Some houses are decorated all in one go; others evolve over time, developing a layered look as their owners build up a collection of furniture and objects that reflect the way they live. Such is the case with this home, an 18th-century former tithe barn in a village in the heart of Berkshire.
Its owner bought the property, which has been converted in the 1950s, in 1983. Over time, she opened the layout and turned the adjoining coach house into a studio, where she teaches reformer pilates but, around 12 years ago, she decided to ‘really attack’ the interior. Her children had grown up and left home and the house ‘looked out of date and needed to be pulled up by the scruff of its neck.
I wanted a modern look.’ To that end, she sold most of her furniture and painted the rooms cream, using various shades of Chalk by Paint Library, and started to redecorate almost from scratch.
Over time, the owner of this converted barn has used an artful mix of characterful pieces and warming shades to create a home that now embodies a sense of easy elegance.
An ornate, Chippendale-style fire surround was replaced by a simple beam of salvaged wood, which echoes those found in the original vaulted ceiling. Ceramic apples and an enamelled and gilded coconut shell add a note of fun to the display on a vintage camphor-wood chest.
Then, last year, the owner decided to ‘spruce things up’, but a mistake – or rather a happy accident – led to a new decorative direction. Intending to repaint the sitting room, she ordered the wrong shade, ending up with one several degrees darker. ‘It was quite mustardy, but it looked much better. I realised i was fed up with all that cream. I bought a new rug, covered a chair and cushions in mustard linen and threw in some darker colours to anchor things. What I hope I’ve got now is a classic style with just a little bit of edge.’ Double doors divide this room from the kitchen, while the painted pale yellow walls and ceiling enhance the generous proportions of this light-filled space.
Opening onto the bedroom wing, the distinctive church door was in place when the owner bought the house, thus accentuating the original architectural features in the entrance hall.
A relaxed, easy elegance permeates every room, and is particularly evident in the kitchen, which the owner wanted to look comfortable rather than clinical. ‘I don’t have a formal dining room, so this is where I entertain.’ There are no cabinets above worktop level, which leaves more wall space for accessories such as artwork and mirrors, while table lamps take the place of spotlights. Nearby, a large dresser filled with pottery and china adds to the more informal look. The owner has collected Emma Bridgewater pottery for around 20 years, displaying it in a Welsh dresser. ‘I use it everyday. The beauty is that it mixes well with vintage china; she’s got the colours just right.’
Table and chairs
Framed prints and a table lamp used instead of wall lights give this space a softer, more decorative look.
Opening off the kitchen, this space is filled with plants, vintage tools and watering cans. ‘I wanted it to have the look of Beatrix Potter’s Mr McGregor’s potting shed.’
The owner has amassed many beautiful and unusual things over the years, but it is her skill at arranging them that gives this home its charm. Everywhere you look there is a pleasing combination, whether it is the collection of oval mirrors in the bedroom or the vintage watering cans lined up in the conservatory. ‘Houses go through incarnations. It looks a lot jollier than it did before.’
A small roll-top bath fits perfectly into a ready-made alcove. Towels are stored in an oyster basket found at an antiques and textiles fair.
The Bath Co at Victoria Plum