Smart deco: How photographer Natalie Orton transformed a traditional 1930s house

Natalie Orton lives with her husband and property management partner Mark and their two children Sienna, nine, and Rudy, seven, in a 1930s four-bedroom art deco home, by the sea in Poole, Dorset. 

Sumptuous jewel colours, clashing geometric patterns and curved shapes bring the iconic look of the 1920s and 30s into the 21st century, at the home of Natalie Orton. Despite its fresh modern twist, it is still the type of home you could imagine Jay Gatsby walking through, champagne in hand. 

Natalie Orton house
The standout exterior with aqua windows. The steps are Lily Pad tiles from capietra.com. Image: Brent Darby

Natalie, a photographer and property manager, bought her Poole home 14 years ago while working in London, and immediately set to work opening up some of the smaller rooms. ‘In traditional 1930s properties the rooms are a bit on the poky side, and that’s something we had to tackle carefully,’ says Natalie. 

As the house is listed, she and her husband Mark were restricted to what they could change structurally. ‘We were allowed to extend on the ground floor and roof terrace – as long as it was in keeping with the original style of the house, but that worked perfectly for me,’ she says.

Natalie Orton house
This sideboard had already been upcycled using Cole & Son’s Prism wallpaper. ‘I had seen it but felt it would be too much for my walls. When I found it on an upcycled vintage G Plan sideboard I was over the moon,’ says Natalie. She then asked Zoe from @mucknbrass to paint the rest aqua in keeping with the colour scheme. For a similar rug see trouva.com. Image: Brent Darby

So the couple quickly found themselves in the midst of a year-long renovation that aimed to maintain and respect the look as well as the feel of the 30s. ‘I love the curved lines, bold geometric shapes and, above all, the uniqueness that can be found in every art deco structure. It gives me such an uplifting feeling of freedom,’ says Natalie. Her own colourful style can be seen in every detail. ‘I didn’t want my home to look like a catalogue,’ says Natalie. ‘It has been a labour of love. I wanted that to be reflected in the design.’ 

Natalie Orton house
Natalie designed the kitchen to be a neutral backdrop to the rest of the house, and allow the splashes of gold to stand out. ‘I wanted to keep adding gold touches but my husband talked me down, which was the right decision in the end’. Image: Brent Darby

The furniture is a mixture of high-street gems and online and second-hand buys collected over years. ‘I love a good trawl through Ebay and embarking on upcycling projects. Recently, I bought some beautiful wooden chairs from La Redoute and personalised them by painting one in neon yellow for my son’s room and one in neon pink for my daughter’s.’ 

Bold colours aside, Natalie’s home isn’t short on striking features, including the architectural details of the statement spiral staircase, which was designed by Natalie. ‘I wanted to reflect the curves of the art deco era but with a fresh feel to it.’ 

Natalie Orton house
Natalie upcycled a rattan peacock chair by painting it in a neon orange shade using bristolpaint.com. The rug is from therugcompany.com. For a similar fringed lampshade, try oliverbonas.com. Image: Brent Darby

There is also bespoke statement artwork on the walls: the Marilyn Monroe print was commissioned by Natalie and Mark and painted by a local artist in turquoise and pink – colours seen throughout the house, from its exterior through to the new Crittall-style aqua-coloured aluminium windows.

‘I’m very fortunate to be able to run my property business from home and I always make sure that I have time to get creative with my photography,’ says Natalie. That said, she isn’t the only one taking pictures.

Natalie Orton house
The children’s treehouse bunk beds were made for the couple by a local carpenter. The star wallpaper is by hibouhome.com. For a similar rug, try yonderliving.com. Image: Brent Darby

‘We often look out of our windows to see people photographing our home,’ she smiles. 

Shop Natalie’s retro luxe

Print with frame (30in x 20in), £649, 55max.com

Palm lamp, £239.49, trouva.com

Faux plant, £274, maisonsdumonde.com

Tile, £11.76, lindseylang.co.uk

Rug (160cm x 230cm), £299, made.com

Cushion, £39, westelm.co.uk

For further information on Natalie see @myartdecohomebythesea on Instagram. For more on how to hire Natalie’s property as a location house, go to creativelocation.co.uk/orto 

Report by Alex Summers