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.