An interior designer who bought her first home on Magdalen Street, before painting it in zebra print and selling it for almost three times as much, says she still loves city life despite a move to the country.

You don’t need to chat to Lanassir Gunton for very long to realise that she was always going to be an interior designer.

“I always grew up in houses that were being renovated and pulled apart and it was just standard,” she says. “You didn’t just go into a house to live in it, you went in it and thought ‘how can we make this work for us’? It’s just how we lived. My Barbies had a very interesting doll’s house,” she laughs.

Even today, Lanassir and her grandad, a retired builder, trawl property websites together, looking at potential projects – an ongoing reminder of how he helped her to renovate her very first home.

Norwich Evening News: Lanassir Gunton now runs her own interior design studio, Swank InteriorsLanassir Gunton now runs her own interior design studio, Swank Interiors (Image: Copyright Archant Norfolk 2016)

She’s worked on a number of properties since then, both her own and for clients through her firm, Swank Interiors, but the one thing that’s always remained constant is her love for city-centre living.

“I was first introduced to the idea when I went to work one day with my grandad in the eighties,” she explains. “He was taking out a shop front and turning a property into a house – it was on the corner of Ten Bell Lane/Pottergate, and I loved the thought of having everything on your doorstep.”

Lanassir moved out of her family home in 1994, aged 17, and rented a flat off her parents. She’d done an A-level in interior design and was working at Anglian Fashion Fabrics on Magdalen Street in the city centre. “I was constantly making stuff and desperately wanting to do things,” she says.

Norwich Evening News: When she moved into her first house, Lanassir says she was desperate to be creatingWhen she moved into her first house, Lanassir says she was desperate to be creating (Image: Supplied by Lanassir Gunton)

“When my parents would come round I had stencilled the wall – as you did in the 90s – and they were going crazy.” Her parents knew they’d had have to fix the changes she’d made when she moved out, she says, so in 1998, she decided to buy a house.

The house, which she says was “really cute”, was tucked away behind a row of shops on Magdalen Street and cost £36,500. “I bought it with my best friend because neither of us could afford to buy a house on our own, but it was cheaper than renting.”

The house was pretty much a two-up two-down, with two additional rooms in the loft and a downstairs loo without a basin. The basin and bath, she says, were upstairs, so they decided to move it. Her grandad did most of the work, grappling with thick walls which were an arm’s width thick. They also had it re-plastered and changed the kitchen – but not as you might expect.

Norwich Evening News: Lanassir in the early 90sLanassir in the early 90s (Image: Supplied by Lanassir Gunton)

“Rather than putting a normal kitchen in, I got a reclaimed one with sliding doors,” Lanassir laughs. “It came out of a caravan. It was absolutely crazy. And the chimney breast I painted with zebra print... It was fun and so I was very creative in it. I was just so proud of it.”

The location made it easy for Lanassir to get to work, which was just down the road, and she says she liked the community that existed in that part of Norwich. “Every day I’d walk to work, see the same people, speak to the same people – it was a really nice feeling.

“We only had a washing machine, we didn’t have a tumble dryer, so on my day off I used to take my basket of washing over to the launderette to dry it and you’d see all the people from the restaurants down the road in there, because they were all doing the table cloths. Everybody kind of knew each other.”

Norwich Evening News: Lanassir's first property was on Magdalen Street in Norwich, which she said she loved because of its sense of communityLanassir's first property was on Magdalen Street in Norwich, which she said she loved because of its sense of community (Image: Archant © 2012)

They kept the house for four years, eventually selling it for £103,000 in 2002. “That was the best thing you could ever do at 21, buy a house,” she reflects. “I couldn’t imagine not being able to do that now, but young people just can’t.”

Lanassir later moved to Brundall – buying a house for £102,500, renovating it, and then selling it on for £155,995 – before returning to Norwich. She’s owned properties right across the city, everywhere from Colegate to Hamlin Court, and now owns an apartment on St Benedict’s, which she lets out as an Airbnb through Ginger & Gold.

“I do like apartments,” she says. “I think there’s so much that can be done to them, and it can be a really nice way of life if you do them right.”

Renovating an apartment can, of course, be challenging, particularly if you don’t have space for workmen to park their vans or room for a skip for the rubble... but a lot can be achieved, too.

Norwich Evening News: Lanassir says she wanted to create the feeling of going out while being inLanassir says she wanted to create the feeling of going out while being in (Image: Sylvaine Poitau)

At her St Benedict’s apartment, Lanassir has created a home that she’d always want to live in – even though family circumstances have taken her away from the city, towards a more rural way of life. “I did it so it was a home that I’d always want to live in because, one day, we might even retire there – who knows.

“I redid the kitchen and I wanted it to be really sociable to the living area because I love to cook. It’s bizarre, because as you live in the city centre you think you’re going to go out all the time, but I didn’t. I just entertained a lot.”

The living space, she says, is “very Instagrammable”; it’s dark with a mirror-tiled wall and interesting lighting, more akin to a hotel or nightclub than your average living room. “I wanted to feel like I was out when I was in,” she says.

Norwich Evening News: The master bedroom at Lanassir's St Benedict's apartment, which she rents out as an AirbnbThe master bedroom at Lanassir's St Benedict's apartment, which she rents out as an Airbnb (Image: Sylvaine Poitau)

Equally, the spare bedroom is dramatic and dark, which is a stark contrast to the space Lanassir has created for herself, the big master suite that is “all very pale, so it’s really light and airy.”

And just like her first property, Lanassir says she’s always liked the community feel of this part of Norwich. “It’s just so friendly,” she says. “I do like the city – and I think that Norwich is always going to be that sort of place – but I’ve always chosen sort of smaller developments or areas, not the big blocks.”

Norwich, unlike other cities, also offers quite a lot of green space, as well as river walks, so Lanassir says she’s never really been bothered by a lack of garden – a common reason many people choose to relocate, particularly in lockdown. “You don’t feel as though you haven’t got a garden, I don’t think.”

Norwich Evening News: Lanassir says she loves life in Norwich and that apartments offer such huge potentialLanassir says she loves life in Norwich and that apartments offer such huge potential (Image: Archant © 2010)

Over time, Lanassir thinks that people’s attitudes to city-centre living will change – particularly in Norwich, where more and more apartments are springing up.

And then there’s the cost of living and the fact that more downsizers seem to be thinking of more central properties, because they are easier to manage.

“A lot of people have moved into Norfolk, into bigger houses than what they’re used to,” she says. “But the running of a bigger house [can be challenging] if you’re not used to a house of that size.

“Once you spend winter running your Aga and everything else, I think that people will realise that actually, there are other ways we can do this. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the bigger houses sort of get split up a little, to make them more affordable to run.”

Norwich Evening News: Lanassir, as a child, doing some DIYLanassir, as a child, doing some DIY (Image: Supplied by Lanassir Gunton)

Nowadays, Lanassir and her husband live outside of the city, near Dereham, although they do, from time to time, still stay at her home in Norwich. “Although I no longer live in the city centre, it is nice to still have a property there and be able to dip in and out,” she says.

More of Lanassir’s work can be found at