Dutch stylist Janet Parella­van den Berg’s all-white home.

Dutch stylist Janet Par­rella-van den Berg’s all-white home pays homage to her life­long pas­sion for time-worn vin­tage fur­ni­ture.


For those who might have feared oth­er­wise, ro­mance is cer­tainly not dead. It’s alive and well and flour­ish­ing in a stylish Ed­war­dian house in leafy Esher, an af­flu­ent vil­lage in Sur­rey, Eng­land. It’s the home of Janet Par­rella-van den Berg, a Dutch de­signer, stylist and pho­tog­ra­pher who ren­o­vated the once run-down sub­ur­ban house into a ro­man­tic and in­spi­ra­tional workspace, stu­dio, and com­fort­able fam­ily home. Par­rella-van den Berg’s pas­sion for time-worn an­tiques is ev­i­dent in ev­ery one of the rooms in the house, which are all dec­o­rated in her favourite colour, white. The stylist’s love for this faded vin­tage look started in early child­hood in Hol­land, when she would ac­com­pany her par­ents, who were en­thu­si­as­tic an­tique lovers, to mar­kets on buy­ing trips.

As early as five, she would save up her pocket money to buy some­thing small and beau­ti­ful that caught her eye. She also fell in love with vin­tage fab­rics, es­pe­cially lace, so her mother, a seam­stress, helped her make frilly, fem­i­nine dresses to wear as well as pretty clothes for her an­tique dolls.

This child­hood de­light in dress­ing up and early in­ter­est in an­tiques spurned a last­ing pas­sion for Vic­to­rian fab­rics and fur­ni­ture. “In my early teens I bought an an­tique wash­stand and painted it white,” says Par­rella-van den Berg. “My fa­ther was quite shocked but I knew it was right. Lit­tle did I know this would be the start of my life­long love for all things white.”

At the age of 12, Par­rella-van den Berg’s par­ents took her on a trip to Eng­land, where she fell in love with the quaint cot­tages and man­i­cured coun­try­side. “I knew in­stantly that one day I was go­ing to live there,” she says with a know­ing smile. “To me it was such a ro­man­tic coun­try.”

Later in life, she left Hol­land with her Swiss hus­band to live in Amer­ica, Aus­tralia and Switzer­land, but her heart was al­ways set on mov­ing to Eng­land. So when the cou­ple fi­nally set­tled there, they looked for some­where to live that was near Lon­don but also near the coun­try­side she had adored as a child.

The Ed­war­dian house in Esher, which they bought in 2014, was an ex­cit­ing chal­lenge for Par­rella-van den Berg as it needed a to­tal makeover. “I hated ev­ery­thing about it ex­cept for the tree in the gar­den,” she says. “But I knew with my vi­sion I could bring it

back to its for­mer glory given that it had high ceil­ings, orig­i­nal floors and good bones.” Af­ter strip­ping out all the mod­ern fea­tures and lay­ers of bright paint that had been added over the years, new ex­ten­sions were added to the house along with a con­tem­po­rary coun­try-style kitchen.

The in­te­rior style now re­flects Par­rella-van den Berg’s selective, pared-back aes­thetic, which she has re­fined over the years. “I call it ‘re­laxed el­e­gance’,” she ex­plains. “There’s a dis­tinc­tive French in­flu­ence, which I com­bine with English and Dutch an­tiques.” Nearly all of the items she col­lects could be de­scribed as ‘shabby chic’, but she prefers to re­fer to them as “for­got­ten, faded pieces that have been ca­ressed by time and the wear and tear of the hu­man hand”.

“I love res­cu­ing unloved pieces which have lost their beauty but have the po­ten­tial for restora­tion and to be made beau­ti­ful again,” she says. Through­out her home, vin­tage cab­i­nets, desks and ta­bles with worn paint­work are com­bined with an­tique chairs and chaise longue, some with the springs or stuff­ing hang­ing out or cov­ered in torn, faded fab­rics. “The more weath­ered, tat­tered and chipped it is, the more beau­ti­ful it be­comes.”

The uni­formly white walls form the ideal back­drop to her vin­tage pieces, en­hanc­ing their beauty. “There’s a pu­rity, peace and tran­quil­ity in a white room,” says Par­rella-van den Berg. “It’s like a blank can­vas that de­mands you do some­thing very creative

There’s a pu­rity, peace and tran­quil­ity in a white room. It’s like a blank can­vas that de­mands you do some­thing very creative while at the same time hav­ing a calm­ing ef­fect.”

while at the same time hav­ing a calm­ing ef­fect.”

Where pos­si­ble, ev­ery item that isn’t an­tique is painted in a white an­tique wash or cov­ered in white up­hol­stery to match the walls and fit into the pale pal­ette. “Many peo­ple think an all-white in­te­rior is dif­fi­cult to live with,” says Par­rella-van den Berg. “But it’s not the case. It’s easy to keep clean, es­pe­cially if you use wash­able wall paint and slip cov­ers on your fur­ni­ture. And you can avoid things look­ing too clin­i­cal by ad­ding tex­ture and warmth with cush­ions, rugs, and quilts.”

There are, how­ever, small touches of colour here and there – faded blue, warm beige and palest pink – that of­fer some re­lief to the eye. “I love it when I dis­cover a piece where a hint of the pre­vi­ous colour is show­ing through,” she says.

Like most creative peo­ple, Par­rella-van den Berg loves to shake things up and reg­u­larly swaps around the fur­ni­ture in the main liv­ing rooms. This is some­times to ac­com­mo­date new pieces she has bought or to pho­to­graph them for her Etsy bou­tique, White & Faded.

The suc­cess of the online bou­tique has sur­prised even Par­rella-van den Berg, who can­not have imag­ined when she bought that first an­tique wash­stand and painted it white, that she would be sell­ing re­stored pieces and vin­tage Vic­to­rian cloth­ing to col­lec­tors around the world. Reg­u­lar ship­ments go to Amer­ica, Europe and Aus­tralia and the busi­ness is grow­ing all the time.

“I am re­ally thrilled and hon­oured that White & Faded now has more than 35,000 fol­low­ers on In­sta­gram and I have been re­ally touched by the com­ments I get from my fol­low­ers,” she says. “I think a lot of this is down to the way the pieces are pho­tographed and dis­played in a life­style con­text.”

Par­rella-van den Berg and her hus­band have ex­cit­ing plans to ex­pand the busi­ness, in­clud­ing open­ing a shop near their home in Esher. But she stresses, “I still want to be able to of­fer my reg­u­lar cus­tomers good value and a in­spir­ing choice of beau­ti­ful white and faded pieces.”

Top: Par­rella-van den Berg in­stalled a re­claimed Vic­to­rian fire­place and an­tique French fire­guard in the main fam­ily room. The doll’s house was made by a client. Above: a French al­tar can­de­labra sits in front of a painted an­tique mir­ror.

Right: Vic­to­rian man­nequins stand in front of a screen in the mas­ter bed­room. Be­low: a free­stand­ing Vic­to­rian-style bath takes pride of place in the bath­room.

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