Coming down the elegant sweeping drive of this stunning Sussex country home interior designed by Kate Forman, it’s almost impossible to think that the approach is actually new.
Nevertheless, it is and part of an extensive revamping project, both inside and out.
The property, a curious amalgam of different styles and periods, overlooks a beautiful 19-acre estate with enviable views of the rolling South Downs in southern England. It was this aspect that provided the starting point for the considerable work undertaken.
Today, the key rooms are predominantly south-west facing, but this wasn’t always the case.
To redesign the internal space for a better flow, to add light and personality and to capitalise on the stunning views, the clients enlisted the expertise of project designer Will Martin from Albany Martin; and for the interior design they chose Kate Forman.
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‘It was a huge job,’ explains Will. ‘We moved the front door to the back of the house, extended what is now the drawing room and entrance and introduced a first-floor balustrade.
'We also replaced the small leaded windows with bigger panes of glass that let in more light and reconfigured the layout downstairs, particularly the kitchen, opening up the rooms to create a sense of cohesion,’ he says.
When Will had completed the house’s internal reconfiguration, the flooring and cabinetry, Kate focussed on choosing the textiles and fabrics for the rooms. She has known the client for 20 years and they share a passion for color and vibrancy.
‘Because there were only a few pieces brought from the clients’ previous home, I was pretty much sourcing materials from scratch,’ explains Kate.
‘We also have very similar taste, so there was almost no need for a brief, my suggestions were very rarely turned down and I was working with lots of color and pattern – it was an absolute dream job for me.’
Kate worked on the house as a whole to ensure there was a sense of unity, so when she was sourcing products for one room, she often found other items for different areas.
Will designed the staircase and commissioned a cabinetmaker to age the new banister, which he did by hitting the wood with a bunch of keys before French polishing it then hitting it again.
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One of Kate's first ports of call was Ardingly Antiques Fair in Sussex where she bought four beautiful kilims in one day. These spicy toned rugs provided the basis of the palette for many of the schemes, including in this space.
The reclaimed elm floorboards are held in place with handmade nails, so each one is unique. Will designed a secret electric hatch that leads to the wine cellar.
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A fabulous multicolored statement chandelier has been given pride of place in the dining area. ‘Being brave with colors made this project really exciting,’ says Kate.
The table can extend to seat 16 people, which is perfect when friends come to stay.
There’s a more dramatic effect in the back hall living room, which is a dark, north-facing space.
‘I’m a firm believer that if a room is dark, you should celebrate that, so I used a deep Prussian blue on the walls for a cozy feel,’ explains Kate. ‘Trying to lighten a room can kill its character and you’re left with a space that looks and feels cold.’
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A decorative wallpaper is a wonderful foil to the more rustic elements.
A chocolate shade on the walls is a luxurious choice.
Brilliant patterns bring this space to life. The decorative costume was found in a charity shop in Manchester.
Softer schemes were achieved using gentle pinks for the main bedroom to ensure serenity, while, the mix of folk and Eastern-inspired fabrics is striking.
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Different patterns are united by the use of similar tones and depth of color.
Will designed the building and its internal fit out, which includes the impressive vaulted ceiling and fireplace.
This is the perfect place for the clients’ three grown-up children and their friends to gather.
Most of the items Kate had collated for the project were kept in storage until the structural work was finished.
‘When the clients were ready to move in, everything happened really quickly,’ explains Kate. ‘The curtains went up one day and the furnishings the next so, because we’d planned everything down to the last cushion placement, the house felt like home almost immediately.’
It's clear that both Kate and Will are almost sorry the project is finished. ‘We became very attached to it,’ says Kate. It sounds, though, as if their unique partnership won’t end here.
Interior design/ Kate Forman Designs (opens in new tab)
Project design/ Albany Martin (opens in new tab)
Photography/ Robert Sanderson
Text/ Penny Botting
Interiors have always been Vivienne's passion – from bold and bright to Scandi white. After studying at Leeds University, she worked at the Financial Times, before moving to Radio Times. She did an interior design course and then worked for Homes & Gardens, Country Living and House Beautiful. Vivienne’s always enjoyed reader homes and loves to spot a house she knows is perfect for a magazine (she has even knocked on the doors of houses with curb appeal!), so she became a houses editor, commissioning reader homes, writing features and styling and art directing photo shoots. She worked on Country Homes & Interiors for 15 years, before returning to Homes & Gardens as houses editor four years ago.
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