Beauty by design

Words by Dan Warden


Experience, knowledge and an eye for beautiful design come together to form the very pinnacle of holiday home luxury.


For many, the dream of owning a holiday home in Cornwall – of providing a luxury sanctuary to which your guests can escape – can come in many guises. Holding it in your mind’s eye, it could be a sprawling home in the countryside, or a cosy bolthole just a stone’s throw from the ocean. Either way, no matter how detailed and idealistic the vision, it’s only when you receive the keys and step foot inside your new property that the extent of the work required to bring that dream to life becomes evident. And for those with busy schedules, or who don’t live in Cornwall, the scale of work required becomes all the more daunting. This is the founding principle behind Gems Interiors; to take the sting and stress out of turning your property into the ultimate holiday sanctuary.

Gems Interiors is the latest string to the bow of long-established and trusted holiday cottage agency, Cornish Gems. For Managing Co-Director, Julianne and her team, it’s about providing clients with the reassurance that everything is being taken care of by a reliable, local team – a team whose knowledge, insight and insider know-how is there to be taken advantage of. “We can advise on where to be less choosy, and where to be playful with choices,” says Julianne. “Celebrating over 15 years of experience and success, we’ve learned how to develop and sustain long-lasting relationships with our owners and customers, whilst delivering the high standards of holiday accommodation that our discerning guests have grown to expect.”


Images courtesy of Elliott White Photography Especially now, with the pandemic still fresh in our minds and the bitter remembrance of lockdowns and everything that came with them, holidays have become an important way in which to nourish and replenish our sense of wellbeing. This means that finding a home-from-home that provides a feeling of comfort and luxury, is important. As a guest, you want to return day after day to a property that feels fresh; you want to know that the owners, the interior designers and the letting agents, care about your holiday experience as much as you do. So how do Cornish Gems ‘stack up’? In fact, since the launch of Gems Interiors, a number of guests have already expressed the inspiration they’ve drawn from Gems Interiors, to make changes to their own spaces at home.

At this point I find myself wondering exactly what the differences are between homes and holiday homes. Julianne explains: “Holiday homes are less cluttered, giving a more relaxed head space. They are less about function and storage, and more about experience and nurture. Our knowledge of the UK holiday market and trends has led us to ensure that everything is on hand that a guest might need, meaning they can worry less about the day-to-day essentials of home life, and more about immersing themselves in the care-free peace of mind that we ultimately all look for in a holiday.”


Images courtesy of Sam Breeze Photography This ethos is evident in each and every Gems Interior; for the team, effective design is about creating a relaxing environment that welcomes you to spend time at leisure. It’s about providing all the necessary practical elements, but with an unforgettable flourish. “With holiday homes,” continues Julianne, “this begins with understanding what makes a guest’s experience nourishing. Even in its simplest form, it is far more than just luxury toiletries and restaurant recommendations!”

Of all of this, Sunset House in St Just is a case in point. Located in the wild, unspoilt west of Cornwall, this newly interior designed home is dressed to impress, and provides guests with luxe features including a bubbling hot tub, garden sauna, private cinema room, double hammock, and scintillating sea views. Across five bedrooms, it welcomes up to ten guests to luxuriate in its creature comforts, sink-into furniture and lavish interiors that have received the ‘Gems’ treatment. Tara Donovan-Soltys, a recent addition to the Gems team, led the project. Refusing to use Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration, Tara instead chooses to treat her work as an outlet for her own creativity. Having recently come aboard to lead Gems Interiors as Senior Interior Designer, Sunset House, St Just is entirely Tara’s own vision. Since joining and heading up the team, she has inspired them to push further into bespoke upholstery and upcycled furniture. “In this case,” says Tara, “the owner trusted me entirely to make bold decisions on the interior schemes.”

Exploring this exemplary feat of design, it’s clear that this trust in Tara has paid off. High-quality furniture and bespoke upholstery are obviously a big part of the project, however, for Gems Interiors, these have become ‘par for the course’. What really stands out is Tara’s intrepid approach to design; as you walk around Sunset House, St Just, there are exciting colours and tropical, mood-lifting vibes at every turn. At times, the scheme feels Moroccan; at others, you feel transported to Mexico, with vibrant touches like ‘Day of the Dead’ artwork adorning the walls. The colour schemes are daring; they provide a haven of fun, replete with audacious touches like neon marble swirl wallpaper and parrot-print wardrobes. This adventurous approach has helped to make Sunset House, St Just a rarity among Cornwall’s holiday homes, where the safe neutrality of whites and nautical blues have perhaps become ‘de rigueur’. Especially in terms of the space itself, Gems Interiors are very aware that holiday homes are used in different ways to residential properties. “There’s more need for both exterior and interior spaces,” explains Tara, “where everyone can share extra-special experiences. Dining areas are particularly important, as they really enable groups to come together, and the same can be said for the garden – it should really be considered as an extension of the house.”

Karl Callighan, a local surfer known well in the Sennen area, is the owner of Sunset House, St Just. I ask what spurred him to approach Gems Interiors. “I was looking for something different, not only for our home, but an interior design that would wow and inspire guests, too. Tara understood from the start the passion and hard work that had gone into building the house, and the opportunity that it presented to create something incredible. As soon as I saw the first swatches of bright yellows and mood-boards of cool artwork and extras, I knew we were on the same page.

“The team,” he continues, “took the house to the next level. It’s easy to want to hold back for fear of getting it wrong, but their expertise and consultation along the way helped me to see their vision, and I was absolutely delighted with the result, which has far surpassed my expectations. Even our children can’t believe their eyes!”


Images courtesy of Elliott White Photography A builder by trade with a young family, Karl has a hectic schedule to work around, and so his time to work on the interiors of Sunset House, St Just was limited. Having Gems Interiors on board to break down the process into manageable stages, he says, was invaluable. “It would have been easy to visit the online department stores and fill the cart with beautiful things, but the Gems Interiors team took the time to hunt out bespoke, high-quality pieces of furniture, upcycled bedside cabinets, commissioned curtains and more.”

As an example, he says: “I knew I wanted a fun outside space as we love having friends over, so Tara recommended investing in a huge fire-pit where guests can cook over hot coals. She was lucky enough to purchase the exact fire-pit that was taken on the Paul Ainsworth Travelling Feast last summer.” This is impressive, especially given the ongoing supply chain issues being faced throughout the industry. Indeed, as Tara explains: “We have been able to turn this into a positive, creating more bespoke pieces rather than using pre-manufactured furniture and soft furnishings, which in turn has only served to enhance the bespoke elements of each project.”

Karl agrees with this, praising Tara and the Gems Interiors team for their “vision to think outside the box and to run against the grain to create something extra ‘wow’.” In fact, this is what makes Gems Interiors stand out. With every project being different – some involving sparkling new builds with clean lines, others involving older, character cottages with their wonky edges and angles – it takes a team of visionaries to get the very best out of the unique variety of homes that Cornwall is known for. As Tara puts it: “We love them all!”

Sunset House, St Just is now available to book throughout the year.

cornishgems.com