My Home: Ella Doran, homeware designer

Her bright, fresh homeware designs have won Ella Doran cult status - and respect from the children in the playground that is her back yard
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The Independent Online

The homeware designer Ella Doran, 35, won this year's Laurent-Perrier award. For four years she has lived in Hackney, east London, with her husband Simon and two sons, Saul, seven, and Sam, five.

My home is part of a converted school - it used to be the gymnasium. One of the main things that attracted me to it was the communal playground. It's wonderful. You can open the back door and the kids can run around and express themselves freely.

I was brought up by my mother in a hippy commune. We lived in a huge Georgian house near Bristol, and I still feel that it's very important to be around other kids and other people. I like the freedom that shared space allows.

Our home has three bedrooms, one is shared by our two sons, the other is a mini office and studio for my work. Our own bedroom is the first room you reach as soon as you come through the door. Although you might mistake it for a music studio: records take up every inch of wall space. We must have over a thousand LPs and even more CDs.

My husband is a musician and sound engineer and is often away on the road, but when he is at home we love listening to music together on our Technics decks and chilling out with the kids. Recently we have been listening to a lot of early David Bowie, pre-Ziggy Stardust.

Music has always been a great source of inspiration to me. The records themselves have provided the reference for one of my most successful designs - I took a digital image of record sleeves and then put these on to mugs, blinds and even wallpaper. I had a lot of interest in those pieces, but I was still astounded when Oprah Winfrey ordered more than 500 cups to be shipped to America for her birthday celebration.

The kitchen/living room is one of my favourite spaces. The huge school windows drenched it in light. One of the first things we did was to stick coloured squares of vinyl around the bottom of the windows. I like the fact that there is so much brightness - but you do need a bit of privacy. The vinyl goes with the school look and brings in some colour. The kitchen table is where we most often congregate as a family - either we're eating on it or the children are drawing there.

It felt like we had a lot to do when we moved in, though the developers had taken care of some details. All the floors had been finished with sanded wooden floorboards, and the walls were already painted white. The kitchen and bathroom were also ready. It feels so different now. We have two huge plants that seem to take over the living area of the kitchen. One is a rubber plant that I've had for more than 12 years, and the other belongs to a friend - it's been travelling all over Britain being looked after by so many different people.

I went to a Steiner school, which I loved, and it definitely nurtured my creativity, but some things seemed rather strict - we weren't allowed to draw with a black pen or paint until we were seven. So I have given my own kids a lot more of a free rein. You can tell the moment you walk through the door that the house is very child-friendly from all the colours and their own artworks. I think the fact that it used to be a school helps to create a learning environment.

Many of my friends are artists and furniture designers, which can prove invaluable when furnishing your own house. In the kids' room I have a beautiful artwork by one friend, the artist Rocky Alvarez - it is 12 plastic watches that he bought in India encased in a glass box. He also designed the shelving system in our bedroom. We don't have curtains, we have blinds that I designed myself - they're less fussy-looking.

One of the key pieces in the hallway is an alphabetical light board, designed by another friend, Andrew Stafford. It also contributes to the school theme that we have running throughout the house. I have wooden school shelves in the front room in which we store all the children's drawing.

One of my most adored pieces of furniture is a battered old leather sofa that I bought from Brick Lane a couple of years ago for around £900. I do love precious-looking things and shops like SCP, Vitra and Viaduct but investing in valuable furniture with children running around would be insanity. I do have my eye on a new Jasper Morrison sofa but I will have to wait.

I love all kinds of interior looks - the only thing I really don't like is a chintzy look, or anything nouveau riche, or over-designed products that are soulless. I am often intrigued and inspired by lots of different looks, the clashing colours and patterns of the Seventies can sometimes work in an odd ironic way.

This house has high ceilings, and this seems to make up for the rather minimal square footage. One of the few drawbacks is that there is just not enough cupboard space. Although I'm pretty good at throwing things away, it would be great to have a bit more room.

Since I moved to London 15 years ago I have always been based in the east. I am not too keen on all the gentrification, but I do like that it is a mixed, balanced area. Our children go to the local state school - they get a good education and it's very handy. I don't know where I will be in five years' time, but for the moment this is a great place for a growing family to be.

Ella Doran Design, 46 Cheshire Street, London E2, 020-7613 0782, www. elladoran.co.uk

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