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Philip Oakley

Lighting designer, Philip Oakley, took a gamble on a run-down pub on the English south coast and created a winner of a home, complete with a workshop and showroom for his charming installations.


GAP Interiors/Bill Kingston/Philip Oakley

Feature No:   1933 

Qty of Images:    65 


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‘I’m drawn to the ridiculous,’ says lighting designer, Philip Oakley. ‘If someone asks me to do something I find it hard to say no, so I end up in some bizarre situations’. This is Philip’s way of explaining how he went from designing high-end retail interiors to creating the flamboyant installations and kitsch lighting that adorn his new home; a sprawling, former Victorian coaching inn, near Hastings, which he converted with his girlfriend Olivia. An avid collector of the unusual, Philip’s magpie tendencies and love of the ‘OTT’ had led him to Blackpool to see the famous illuminations. Whilst there he discovered the local council were scrapping the ‘dated’ lights of the 60s and 70s. ‘I’d been collecting lights and ephemera for years, so I started buying the illuminations,’ he says. ‘Then the council asked me to work with them on a new project, so I moved up there and bought even more.’ Sadly the project stalled, so within the year Philip was back in his London flat, with a lock-up full of retro disco balls, flashing palm trees and glowing snowmen; adding to his already burgeoning collection of curious objects. Barely able to move, Philip decided it was time to realise his dream. ‘I’d always wanted a big property filled with unusual furniture and objet d’art, with space for me to create,’ he laughs. Some online searches threw up a run-down pub on the south coast that was being offered in a sealed bid auction. ‘We had to view it with torches as the windows were boarded up,’ explains Philip. The scene he describes is a depressing one of decaying pub detritus – beer-stained carpets, over-flowing ashtrays, empty bottles and fridges full of rotten food. ‘We didn’t really want it – it was too scary a proposition,’ he says. ‘It had been empty for six months and had obviously been abandoned when the business closed, so we put in a crazily low bid. We thought if we got it, it would be such a bargain it’s the only way we’d be able to face the work ahead.’ The plan worked, there were few offers, but it took the couple three months just to clear out the rubbish and strip out the shabby décor. ‘We came down every weekend from London and camped out in the TV room with a microwave and kettle,’ says Philip. ‘It was nerve-wracking as there was so much work and we didn’t know anyone here, but we knew we had an inspiring space.’



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