Whistles women: Sara Ekholm

Sara Ekholm is in the business of spaces and places. The Spanish-born picture editor began her career as a features assistant at Elle Decoration and now scouts shoot locations for several high-profile agencies. Years of experience led Ekholm to create her own shoot location 'Number Twenty Nine' at the home she shares with her boyfriend in Hackney, East London.

Since 2014, their townhouse has provided a serene and stylish backdrop for a whole host of commercial and editorial shoots. An inquisitive tour of each room reveals Sara has built much of the furniture herself, from a versatile dining table to fitted wardrobes. Her inherent craft for interior styling is equalled by her ability to design and build – a woman after our own heart.

Since birth, Ekholm has lived in multiple countries, from Sweden and Switzerland to Malaysia. Her nomadic upbringing echoes gently through the airy space, in the form of mid-century Scandinavian furniture and exotic plant life. On the day we meet, Ekholm is all smiles and warm welcomes. 

Can you share any secrets for a beautiful living space?

I think plants and flowers always enhance a space, and bringing a bit of the outside in helps create a calm and beautiful interior. Especially living in a big city, it’s nice to have a (little) bit of nature in your home. It’s very hard to pin point what makes a beautiful living space and of course it's in the eye of the beholder - what some cherish others will detest. 

Tell us about your neighbourhood?

Hackney is constantly evolving and never dull. I love exploring the whole of London, but days spent around the area that I live in are always great. I know most of the neighbours on my street and there is a real community feel. I like the sense of belonging, it’s like a little village. 

How do you go about scouting a location?

I sometimes find locations through architects or designers, or often people get in touch with me. When I cycle around town, I'm always looking for interesting buildings or spaces, old or new and it's a nice way to dicover something.

Is there a specific formula you use to create an interior?

Not really, what you start out having as a vision for a space can change completely once you start living in it and using it. I think you need to experiment and not rush into buying everything at once. I find it quite hard to stay true to one style completely. I feel a bit style schizophrenic and change my mind about what I like all the time. The one thing I would say is very important, is storage. Display your beautiful objects or collections in abundance or just on their own, but storage for boring everyday items like piles of paper and cleaning products is vital. They never make a good addition to any space.

Whistles women: Sara Ekholm

Whistles women: Sara Ekholm

Whistles women: Sara Ekholm

There is an abundance of occasional tables throughout the space. What’s the appeal?

I like creating little still lives, and often switch things around. Re-arranging objects is a lot of fun and keeps things fresh and interesting. 

Whistles women: Sara Ekholm

Whistles women: Sara Ekholm

How does the crossover between your work/living space affect you?

I usually work from home and don't always enjoy combining work and life, but it’s unavoidable with what I do. It's tricky because it means you never switch off completely…but I guess that just means I need more holidays!

How did Number Twenty Nine come about?

Having worked for an interiors magazine, and on shoots that used location houses, I realised that my own house could actually work quite well as one, so set a website up for it and joined some agencies.

Whistles women: Sara Ekholm

Where do you source your furniture and furnishings?

I am always on the look out, so it could be a trip to Ikea, or heading down to one of the great English antiques markets, like Ardingly or Kempton to have a look. A couple of years ago my boyfriend and I set off on a market trip through France, it was a great fun and we got hold of some wonderful bargains.

Have your travels informed your home in any way?

Yes, completely. My parents have a great mix of styles and growing up with collected objects from far and wide has inspired me to do the same. It adds intrigue and interest to an interior.

Whistles women: Sara Ekholm

What has been the most awe-inspiring location you’ve worked in so far?

It's difficult to think of one place in particular, but I'm dying to go and explore California. Palm Springs and Los Angeles' mid century modernism is fantastic - like a Hockney painting or a Guy Bourdin shoot. Just beautiful. 

Do you have a favourite corner of your home?

The spare room at the back of the house has a lovely feel to it. It’s a small bedroom but overlooks the gardens at the back and a palm tree next door. I love the mix of trees and plants that you can see out the window...it’s always calming and peaceful.

How does the space you’re in affect the way you feel?

I think having moved around a lot as a child, creating a comforting home environment has been very important for me, even if I’m in a space for a couple of weeks. When things work aesthetically around me I feel good, and I can relax into the space.