Cathy Miller has a long-held love of Italy and has spent many happy family holidays there with her family. She even got married there, so it made perfect sense to incorporate elements taken from Italian life into her beautiful detached 1920s house in Surrey.
Describing her style as ‘rustic antique, with a touch of glamour and decadence, heavily influenced by Italian travels’, Cathy loves to mix vintage finds, commissioned pieces and new items to create a characterful home. ‘It’s also important to me that people feel comfortable in here and are able to relax, so nothing is too precious and rooms are practical with plenty of cosy seating,’ she adds.
‘I have always admired the Renaissance-style plaster finish walls we’ve seen in old Italian villas and Palazzi, and wanted to recreate that, but I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted,’ says Cathy. Luckily, a clever artist friend offered to help and arrived with an array of paint pots, brushes and rags, and spent hours layering and adding texture. ‘I’m thrilled with the results. She has done the hallway, and I’m already preparing to ask her to do the kitchen.’
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1920s family home
Cathy’s Arts & Crafts-style detached house, built in 1920 is packed full of character. The family lived in the house for six months before tackling their first project, the kitchen-diner.
The kitchen-diner was previously two gloomy rooms with black wooden ceilings and no functional work space. ‘I come from a large Greek family and have inherited a love of entertaining, so we wanted a big, light-filled room where we could cook and talk to guests, and sit lots of people around the table,’ Cathy says. ‘It’s now my favourite room – it’s practical and homely but reflects my design tastes.’
‘I found my dream kitchen online and commissioned our brilliant carpenter to make it exactly how I envisaged,’ she explains. Free-standing pieces add to the relaxed feel.
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In Cathy’s living room, rustic elegance is achieved with a combination of aged wood finishes and antique pieces. A palette of soft neutrals and earthy tones makes sure the space feels warm and invited, but still light and spacious. Cathy painted the walls in Mushroom by Little Greene.
Pretty details such as the patterned rug, Renaissance-inspired cushions and a simple crystal chandelier give the room a low-key, feminine feel.
During the summer, the Millers love to make full use of their outdoor area, where they’ve created a room built from stone. ‘We love to be in the garden, but the British weather often has other ideas so we wanted somewhere that was open-fronted but warm and dry where we can enjoy the garden and surrounding views,’ Cathy says.
A large fireplace allows the space to be used throughout the year for the family and their friends to gather, with candles and festoon lights providing a cosy glow as darkness falls.
Want to create your own outdoor living space? Get the lowdown here: Outdoor living room ideas – how to create the perfect living space in your garden
A green oak beamed orangery was added to the house to create a place to relax and read surrounded by Italian lemon trees and greenery, whatever the weather outside. Characterful terracotta tiles blur the line between indoor and outdoor, and create the Italian-inspired look that Cathy so loves.
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In the main bedroom, the wooden bed perfectly matches the timber beams, building on that richness of colour and pulling the room together.
Natural flooring adds texture for that all-important rustic vibe.
‘I don’t usually use wall coverings, but I loved this design and the guest room felt like the ideal place to let my design hair down,’ laughs Cathy. Antique gilt Louis XVI mirrors make sure the bed is the focal point, and a statement pendant light gives the boudoir-style room a contemporary twist.
This spacious bathroom has a luxurious freestanding feel with a roll-top bath at its centre and a pair of vintage shutters screening off the toilet area. Stand-alone pieces, like the table and chair, are indulgent extra touches.
See more classic bathroom ideas in this home: Traditional bathroom with blue roll top bath and shuttered windows
With the house complete, Cathy is already dreaming up her next projects, which include turning an old well hole into a wine cellar. Meanwhile, she has collaborated with a local business, antique and vintage sellers Louisa Grace Interiors, to open a cafe on her local high street, where she has created a stylish and relaxed space featuring the same vintage and plaster finishes as her home.‘I love people, design and entertaining so this is the perfect combination of all my passions,’ Cathy says.