Curating Seaside Harmony with Sam Palmer

21 Jun 2024

When Sam Palmer moved into The Flint House on the Sussex coast, it felt like a literal and symbolic homecoming. Her work as a designer and a trend forecaster had taken her and her husband on a sixteen-year odyssey around three continents.

‘After so long living as expats we decided we wanted to return to England and settle for a while so that our young children could experience a similar childhood to the ones we had. We both grew up around Surrey and Sussex and we felt pulled back to our roots,’ she reflects. ‘Sussex is such a beautiful county, with the rolling hills of the South Downs, a rich network of forests and woodland, and the sea, all on your doorstep. We are really spoilt for choice as each season the local landscape offers a changing palette and new activities to be enjoyed throughout the year.’

Odette Handmade Candle Holder, featured left. Elbert Footstool, Moss Linen, featured right.

The house itself had become a conscious part of Sam’s landscape long before it was officially hers. ‘I used to walk past it every day and was absolutely in love with it. I couldn’t believe our luck when it finally became ours,’ she recalls. There was, perhaps, something in its well-loved bones that had spoken to her, for while they knew that it would need a full renovation, it had clearly been cared for deeply, mercifully swerving any ‘dreaded 80s/90s renovations’ and thus enabling them to incorporate modern functionality while preserving the history and fabric that had so seduced them. 

The family’s quietly beautiful life by the sea enclosed within its beloved walls has resonated deeply with Sam’s many thousands of followers on Instagram, where she resides under the @the_flint_house alias. It is a moniker that neatly alludes to the pervading flint from which her house is constructed and which, she says, has informed many of her decorative choices. As she explains, ‘If you pay close attention to the stones themselves, there are so many beautiful shades of pink, putty, olive, sage and tan. My colour scheme was already there! I love the style of traditional New England seaside cottages or Scandinavian beach houses, so whitewashed panelling became a key influence. I didn’t want it to be a seaside pastiche, but we went for it in the kitchen and I love how the panelling brings a subtle textural element to the new space.'

Inky Painted Pasta Bowl, featured right.

As for the pieces within those enchanting flint bones, the most beloved amongst them are the ones that have survived. ‘When you move around so much, it highlights the things that stay,’ she explains. ‘Now, nearly 20 years after starting our journey, we still have some furniture, homewares and art pieces that have stuck with us over three continents and nine apartments. Those are my most treasured items. The interesting pieces always have a backstory. The eclecticism isn’t calculated, it’s just what has survived our many moves.’ 

Chiefly, they comprise the vintage and the second-hand, adored not only for their sustainability but also for being suffused with character. ‘Our most treasured pieces are antique items we have kept for years,’ says Sam. ‘My favourite is the antique wooden shoe rack we have in our dining room holding all our books. It has moved around the world with us, first in our kitchen in New York holding all our cookbooks, then in our sitting room in Boston, and now here. I love the well-worn patina of the wood, its old markings from its days in a cobbler’s workshop and the industrial wheels.’ Another favourite is an antique armchair reupholstered by Marcus Spencer. ‘I absolutely adore all his work. He gives antique pieces a new lease of life with Egyptian calico and natural hessian, and it is a great match with our Rowen & Wren Elbert Footstool. Its timeless design and handcrafted details ensure it will remain a favourite piece of furniture for years to come.'

As a family that has led such a nomadic an existence, holding on to convivial and cultural traditions feels all the more important, such golden, magic-tinged threads weaving their way through every iteration of home.

Our kitchen will always be the place we gather with friends and family,’ she says. ‘Whatever the season, candlelight and flowers make it joyful all year round. For the warmer months, it’s great to be able to throw open the French doors and use our courtyard garden as an extension of the kitchen space. Having our morning coffee in the cool Summer mornings and having barbecues and pizzas with friends outside is something we love to do.

It is in creating such moments of delight that Sam truly specialises, her naturally attuned eye as a trend forecaster picking out evolving prevailing styles and applying them in a discerningly pared-back fashion, precision aimed to deliver joy.

‘The key for me and my own home is that I really don’t pay much attention to the ‘trends.’ I enjoy living mostly with an absence of strong colour as I use it so much in my work, and my home needs to be a palette cleanser,’ she explains. ‘I prefer injecting colour and character through art and homewares, mostly in wood, metal, stone and natural fibres. I totally advocate investing in what you love, regardless of trend. As long as you love it, it will always be relevant to you and bring you joy in your own home.’

Handmade Stoneware Candle Holder, featured left. Handmade Terracotta Tea Mug, featured right. 

One way in which Sam reliably creates those pockets of delight is through bathing her world in the softening flicker of candlelight. She says, ‘Candlelight is always my go-to year-round for morning rituals and cosy evenings alike. Rowen & Wren’s artisanal stoneware candle holders are ideal for lighting up rainy spring mornings and creating a cosy atmosphere for wintertime dinners. The Mr Ben terracotta tea mugs are our constant companion – as we work from home they get a lot of use throughout the day, and are one of things that bring a glimmer of joy to the everyday.

They are, along with everything she creates and advocates, the stuff of future heirlooms, pieces imbued with history which, one day, her own children too will unpack with seasonal relish to delight the generations to come.

Interview by Nancy Alsop.

Back to all articles