Earlier this year, it was reported that Carrie Symonds – fiancé to Prime Minster Boris Johnson – had enlisted the help of interior designer Lulu Lytle to renovate the family flat at 11 Downing Street. And with the Daily Mail reporting that the refurbishment have cost ‘over a hundred grand,’ our interest into the newly-decorated Downing Street was certainly piqued.
The story well and truly blew up after Dominic Cummings claimed in an expansive blog post that Boris Johnson, concerned about the rising costs of the refurbishments, attempted to get Tory donors to pay for the work, looked at setting up a trust to cover the cost of refurbishments of the flat about 11 Downing street, before apparently covering the cost of the work himself. While it is unclear if the Prime Minister took out a loan to cover the £58,000 he owed (there are claims that Tory party HQ paid the Cabinet Office the outstanding amount) it did lead to an investigation by the Electoral commission.
Now though, Boris Johnson's interior designer is in the news yet again - and it's not for a much better reason. According to reports, number 10 sources state that the wallpaper he apparently spent £840 per roll on is actually... falling down. According to the MailOnline, Johnson has had to call specialist decorators back into his Downing Street home to rehang the hand-crafted gold wallpaper because it's too heavy to stay up. Yes, really.
It's a big political mess to find yourself in over an interiors makeover that isn't even working out, but of course focus has now re-shifted onto who exactly the woman behind the revamp is, what her interior style is like and exactly how expensive her services are. With that in mind, we've done a deep dive into all things Lulu Lytle - for your reading pleasure...
Firstly, who is Lulu Lytle?
Good question. Lytle, 49, is co-founder and director of Soane Britain, a Pimlico Road-based design firm that ‘designs and makes furniture, upholstery, lighting, fabrics, wallpapers and interior necessities with the aim of contributing to the joyful atmosphere of any interior.’
Born in Worcestershire and a graduate of Egyptology at UCL, Lytle worked for four years in antiques before founding Soane Britain at the age of 25. She started her journey with a road-trip about Britain to ‘find craftsmen practising traditional skills; blacksmiths, cabinet-makers, saddlers, upholsterers and stone carvers with whom she could work.’ Two decades alter, Lytle now has strong working relationships with talented craftspeople across the country.
She is married Charles Patrick St John Lytle, a senior investment banker at Goldman Sachs. The couple have three teenage children and live in their £4 million house near Hyde Park.
In 2011, Lytle – a life-long lover of rattan-weaving – bought the last remaining working rattan workshop in England at which she employs the former craftsmen as training apprentices. Fun fact: Prince Charles visited the workshop in February in of 2020 and had a go at rattan-weaving himself.
How much does Lulu Lytle furniture cost?
By almost any standards, it's not cheap. Prices for her Rattan Lily Drum Table and Baby Bear Sofa - two popular items people are searching for right now - are presumably available on request, as they're both handmade items, and don't feature even a starting point on the website. The Evening Standard has kindly done some maths and worked out that Lytle's Cleveland chair would cost about £3000 before VA, and guestimated that the cost of wallpapering the 11 Downing Street residence would come in at upward of £14,000. On the upside, you can buy her coffee table book for a mere £50 - so that's one to put on next year's Christmas list(?)
Lulu Lytle wallpaper
Ah the infamous 'gold wallpaper' that has (apparently, allegedly) been plastered all over the walls of Downing Street, and put the Prime Minister so far out of pocket. As we detail above, the Evening Standard estimated that it would have cost upward of £14,000 to wallpaper the entire 11 Downing Street flat in Lulu Lytle wallpaper. However, there's no suggestion that the wallpaper is actually made of gold. Rather she has an 'old gold' and a 'yellow gold' print in her collection. As part of our very important research, here are the old gold and yellow gold wallpaper prints in action - and you can view the full collection here.
Lulu Lytle Old Gold wallpapermore
What does Lulu Lytle’s home look like?
There’s no better way to get interiors inspo than to look inside the homes of the experts and, luckily for us, Lytle isn’t gatekeeping her secrets and photos of her home are often shared on Soane Britain’s Instagram.
The Evening Standard described Lytle’s house in 2016 as a mic of ‘old and new Soane piece, with textiles collected worldwide, paintings, maps, and artefacts. All were chosen for their striking looks, shapes and colours, rather than value.’
Filled with big, bold colours and bright, elaborate patterns, her home is a comfortable mix of art and cosiness.
The bathroom, which Lytle described as ‘more important than the bedroom,’ is a cool oasis of calm amongst an otherwise striking, vivid home.
What has Lulu Lytle done with 11 Downing Street?
Now that we know what Lytle’s own home looks likes inside, what can we expect inside 11 Downing Street? Well, it will probably be a combination of Soane’s signature look – oak panelling, intricate wall paper, heavy gold accents – with elements of Symonds’ own style, which has been described by her friends as ‘exquisite’.
According to Tatler, Symonds is excited to remove the ‘John Lewis furniture nightmare’ left over from Theresa May. She has painted the living area of her shared flat with Boris Johnson a deep green and is a fan of using candles to light their space, both of which have a distinct Soane-inspired feel about them.
Elsewhere in the flat, we can expect more bold, powerful colours and perhaps even a patterned wallpaper.
For entertaining guests, Boris and Carrie will surely have a well-stocked bar cart, maybe even Soane’s own Nureyev Trolley. Inspired by drinks trolleys found in 1940s Fraance, it is crafted in Sheffield and featured solid brass.
And it goes without saying the Boris and Carrie will have a more luxurious WFH space than any of us. Antiques, artworks, flowers — the space will be situated perfectly to inspire throughout the day.
The couple’s dog, Dilyn, needn’t worry about he’ll have ample space to curl up on for an afternoon nap. It will probably be floral-patterned.
Little Wilfred will have a fun space to grow up in, as well, filled with bright colours and patterns to keep him entertained and fuel his imagination.