'This is the first time in a while that the house hasn’t been filled with children,' interior designer Stephanie Dunning says as she shows us around the family home which she and her husband Peter Everard have recently renovated in Wiltshire.
The innocent remark carries greater meaning when you realise that Stephanie and Peter have four boys and three girls and while none of the children lives in the house full time these days, 'they’re always coming home”, says Peter. 'Last Christmas was a pretty riotous affair, with all their partners and friends,' Stephanie admits, but a few minutes’ conversation with this immensely talented woman makes it clear that this, and the constant to-ing and fro-ing that is so often a feature of family life, is precisely the way the couple likes things.
In fact, for that last 10 years, Stephanie has not only raised her family, she has run a highly successful interior design business whilst at the same time renovating this Victorian lodge, a project that was not without its challenges.
Having completed the renovation and extension of a house in nearby Dorset, the Everards were looking for a new challenge. The handsome façade of this house instantly appealed to them both, as did the two acres of land (including a pretty, walled vegetable garden) and the barn, which Stephanie knew would make a perfect office.
The most important aspect, however, was the location. 'It’s set in an absolutely gorgeous position, in a conservation area and between two large estates,' Stephanie explains, adding 'There are no other houses nearby so it feels as if we’re in deepest, darkest countryside but we have easy access to London and it’s only a seven-minute drive to the centre of Salisbury.'
All this was well and good but as the Everards found, what lay behind the beguiling façade was in fact a pair of cramped cottages set at right angles to it, and not the large country home that their growing family required. Determined to make it work, however, they all squeezed into the rooms and there they lived while Stephanie and Peter considered the options.
Unfortunately, a survey of the cottages revealed that the cottages were structurally unsound and not fit to be saved. 'It was not what we were expecting,' Stephanie recalls, in an impressively understated way, given that the discovery meant the couple would have to erect an entirely new house behind the 1890s façade instead of simply enlarging the original buildings’ L- shaped footprint.
Adapting their design plans to fit the new situation, the couple’s first idea was to build a house that included an extension on either side of the façade but their planning application was refused. Six years and various proposals later, they received the go-ahead for a design that filled in the negative space of the L-shape. 'It wasn’t the configuration we thought we wanted, but we are in fact tremendously pleased with the result. We’ve gained the extra space we wanted, as well as lots of natural light, and we’ve changed the aspect of the house so that it faces the garden.'
Today, the capacious interior matches the grand façade. Upstairs there are six bedrooms and four bathrooms, while downstairs comprises a kitchen with a conservatory dining room, a drawing room and study with a second conservatory, a television room, and a cinema room 'which the children use all the time'.
Stephanie prefers to use colour rather than pattern to bring a room scheme to life; here, she has used the rug she inherited from her parents to inspire the colours of the velvet cushions on the neutral sofas.
An antique gilded Japanese screen, which Stephanie and Peter bought 25 years ago and have mounted on the wall here, brings a luminous warmth to the drawing room.
HOME CINEMA ROOM
'I love to make cohesive displays of family and holiday photographs,' says Stephanie of this staggered arrangement in the cinema room; 'woe betide if anyone is ever left out.'
'I always try and find room for a fireplace when designing the entrance hall of any house. We light ours almost every weekend during the winter; it’s so welcoming,' says the owner.
Dark kitchen cabinets highlight the elegant veining of the island’s arabescato marble worktop.
With seven children, the ten-foot-long table is essential for family meals. 'If we have more than twelve people, we add a customised top that can seat sixteen. Any more than that and we get a marquee,' Stephanie says, only half-joking. A long pendant light suspended from the conservatory roof echoes both the glazing and the shape of the kitchen table and helps to define the dining area.
Peter’s own-design built-in shelving keeps the family’s extensive collection of outdoor shoes in good order as well as providing plenty of storage for dog food, buckets and Stephanie’s flower vases.
Open lawn surrounds the immediate space around the house – 'there’s always a rugby or cricket ball lying around somewhere' – but the walled vegetable garden, filled with productive raised beds, beehives and a greenhouse, is a short walk away from the kitchen.
The button detail on the headboard provides interest for the eye without compromising the tranquil atmosphere of the main bedroom.
A chair upholstered in chocolate-coloured mohair softens the look of the bathroom and encourages leisurely ablutions.
An antique valet stand brings of note of old-fashioned elegance to the bedroom.
A generous, custom-made mirror by The English Joinery Company bounces light around and makes the already roomy bathroom feel even larger.
'These antique fencing masks were not expensive, but they are wonderful to look it. It just goes to show you don’t have to spend thousands on a painting to have interesting things on your walls,' says the owner.
Stephanie expertly matched the lamp and cushions for a colourful accent.
Blue-grey built-in cupboards are the perfect foil for the beautiful tone of the mahogany chest of drawers.
The Everards designed their new home with a classic galleried landing that sits at the centre of the new house, with rooms running off all four sides, providing them with all the accommodation they need whilst at the same time creating an interior space that feels intimate and free-flowing.
EXTERIOR / FRONT DOOR
The original Victorian façade that first beguiled Stephanie and Peter has been carefully repointed, with new windows and a Georgian-inspired front door put in to complete the look.
Photography/ Jonathan Gooch