"My life is houses, it always has been."

Clare Southcombe-Holmes shrugs simply as she shows me around her effortlessly stylish house, which has the enviable look of being at once meticulously designed and casually thrown together.

White walls meet dark wood, faux fur throws and cosy cushions in the snug, while a vintage Bovril box holds condiments in the kitchen and tea bags are housed in ornate jars sitting on an elaborate, French-style shelf.

Upstairs it's more of the same, where oversized clocks, a birdcage chandelier and quirky artwork make statements in chic, tonal bedrooms.

After moving into the property, in Milford-on-Sea High Street in 2016, the house has undergone an extensive renovation, with walls coming down, staircases moved and an extension built.

It's been a labour of love for Clare, she explains, as we chat over coffee while a black Labrador and a couple of cats - who also match the interior - luxuriate in the underfloor heating.

But it's also been the realisation of a long-held dream, as Clare and her partner Glenn Harrison are now the proud owners of the No64 Biscuit House interiors shop, which forms the front of the building and is a space for Clare to share her signature style.

"People say 'I've got grey floor tiles - will this go?' You can say 'come and have a look'," explains Clare of how her home has become an extended showroom for the shop, which opened in February 2017.

But she wouldn't have it any other way.

"Ever since I was a child, I used to style my bedroom," she smiles, "even my daughter does it now."

"I was very creative - I used to do sculpture. I wasn't very academic - I look back now and I'm definitely dyslexic, although it hasn't been proven. So I went down the creative route. When I left school I was going to go to Southampton University for sculpture - didn't go and ended up getting a job at the riding stables.

"My dad had an advertising and design business - he said I was going to go and work for him. I went in as a paste-up artist - because they didn't have computers it was literally cutting things out and pasting them. It's basically a graphic artist. I hated it.

"I got asked if I wanted to assist on a photo shoot and never looked back."

Clare became an assistant stylist and props buyer, moving up the ladder when a colleague went on maternity leave and taking over room sets for Crown Wallcoverings and Cosmetics To Go's catalogue. She eventually became head of styling, looking after a team of stylists, photographers and props buyers.

"It was so stressful", she remembers. "Great, and I learnt so much, but my real passion was wanting to open a shop. My dad said 'if you're going to do it, you've got to to it before you're 50'.

When Clare lost her dad in March 2015, the family sold the company and with her 50th birthday approaching, she decided to bite the bullet.

"One day I just went in and handed my notice in," she says, simply.

"We sold the company - my dad was wanting to sell it to the directors to let them progress it. It put me in a position to be able to buy this. So I bought it, and that was it - we went for it. Plans went in and got approved by April 2016 and off we went.

"It's everything."

Clare whitewashed the entire space as she wanted to live in it before she started making tweaks, just adding panelling to create character.

"I love the French and Scandi style," she says of her signature look, "I've got vintage shutters. I just like textures. I love Scandi, but I'm not completely Scandi - I just like it to look cosy, but not clinical."

No64 Biscuit House is filled with Clare's personal favourites and is a true reflection of her own style, featuring everything from candles and cushions, right through to bigger ticket items of furniture.

"I'm trying to keep up with what's sensible for Milford," she explains. "You want to make sure there's enough there for people that are more modern, that are doing second homes and want to spend more on something that's unique, but also local people that just want a packet of napkins.

"We try to have items that can't be sourced nearby. I've only got one brand I've seen not too far away. But everything else is unique to us.

"I tend to buy what I like. Whatever anyone says, you have to listen, but I go with my gut. You do make mistakes. Whether I'm completely on trend or not, it's what I like. It just evolves all the time depending on what you find.

"Where I'm looking at the industry every single day, I'm seeing houses all the time. You just drift into a different style."

The store is also a stockist of the full range of Annie Sloan chalk paint, wall paint and accessories, with a completely separate room dedicated to the brand. It also regularly hosts Annie Sloan workshops in-store - further details on the website below.

Alongside running the shop with Glenn, Clare hires her house out for photo shoots and still dabbles in styling and what she calls an "advisory service".

"I never say I'm an interior designer," she smiles, "I've qualified, but I just don't want to do it. My main passion is styling - it's what I love doing. I have a signature style which is very neutral and that's how I like to work. If you like it, then hopefully I can help you.

"But my heart is with the shop."

Word is certainly spreading about No64 Biscuit House - one customer recently travelled from London to see the shop after seeing it on Instagram, while others have taken items back to Australia and Clare recently packaged up some candles to send to New York.

"Our online sales are getting busier," she says, "people are finding things online and then coming to us to buy it. I gift-wrap everything, so it's a pleasure for people to receive.

"The one thing we like to offer is the personal service. People come in and tell me their operation or treatments have gone well - we've become friends with so many people. The people you meet, it's incredible. There are some amazing stories - you're not just a shop keeper.

"My life is my shop now. It's incredibly hard work, but you get back what you put into it. I just love doing it."

No64 Biscuit House, The High Street, Milford-on-Sea T: 01590 643765 W: no64.co.uk