Design house: The Berkshire home that is more Hollywood than Home Counties
This 19th-century Berkshire cottage has been reinvented with glamorous Hollywood styling and characterful antiques, breaking the mould of a traditional country home
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A tour of this house offers a vivid introduction to the who’s who of mid-century modern, continental design. ‘That is by Curtis Jeré,’ says the owner, pointing out the gleaming bronze mirror.
You spot a coffee table by French house Maison Baguès and a sleek chest of drawers by Carlo de Carli. Elsewhere, collectable pieces in lustrous, metallic tones pepper the interior, adding a discreet glamour (more Hollywood than Home Counties) to this Berkshire home.
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The previous owners might have approved. ‘According to locals they were rather 'jet-setty' – there were rumours of helicopters landing on lawns,’ laughs the owner, an interiors consultant and founder of Artisanna London, which specialises in mid-century modern-inspired seating. ‘We liked the huge party room, which they had built at the back of the house in the Seventies.
They also added five bathrooms so their guests could stay in what was, at the time, very un-English comfort.’ These details and, somewhat counter-intuitively, the house’s lack of period details were what drew the owner and her husband, an antiques dealer, to buy the property back in 2013.
This house isn’t an architectural masterpiece, with interesting features like cornicing or beams,’ says the owner. ‘But that worked in our favor. Our antiques have strong personalities so they need space to breathe.
’The rest of the house was less appealing to the couple. ‘There was brown and orange everywhere,’ she recalls. The layout was equally unwelcoming for a family of four. ‘What is now our sitting room was divided in to a galley kitchen with a narrow dining area next door, and upstairs, part of the house had been partitioned off to create a separate flat. There was no flow to the interior.’
With two doors on opposite walls, large windows set into a third and French doors in the fourth, the addition of a fireplace has helped to give the drawing room a clear point of focus. The mirror is a vintage piece by metalwork artist Curtis Jeré.
By removing a partition wall that had previously separated an awkward galley kitchen and a dining room, they have been able to create this formal but comfortable drawing room. The rug was bought from William Yeoward some years ago.
The 19th-century cottage has been extended over the years and the front door was moved to its present position in the Seventies, creating this wide, light and airy entrance hall. The couple laid walnut parquet in place of a Seventies carpet and used a neutral wall color to correspond with the tones in the sitting room next door.
A large party room built by the previous owners at the back of the house has been turned into a large, open-plan kitchen diner with plenty of space for formal dinner parties (the table seats 12). The Darcy dining chairs are one of the owners own designs and are upholstered in a now-discontinued Jane Churchill fabric and some Seventies faux leather she had found.
The owner designed the kitchen to be functional but inconspicuous, using contrasting surfaces. A mirrored splashback behind the units reflects the views of the countryside behind. She bought the mid-century modern bar stool, and the birds in flight sculpture on the worktop during trips to France and Italy.
In the course of reworking the area that has become their drawing room, the couple were able to block off a door into the back hall that was superfluous to requirements and use the shell of the doorway as a distinguishing feature.
Taking her cue from her love of the surfaces and finishes of classic mid-century modern, continental design, she redesigned the rather gloomy cloakroom to create a more urbane feel, mixing walnut parquet floor with a vintage mirror, artwork and a generous double basin.
As part of their redesign of the former party room, they created an inviting seating area with a log burner and television, close to the French doors with views of the garden and countryside beyond. The brass palm tree and the folded screen behind are mid-century modern pieces she bought in Milan.
In her sons' bedroom, she redecorated from scratch swapping Seventies hues for a subtly co-ordinated scheme, inspired by the striped headboard fabric.
Understandably, the couples’ home is peppered with her own handmade furniture designs, including this tidy dressing room stool. Its shape and form are inspired by rare, collectable 20th-century continental designs. The homeowner has designed her bedroom to be a relaxing retreat with a layout that capitalises on the sweeping rural views and neutral tones offset by the couple’s collection of mid-century antiques and family heirlooms.
She chose a calm colour palette for an easy connection between the main bedroom and bathroom. The vintage mirror is from a collection she has built up over the years.
To create this spacious guest bedroom with an adjoining bathroom, they rearranged the partition walls and added a mixture of antique and new pieces. The colours and styling in this room are a subtle tribute to the designs of the Art Deco period.
Set in peaceful countryside, the former extended cottage appealed to the couple as a place with scope to be transformed into a comfortable home in which to bring up their family and to entertain friends.
Inspired by the shape of the venerable oak tree, the owner commissioned the treehouse for her two sons, with a climbing wall and zip wire attached at the back.
Photography ⁄ Davide Lovatti
Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.
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