Inside Journalist Pandora Sykes' Playful Victorian Terrace in London
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we tour journalist, author, and podcast host Pandora Sykes' whimsical terrace home in London.
As someone who is naturally interested in the way people live, what they read, watch, and talk about, it makes sense that Pandora Sykes has always known she wanted to be a journalist. Beginning her career as a fashion journalism intern, the UK-born creative is now renowned for her brilliant social commentary.
Pandora's impressive portfolio of work has seen her words appear in publications spanning The Guardian, The Sunday Times, ELLE, GQ, Grazia, and Vogue. She has also created and hosted much-loved podcasts The High Low, which wrapped up in December after four successful years of covering highbrow and lowbrow culture conversations, The Missing, a podcast about long-term missing people, and Doing It Right, a series of conversations about contemporary life with experts in sex, sociology, wellness and more. She also most recently created a BBC Radio 4 audio documentary, Pieces of Britney, an 8-part series about Britney Spears.
"I’m addicted to research, often to the detriment of my sanity," she shares with Bed Threads Journal. This passion lead her to write her Sunday Times bestselling book, How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right?, a collection of scintillating essays that explore her musings on modern life.
As a journalist and author, Pandora obviously has a way with words, but she also has an eye for interior design, which is evident throughout her beautiful London terrace home. Boasting whimsy and sophistication, it's a study in how to use color, pattern, and eclectic décor to create a home truly reflective of your personal style.
From the turmeric-toned living room to the pink-hued main bedroom, her Victorian terrace is swathed in lashings of color, executed in a way that feels harmonious from room to room. "I like color and I like decoration but there’s also a restraint, I think, because I don’t like rooms to look like rainbows and I hate (hate!) clutter," Pandora explains.
There is also a definite playfulness to the home's design. Patterned wallpaper and soft furnishings, ornate décor, and various styles of artwork culminate to create a cosy yet chic scheme that looks expertly put together.
"I also don’t mind things looking a bit ‘bad taste’ - I have leopard print curtains, so that’s obvious - and I love vintage and antiques," Pandora says. From the eclectic mix of furniture to the plethora of accessories, the home's design feels masterfully thought out and steeped in love. "A house is a living thing and I like it to feel like a dynamic space," she says of the ongoing design process.
We spoke to Pandora about her impressive career journey to date, the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior, and her favorite design pieces within.
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Hi Pandora! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I write, make podcasts, and I interview authors, in the main!
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I have always been creative. Not in the sense of fungible product - although how I wish I could throw a vase, or paint something beautiful - but putting things together, whether that’s a story, or re-arranging my entire bedroom overnight aged 5.
I have just always loved the feeling of cutting through the chaff and feeling a sense of clarity and purpose, whether that's in my personal life with decorative objects or sifting through 100 different voices in order to create an audio production. It all comes from the same place, for me.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I always wanted to be a journalist - since before I can remember. During my twenties I worked in fashion journalism, which hadn't been the intention - I was most interested in the way people lived, what they read and watched and talked about (although I do think that the way women dress says a lot about how they live, think and feel, too) but it was just where I found jobs coming up.
After a series of internships at now defunct magazines like InStyle, I became an editor at The Sunday Times Style, and was very much ensconced in fashion. I had a blog, I styled shoots and consulted for brands. Instagram was blowing up and it was kind of a fun time to be working through the lens of social media - and then just before I turned 30 I had a real drive to switch it up. I still love(d) style but I wanted to work in more of a cultural space.
I had started a news and pop-culture podcast with my friend, Dolly, in my last few months at the magazine and when I left The Sunday Times we re-launched it as The High Low. It quickly grew into the most successful women’s podcast in the UK to date - in 4 years we had 1.2 million listeners a month and that really changed the trajectory of my career. I got to interview best-selling authors like Candice Carty-Williams, Leila Slimani, Graham Norton and David Nicholls. We had a sell-out UK tour and I begun to work much more in the publishing industry.
Now, I write and create and host podcasts. In July, I made my first audio documentary for BBC Radio 4, Pieces of Britney, and I’m currently working on another one for them, due out in spring, which I’m super excited about and in the trenches of research with currently! I am also a judge on next year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, which is an incredible honour - although I'm drowning in boxes of novels a little, at the moment.
I know what I will be doing in 6 months, but beyond that I have no idea. I’m a pretty curious person and I love working hard, so as long as I feel creative and challenged and like I’m doing something with a clear purpose, then I’m happy.
