a dream comes true
How a woman’s longdistance love affair with a semi in West Sussex became a reality
Once a week, on her way to the supermarket, Helene Morris would slow down as she drove past a property she had fallen in love with. ‘It ticked all the boxes,’ she says. ‘Not only is it close to work, it’s Victorian, set back from the road and has a pretty white façade. I never thought that I’d actually ever get to look inside, let alone buy it.’
Helene owns two fashion and lifestyle boutiques in West Sussex. One day, when chatting to a customer, Helene found that the she lived in the house. ‘Over time we became friends – not just because of where she lived – and I was often invited for dinner,’ explains Helene. ‘Inside was just as beautiful as I’d imagined. It has an imposing central staircase that blew me away, and I loved the height and proportion of the rooms.’ Some time later, her friend got divorced and the house went on the market. ‘The circumstances were obviously difficult for her, but I also knew this was an opportunity not to be missed. I said to my boyfriend, Robin, “I want that house!”’ Thankfully, the sale went through without a hitch and the couple, along with Helene’s children, Claudia and George, moved in.
Much as she loved her new home, Helene wanted to make immediate changes, and even booked a decorator to come on the day the keys were handed over. ‘I got him to take out the wall units in the kitchen and paint the remaining oak cupboards black,’ she explains. ‘I couldn’t live with them as they were for even a day.’ The kitchen sums up
Helene’s blend of period and contemporary pieces, mixed with quirky design ideas, which is why she replaced the ceiling spotlights with an elegant teardrop crystal chandelier. ‘It’s great when a room has a surprising feature. This light isn’t very kitcheny, which is why it works so well in here.’
That sense of the unexpected is carried through to the adjacent dining room, where she has created a fusion of kitchen and dining elements for a less formal feel. So, alongside a table with legs on castors, there’s a butcher’s block and vintage industrial shelf unit, plus elegant displays of decorative pieces.
‘Although we spend most of our time in the kitchen, my favourite space is the sitting room,’ says Helene. ‘It’s so much larger than the one in our previous house. In fact, I had to buy more furniture to fill it. The sofas are new, but other pieces come from the local antiques market. I buy things not knowing where they will go, then have fun rearranging the furniture until I get the look I want.’
The house is decorated in a monochrome palette, except for the master bedroom, which is painted grey. ‘I love the dark aesthetic of this space, but it’s not one I can live with in every room,’ explains Helene. ‘It works here because it’s so cosy.’ To keep the look clutter-free, none of the bedrooms have a wardrobe. ‘Instead, we use the fourth bedroom as a dressing room, where we have individual rails for our clothes.’ It’s clever style solutions like this, plus the character and charm Helene has created, which make her home such a special place.
KITCHEN ‘Retro accessories displayed on modern cabinetry create period charm,’ says Helene. The Giant Electric clock, £350, newgate. Feather duster, from £22, labour and Wait. vintage scales, £225, The squash Court
SITTING ROOM Oversized pieces match the room’s grand proportions. Artemide Tolomeo floor lamp, £ 490, Paper rooms. Juju hat feather wall hanging, £195, rockett st George. Mirror, from a selection, swag Antiq
Dining room ‘I mixed metal and wood to create an industrial chic scheme,’ says Helene. archibald mango wood table, £600, Maisons du Monde, is a match. for similar shelves try a baker’s trolley, £500, atkins & thyme
master bedroom A grey palette creates a cosy space. Bow bed, £ 499, is similar; kartell componibili cabinet, £100; original Btc Hector table lamp, £159; all John lewis
bathroom ‘I haven’t touched this space as I loved the deep bath with the marble surround,’ says Helene. rose & Grey has a selection of retro mirrors, from £59