallpaper for a house in the USA. I worked on it for several months here in my studio and rolled it up to be shipped to the States. I then travelled there to oversee the installation, touch in joins and add a few extra details here and there.
Although I’ve yet to paint a mural for my own house, I’ve had something in mind for the sitting room ever since we moved in more than a decade ago. Whether or not I will ever find the time to do it I don’t know, as being a working mother is pretty time-consuming. For now, we have a large colour sketch that I made for a fireboard up on the wall and that adds character to the room.
Lucinda Oakes, lucindaoakes.com.
Photography/ Alun Callender