Greg Penn Owns the Room

We caught up with DIY extraordinaire, Greg Penn (aka Insta sensation manwithahammer), as he talks neon signs, colour and Crocs.


Can we start off by saying that we’re huge fans of your work!

Well, that’s very kind indeed thank you! It’s mutual!


You have the most incredible vision – where did your passion for property begin?

Well, my folks have always worked really hard on renovating their homes… but I must be honest it was completely lost on me – partly because as a youth, it seemed like a lot of work (I was right) and also, I wasn’t ever sure I’d buy a place. I’ve always had a bit of a thing for big old lumps, so when the opportunity arose that I could buy my first home, instead of doing something sensible… I bought a derelict, 6 bedroomed, 4 storey Victorian terrace in need of full renovation, despite zero practical or design skills or experience… I firmly believe necessity is the mother of invention.


Your home has 30 rooms – how did your family and friends react to news of your current project?  

With the first house, no one could quite believe what I was taking on, I barely knew one end of a screwdriver from the other – so that was a massive shock… but given how that turned out, this one wasn’t so much of a surprise – and those that know me well understand my stubbornness!


Admirals House is a fantastic mix of bold colour and confident pattern. How do you achieve such a seamless transition? 

Well, I think I’m lucky if I’m honest haha, though people tell me otherwise! I never used pattern before Admirals, but absolutely love it now – it’s quite addictive, and far easier to use than people realise. Especially pattern on pattern! I think the main thing is to have some conviction and really own it… there’s nothing worse than half doing something because you’re scared to commit… and ultimately, so long as you love it – beyond that it doesn’t really matter.


Is there a single piece of furniture or art that you can’t bear to part with?

When I sold my last place… I sold it fully furnished – along with all the art… rugs… electronics – I basically left there with my clothes! So, I don’t become massively attached to ‘stuff’. However, I’ve a bureau that belonged to my grandfather I shall never part with, and a piece of art done for me by a friend too. There are definitely some other pieces here I’d be loathed to part with now… but there’s also something liberating about it.


It seems as though you love a neon sign as much as we do! Do you have any illuminated words of wisdom planned for this house?

Ah I loved it in my last place – but I’d say the décor there was a little more eclectic and it suited the space, with lots of mid-century furniture and similar… I was still very much learning my style. Here the architecture is a lot more classic, and I’m not sure it would quite fit – but there is somewhere I’d like to use it – that’s currently top secret as I’m not sure it’ll work and I want it to be a surprise.


Light plays such an important part in any home – what’s your favourite time of day and why?

Ah well, I’m a bit of a night owl… and adore when the sun starts going down, and the sun sits low, with the light streaming deep into the rooms, glowing and golden and a little moody, before disappearing completely.


If you had to choose three favourite designs from your pal Diane Hill’s collection with Harlequin, what would they be and why?

The Lovelace design I used on the chair is amazing… it’s just so clever to have a formal, repeating geometric trellis pattern, but painted in bamboo… it feels simultaneously classic, and super fresh.

Lady Alford is so timeless and really shows off Diane’s extraordinary skill.

Florence – it’s just absolutely breathtaking. So much colour and detail!


Sounds like you absolutely ‘own the room’?!

I do! I think the last few years have shown the importance of enjoying the spaces we live in, and I’ve realised I need that colour and vibrancy in my life – it absolutely boosts my mood and makes me smile and always encourage others to do the same. I’m writing this overlooking my garden, full of huge old trees in greens and browns and yellows, with the blue sky above – and wonder why anyone looks at a space and wants to paint everything white. As is often the way, nature knows best!  


We enjoyed your upholstery masterclass that featured Lovelace from the Harlequin x Diane Hill collection. Have you upholstered anything else recently?

Sadly, my days are usually spent doing slightly more heavy duty activities like paint stripping and plumbing so it was really lovely to have a couple of days respite from that with my Ma… though removing the old fabric was definitely tougher on my hands than I’d anticipated! The only upholstery I’ve done before hasn’t required sewing, so I’d love to try a little more that involve the sewing machine in the future!


Do you treat each room as an individual space?

Absolutely, unless they’re joined (my kitchen and living room will be open through a large arch for example). But I’ll use the halls, stairs and landings to help the spaces flow between.


One final question… How many pairs of Crocs do you own (and which are your favourite colour)?

Blimey – a few! Though I do get through them – probably a new pair is needed every 6 months, as I’m literally on my feet and in them 12 hours a day! As to colour – I have a soft spot for my yellow ones – if nothing else they’re easier to find when I misplace them!


posted on 26 Aug 2022 in Interiors

©2024 Sanderson Design Group, All Rights Reserved.