As a child, the homeowner spent many a holiday on the north Norfolk coast. Further visits with her husband rekindled her affinity with the area, so when looking for a second home this was the obvious location.
‘Although much larger than the property we originally had in mind, we fell in love with this late-Georgian house that belonged to the former estate manager,’ says the homeowner.
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'We spent six years coming to the house during school holidays but, four years ago, when the children left their local schools, we decided to move here from Suffolk for a more rural lifestyle. This house was the right size and it felt like the right time.’
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As the homeowner explains, ‘Our previous property was larger and more traditional in style, while this house had been a holiday home and was decorated in casual beach house style, with painted furniture that I had picked up on regular trips to Europe. The layout worked well, though, so what I needed to do was make it cosier and give it a more lived-in family feel. In the end, I chose favourite items from both the houses, which has led to a mix of traditional polished pieces partnered with painted ones, helping to create the relaxed, informal look we wanted.’
This is where the owner’s experience as an interior designer (she trained with Percy Bass and Colefax and Fowler) followed by 15 years as a specialist dealer in continental antiques becomes clear. ‘Elegance and a strong sense of comfort and calm are key to all my design schemes,’ she says. ‘It's important to live surrounded by the possessions you love, but the trick is to balance these using subtle and discreet interior design.’
To the left of the main house, what was originally a garage built in the 1950s has been turned into a comfortable drawing room that overlooks the garden. To conceal the modern brickwork, garden designer George Carter placed trellising around the four sets of double doors leading on to the sheltered terrace.
Simple blinds were chosen for the windows as the owner felt that acres of curtain fabric would have spoiled the clean look: ‘The blinds make the room appear taller and more elegant,’ she says. The Chinese panels, found in a flea market in Paris, provide the decorative interest that wallpaper would other have done.
An antique Swedish commode forms the focal point in this enviable storage space that was once the laundry room.
The owner’s own fabrics on the cushions and armchair give new life to the fine antiques that came from her previous home.
Having a plain backdrop enables bold color, as on this celadon green dresser, to sing out while still keeping the look calm.
The previous owner connected two farm outbuildings with a glass roof to create this light-filled space. When Birdie and her husband Frank moved in ten years ago, they decided to choose work by local East Anglian artists, and the owner’s color schemes were devised to complement these pieces.
Adjoining the kitchen and dining area. this comfortable space, filled with an artful combination of French antiques, contemporary works and painted furniture, is where the family likes to gather.
Just as the owner has an instinctive flair for choosing the perfect piece for a specific spot, she also has a natural eye for creating a harmonious palette. ‘I hadn't intended to use as much green as I have, but it's a color I'm naturally drawn to and it turned out to be the perfect base for the whole house,’ she says.
When the owner took up the ceramic tiles that ran from the front to the back door, she was delighted to find the original flagstones underneath.
The bunk bed was the first thing to go when her daughter redecorated her room with her mother's help. ‘We wanted to combine elements from her childhood with a more teenage feel,’ says the homeowner.
The subtle, contemporary cast of the vanity unit, which was designed by the homeowner, prevents the guest bathroom from being quaint.
Photography/ Paul Raeside