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Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
Ideas normally pop into my head fully formed. That’s what happened with The High Low and the show I’m working on at the moment. After that, I do a ton of research - I read over 100 books when I was writing my own. I’m addicted to research, often to the detriment of my sanity, but I like to really bury myself in it and then slowly cut back and back and back to find the thing I want to make.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
I found my book deadline pretty hideous - 12 hour days while 9 months pregnant and then again, with a newborn - and I definitely learned from that that things always (always!) take me longer than I think…I’m trying to learn to give things more space and myself, some time to breathe. It - me! - is a work in progress.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
The very last show we did for The High Low was a live show - sadly it was online only as it was last December during Covid, but we had over 12,000 people streaming the event and we donated the profits to Blood Cancer Awareness which, in the end, came to over £87,000. That was a very emotional, rewarding experience for both Dolly and I. We both lost people we loved very much to that disease and we believe in the brilliant work the charity does.
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Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
To my younger self: slow down. You can't do everything. Generally? I would say, don’t rush it. The culture we live in now really rewards 'the overnight sensation', but very few of us are Kylie Jenner! Don’t expect it to happen overnight. And don’t want for something that someone else has - carve out your own niche.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
It has a wonderful kitchen - high ceilings and extended really thoughtfully. It’s an amazing space to spend our time in with the children. And we adore the area - it feels like a village in London.
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Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
We gutted the bathrooms, extended into the attic and re-did the garden, but the bones of it were left as they were. It was mainly joinery, which is sort of an ongoing thing as our family expands and we need more storage!
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
I did most of it in a massive rush in the two months before my daughter was born. I was turbo-nesting; my poor decorators. I didn’t have any moodboards, I just had an idea of the colors I wanted each room to be. I have since gone back and edited, and done quite a few more details a bit more thoughtfully; so it’s more of an ongoing process, which feels healthier. A house is a living thing and I like it to feel like a dynamic space. We’ve had two babies since so obviously things don’t look the same as they did when we bought them, which actually doesn’t bother me at all. I have no desire to live in a stain-free home (which is lucky.)
In terms of my aesthetic, I like color and I like decoration, but there’s also a restraint, I think, because I don’t like rooms to look like rainbows and I hate (hate!) clutter. I’m constantly spring-cleaning; I’m slightly obsessed.
I also don’t mind things looking a bit ‘bad taste’ - I have leopard print curtains, so that’s obvious - and I love vintage and antiques. I buy a lot of things secondhand and I sell a lot of them on, as I find second-hand things really retain their value. It's my biggest hobby; in another life I'd love to work in a selvedge yard, or at a picture framer. I spend most of my free time at my local picture framer, J White, and they are very tolerant of me slinking in with a new paint pot tester to try, or a mount idea! I love picture frames, they are often more important than the artwork itself.
What are your favorite pieces in the home?
A painting of my daughter and I by a brilliant artist called Hester Finch, a sofa upholstered in squiggly red stripes by Virginia White Collection, and a large piece above my sofa by Kristian Kragelund that is basically the different stages of oxidisation - it’s very beautiful and every year it gets a little rustier.
But honestly I could name so many more things - my Romanian chest of drawers with gold flowers! My Japanese lady in a ridiculously ornate frame that I found for a song on Vinterior! And I worry that they will now feel hurt that I haven’t picked them. This is a very mean question, actually.
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Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
I would love a Serge Mouille Plafonnier pendant light for above my dining table, but I think that will remain a dream. I’ve actually just commissioned something really special - Alf Newall of The New Craftsmen is making a large dresser for my kitchen, to be painted a buttery yellow. There are so many fun details to it. I’ve loved his work for a long time - and I know him and his wife, so it feels really lovely to work with him.
Which is your favorite room in the house?
My daughter’s bedroom. Children’s bedrooms are my favorite rooms to decorate - I loved doing my son’s, too. I found some wonderful vintage pieces for her room, like a hand painted nightstand for £20 and some plastic floral wall lights which look like glass Murano. My latest find is 5 metres of vintage cherub fabric from a remnant store called Haines, which I want to upholster a chair with for her room and which is currently hanging over the back of her bed like a makeshift headboard.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Fill it with things you love and employ creative friends to contribute - a lot of my friends are artists, or designers, or carpenters, and I like to use friends as much as possible when I'm having something made. It feels so much more special when you use the skills of something you know, and love, who understands your creative juices.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I have another audio documentary coming out with the BBC next spring and I’m currently recording season three of The Missing.
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For more from Pandora, follow her @pandorasykes