Christmas is a time to relax for interior designer Laura Butler-Madden, husband Patrick and their three-year-old daughter Lily.
‘It can be hugely stressful if you put too much pressure on the day, so we allow ourselves to take it slowly with early morning stockings, followed by a leisurely breakfast then a sociable stroll with both families – Patrick’s visit from Madrid each year. Lunch comes late, around afternoon, with an Anglo-Spanish meal combining traditional British turkey with Iberian delicacies like aged hams and piquant olives.'
The couple had completed work on their Georgian townhouse in Bath just before last Christmas, so this year they’re more settled and able to fully enjoy it.
The Georgian architecture truly makes this one of the world’s best homes. ‘We fell for the house because of its architectural history and saw the scope to breathe new life into it without fundamentally changing its bones,’ says Laura. ‘No extensions, nor knocking down walls, just a considered update to enhance its beauty and make it comfortable and practical for modern living.’
Part of the house’s appeal was its unusual layout, with two levels below the ground floor kitchen and living rooms, and two more above.
‘We didn’t want the kitchen in the basement with Lily’s room miles away at the top of the house,’ says Laura. ‘In this home we live in the middle, sleep above and have spaces for guests and a cinema room below.’
Tucked away in a hidden row of period properties, just off the centre of the city, the house had been converted into two flats when they bought it.
‘We had to get planning permission to turn it back into a single dwelling, then, during lockdown, working around the availability of builders and supplies was a challenge, but the total revamp, including the new kitchen and three bathrooms plus plumbing, wiring and redecoration throughout took an impressive six months.
‘We spent time on advance planning to avoid hold-ups but stayed flexible, as you need to, finessing the details as work progressed,’ she says. The couple – Patrick is a co-director of their interior design business, as well as a property renovation company they run together – have been working in tandem for 11 years.
They have remodelled ten houses in the last decade, so they are constantly refining what works for them and clients alike.
The new kitchen is a triumph as Laura's kitchen ideas have created a calming and beautiful space. 'We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I wanted the space to have an elegant look rather than that of a full-on functional kitchen,’ she says.
In the stylish kitchen diner, dining room ideas were incorporated around family meals, as well as entertaining guests. ‘Not only is banquette seating space-saving but here it adds lovely texture, too,’ says Laura.
Living room ideas were designed around keeping the space intimate.
'We deliberately kept the small living room, which is adjacent to the kitchen, compact and made it cozy in an elegant way – cozy doesn’t have to mean dark and moody,’ says Laura. ‘We also added elements of fun to make the space playful and not too serious.’
An understated, elegant backdrop in the living room allows artwork (and the Christmas tree!) to pop out.
An unnecessary ground floor bathroom was turned to good use.
‘We installed a ‘butler’s pantry’, with extra elements like a dishwasher, oven, sink and fridge, in a room off the kitchen for the first time,’ says Laura, ‘which allowed the kitchen itself to be more elegant in design terms and more of a room to enjoy. It works so well I think this idea will become a zeitgeist of our time, in the way that dressing room ideas have.’
The main bedroom includes clever bedroom ideas, combining feminine curves and masculine lines.
The luxurious shower was one of Laura's bathroom ideas. 'Creating a fully marble shower pushed us out of our comfort zone but now I feel so much joy whenever I look at it,’ she says.
Laura’s aim was to create a modern vanity unit in the bathroom, focusing on beautiful marble bathroom ideas, that would complement the period features.
How is it for them being both client and designer? ‘We try to take each new project to the next level, and this definitely involves coming out of our comfort zone,’ Laura says. ‘I’m still nervous until the last minute, waiting to see if my vision works in reality!’
The bywords for Laura’s designs are elegance, comfort and calm, which are perfectly reflected in this home where Georgian curves and period features are allowed to be the heroes, enhanced by magnificent yet understated materials and a soft colour palette. Pale woods, aged brass and exquisite marbles happily co-exist with 18th-century design sensibilities – it’s as if the house has given its approval.
‘This is a home that excites us and feels like a calm haven at same time – the dream,’ says Laura.
Interior designer/ Laura Butler-Madden (opens in new tab)
Photographs/ Paul Raeside
Mary Weaver has had more than 20 years experience in the world of interiors magazines. She is a writer, stylist, art director, video and events producer. She has contributed to Homes & Gardens for many years and was Houses Editor of Livingetc for 14 years. During her career she has worked for all the major magazine titles, and previously enjoyed a career as a fashion editor.
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