Trims and tassels are familiar territory for upholsterer Narissa Musgrave, so when she and husband Tim decided to downsize from their family home, it seemed fitting to give a new decorative lease of life to treasured pieces.
In that sense, joining forces with interior designer Laura Stephens – known for her passion for passementerie – was a match made in heaven. ‘As well as being neighbors, I’ve worked with Laura on a number of projects,’ says Narissa. ‘We enjoy her considered use of color and pattern and so we wanted her to take on the renovation of our new home.’ Their children having flown the nest, Tim and Narissa had looked at properties in Dorset, Sussex, and Suffolk, but in the end, settled for a smaller Edwardian terrace just a couple of streets away from their London home.
‘It felt right because we hadn’t fallen out of love with the capital,’ says Tim. ‘Retirement in the city, surrounded by friends and familiarity, felt appealing.’ Less attractive was the prospect of shedding several meaningful items of furniture whose scale didn’t match the more modest proportions of their new home.
‘However, in the end it felt quite cathartic,’ says Tim. ‘It also gave us the opportunity to refresh our style – some of our previous interiors felt dated; this was a chance to go for contemporary, more colorful schemes.’
Structurally, little needed altering, but rooms, which were largely white, felt boxy and unadventurous. ‘Aside from a fireplace or two, there were few original features, so we needed to introduce verve,’ says Laura. ‘I also felt that the rooms called for a sense of purpose. The sitting room for example, which accommodated a piano and an armchair, didn’t live up to its potential.'
That sense of identity has been imbued through a creative combination of form and function. Built-in joinery was added to the main bedroom, complete with fabric-backed glass panels; the kitchen cabinetry was repainted in rhubarb and walls clad in tongue-and-groove; in the hallway a practical console shelf was built over the radiator, its playful wavy lines echoing the arch of the front door. ‘I wanted every room to contain something to surprise and delight,’ says Laura, who also added a pink-trimmed stair runner to draw the eye to the tones of the kitchen beyond.
Soft greens and blues are the anchoring undercurrent throughout, in schemes that take their color cue from Tim and Narissa’s artwork. ‘We wouldn’t have thought of pairing the sitting room’s blue wallpaper with green woodwork, or painting the cloakroom architrave in zingy orange,’ says Tim. ‘But these bolder palettes have reframed some of our favorite pieces, such as the red and blue vases in the sitting room.’
Nonetheless, there were times when the couple felt out of their comfort zone. ‘I must admit that when I first saw the William Morris wallpaper in the bedroom I had a wobble,’ shares Narissa. ‘It just reminded me of walking into my grandmother’s house. But paired with the green woodwork, it has fresh appeal. I guess I’ve now seen that some trends come full circle.’
Throughout, Narissa’s own handiwork elevates these schemes – from the upcycled dining chairs with their geometric backing to an antique chair in the sitting room covered in contrasting piping. Other elements, such as the pompom-fringed bedroom curtains, form part of Laura’s signature style. ‘This is a happy home, which is easy to dress for the festive season,’ says Laura. ‘Most importantly, it reflects its charismatic owners – I’m thrilled we’ve captured their joie de vivre.’
Meet the designer
Designer Laura Stephens shares her style inspiration
SMALL CHANGE, BIG IMPACT
Painting the woodwork in bold, contrasting colors added immediate verve.
I was really energized by the use of color, textiles, and fabrics on a recent trip to Tangier.
I KNOW I’M A CREATIVE BECAUSE
Designing never feels like work to me.
YOUR STYLE IN THREE WORDS
Unexpected, bold, joyful.
GO-TO DESIGN DETAIL
Fringing and tassels – passementerie in all its guises.
FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS RITUAL
Reading the children my ancient edition of The Night Before Christmas, which belonged to me as a little girl.
HOME MAKES ME FEEL
Calm, safe and inspired.
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