Behind the façade of this elegant Hampshire home is a hubbub of activity. The chatter of the owner's five children, aged between six and 18, can be heard intermittently over indie rock music playing in the kitchen, where the delicious aroma of spicy Indian treats hint at preparations for a summer soirée she and her husband will be hosting that evening.
'It’s Champagne o’clock,' declares our vivacious hostess, emerging onto the terrace clutching brim-filled flutes in one hand and, in the other, a dish of pakoras plucked from the oven, alluding her Indian heritage. 'My husband and I have demanding jobs, and the children are in and out the house, so life is a little hectic at times,' she says. 'But we love socialising. Spending time with family and friends is what weekends were made for.'
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A bountiful garden and peerless views of the surrounding countryside drew the couple to buy the house as “a fixer-upper” in 2007. 'We needed a space large enough to accommodate everyone, but when I stood on the terrace, I just thought "Wow. This is it".'
The Cape Dutch-style house, built by Queen Victoria’s physician in 1908, had been divided into wings and partially rented out by the previous owners. 'They’re an elderly couple who brought up their family here. There was so much love in this house, it felt like we were taking on a wonderful legacy,” says the owner. 'The challenge was to carefully restore the property back into one house, and to make it our own. I’m not very at good at moving into someone else’s taste.'
Shortly after moving, however, the couple fell pregnant with their youngest daughter and so in the beginning, it was a case of slapping paint on walls and hastily removing interior partitions and a door in a simple bid to unify the house.
A couple of years ago, however, a more extensive renovation took place, with help from interior designer Stephanie Dunning. 'My husband was reticent at first,' the homeowner recalls, 'but with the children and our hectic jobs, we simply didn’t have time to finish it ourselves.' She continues: 'I know what I want, but I needed help from someone I trust to pull it together.'
With structural adjustments and restoration of the original parquet flooring complete, the decorating brief was refreshingly simple: 'It had to be light and airy,' recalls Stephanie. 'There was a lot of brown in the house, yet the couple are naturally drawn to delicate blues and greys. We stripped it back, and translated this into a muted palette shot through with pops of color, like the rich velvet cushions.'
The tasteful renovation is a masterclass in easy elegance, combined with a dash of refined, yet relaxed, country-house style. Deep, roomy sofas in the drawing room add a contemporary feel to the interior, which is sparingly furnished with carefully chosen antique pieces for timeless appeal. 'It’s a subtle blend of styles. I don’t like too much furniture, but the balance and flow is just right,' says the homeowner. 'Most importantly, as well as being stylish, it’s a very welcoming, comfortable home.'
Gatherings at the home invariably spill out into the lush garden during summertime, yet they refused to sacrifice the formal dining room. 'In terms of the house’s style, it didn’t feel appropriate. Removing the door enhanced the sense of connection to the kitchen, but we’re passionate foodies, so it felt right to have a dedicated space to showcase our creations.'
Just then, a trill from the kitchen informs us that another batch of freshly baked treats are ready. Guests will be arriving soon, and mouth-watering aromas have lured the children from their dens. 'It’s a wonderfully chaotic house, but every time I walk through the front door I smile, and say "This is my beautiful home".'
'When we bought the house, we couldn’t understand why the doorway into the room didn’t align with the view. It’s very special,' reveals the homeowner. 'We moved it so that now, you can see straight through to the garden as you walk through the front door.'
The pretty entrance hall is filled with a masterful blend of antique finds, including the mirror and wooden day bed, and contemporary artwork for a relaxed, welcoming feel.
The muted tones in the spacious kitchen provide a welcome counterpoint in this busy space. 'I eat and breathe cooking, and as a family, we tend to congregate in here during mealtimes.'
Muted tones offer a fitting counterpoint to brightly colored pop art in the kitchen's dining area. 'It’s a very happy home. We’re a typical large family, a normal functioning madhouse, but we love it.'
Plump, velvety chairs have been known to lull guests into post-dinner snoozes in the sophisticated dining room.
I’ve never been as comfortable anywhere in my life as when I’m in my bedroom,' reveals the homeowner. 'I found the wallpaper a few years ago, so Stephanie had to work around it; it’s my sanctuary.'
Natural light pouring in from an untreated window casts a soft glow in the pastel green bathroom.