My love of old houses started when I was very young. My Grandparents live in a tiny, three storey cottage in Harbledown, Kent. You need to drive down a bumpy, cobbled hill to arrive at the secret little world that is, ‘The Mint.’ This hill is decorated on the sides with beautiful wild flowers and when reaching the bottom, their cottage is in the middle of three. On arrival you are always greeted by sparkling clean windows, a lavender pot smelling delicious outside the front door and warm hugs from Nan Nan and Badger.
Their front door has a square window for peeping out, with little wooden doors on it, decoupaged with a lilac flower. You need to duck down to go through the heavy door and enter a small kitchen with tiled floors and wood cabinets built by my Grandad. There are six sapphire blue, glazed flower tiles behind the kettle. On an ivory dresser are pretty coloured glasses, floral tea cups and in one of these will always be a little selection of some of the wild flowers freshly picked from the hill.
The front room has the most amazing inglenook fireplace that they discovered hidden behind a wall when decorating. There are seats built within the brick work frame either side of a log burner (once open fire) and I always imagine my Mum, Aunts and Uncle (my Grandparents raised 6 children in this cottage) sitting on these seats and warming themselves after a bath. My Nan has a small cream and burgundy tapestry hanging down from a wall light and it has 6 William Morris-esque birds decorating it and of course a tassel!
My Nan started my obsession for Christian, religious artefacts. Tiny gold triptychs with cherubs and the Virgin Mary dressed in crimson reds and regal blues. She has always collected amazing ornaments from charity shops and this also inspired my love for these often kitsch pieces. There are velvet curtains, tiffany lamps and a scarlet carpet runner with gold bars going up their winding stairs. If it is possible to create a little manor house in a tiny cottage in Harbledown then they have smashed it!
I was hooked and made it my mission to one day have my own little palace!
Living in Kent, I am lucky enough to have Hever Castle a 40 minute drive away. This was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife. Intricately carved wooden furniture and pillars, wrought iron candelabras, exposed beams and of course, portraits of ancestors presented in intricate gold frames. These paintings always look like they have a dreamy, glow to them. I guess this was the Tudors way of filtering pre Instagram!
I will never forget my visit to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight when I was 10. This was Queen Victoria’s home, built so that her family could have some privacy. Osborne has the elements of an Italian house and is in a palazzo style. There was a print and pattern on the bedspread that she shared with her beloved husband, Albert. It wasn’t until looking closer that I realised the pattern was Victoria and Albert’s silhouettes, intertwined using hand embroidery. Absolutely stunning!
Quex House in Birchington, near Margate is another beauty! In 1813, Major John-Powell inherited the estate. He had spent 40 years exploring Africa and Asia and brought his many collections back to Quex. He created ‘The Oriental Room’ which stands out alongside some of the more traditionally styled rooms. It is filled with delights from the orient. Bright red colours, chinoiserie, detailed Persian rugs and furniture carved with dragon heads.
I loved the ostentatiousness of Chatsworth House in the heart of the Peak District in Derbyshire. The entrance hall flooring of classic black and white tiles is gazed upon by elaborate Italian Baroque ceiling paintings of angels and cherubs adorned with gold leaf accents. In fact, I don’t remember a ceiling in Chatsworth that wasn’t covered in stunning paintings or patterns and the majority of the house is gilded in gold!
I started to love how these complete clash of styles totally worked and create exciting, interesting spaces that you can’t take your eyes off. I suppose this was my entry to the world of and my passion for maximalist design!
When finishing University and moving in with my boyfriend (now husband!) we rented three different properties over 7 years. The first was a Victorian terraced house which had been furnished already with modern 60’s furniture. Gorgeous but very, very white!
The second was an old coach house in Whitstable. It had exposed beams and some amazing original features and came unfurnished. This is where my love of second hand vintage furniture began and this was how we could add our personality to the home. I began to buy small pieces and loved their quality and character.
The third property was a 70’s build and not my dream but very practical for us starting a family. This is where I started to learn how to upcycle. Annie Sloan chalk paint was all you could get at the beginning and ‘shabby chic’ was the buzz word. More paints began to be developed and I loved exploring them all. My dining room table ended up having illuminous yellow, pink and green chairs and I fell in love with turning something that was ready for the skip into something that I loved and was admired.
When able to buy, I was ecstatic to find a Grade 2 listed, timber framed cottage in 2016. I booked to see it the following day and we made an offer that evening. The house is full of so much character but was filled with magnolia walls and beige carpets. My idea of hell but a perfect black canvas for me to get creative! I was now able to add colour through paint and wallpaper and this whole new world blew my mind!
I took over decorating the whole house and my long suffering husband allows me to go for it! I become completely immersed in the room or area I am working on and I spend hours researching ideas and finding the perfect accessories.
We couldn’t afford to change our kitchen at the beginning and there were bright red tiles already there that I hated but had to work with. ‘Party Patty’ bright pink walls and a gold skirting board HAD to be included. I searched for weeks and found a cream fibreglass baroque fire surround and white emulsion cherubs which were instantly sprayed gold and placed on the wall.
In the 5 years that we have been here, I have probably re-decorated each room at least twice. I think I have now tried every colour in the Valspar spectrum, am a full addict to Cole and Son and House of Hackney wallpapers and LOVE my Axminster Leopard Print Carpet on my stairs, of course with the gold stair bars!
Come and explore images of my home and I hope you will see where so many of my design influences have come from after reading my first blog and my love of old houses!