in a class of its own
After careers in education, Avrille and Doug Close made the decision to downsize, and found smart ways to fit their treasures into their new home
For a retired couple, trying to fit their furniture into a smaller house in Rutland proved an interesting lesson in downsizing
On retiring from their full-time jobs in education, Avrille and Doug Close decided to challenge themselves. This involved the adventurous couple spending several months in France, finding new passions (horse racing and art) and even renting a Victorian Gothic pile.
Then a move from Hertfordshire to a cottage owned by their son in Rutland in the East Midlands made the couple come up with a new house rule. ‘We liked the area, but we didn’t know a soul,’ recalls Avrille. ‘Doug and I agreed that we would never turn down an invitation to anything, so we would make new friends and become involved in the local community.’
Their time spent in Rutland was so successful, the couple decided to find a place of their own close to their new circle of friends. They found just what they were looking for in the form of a three-storey house, part of a former hunting lodge dating back to the 17th century. ‘ We immediately liked its homely feel and, although the property isn’t huge, the rooms are generously sized,’ says Doug.
Their biggest dilemma when they moved in was how to make best use of their extensive collection of furniture and china. ‘It took the removal men three days to deliver everything,’ says Avrille, ‘and even though we made endless trips to the charity shop, we still couldn’t fit everything – it all ended up filling the triple garage.’
Needing help to downsize, the couple turned to interior designer Elizabeth Stanhope. ‘Lizzie helped us develop ways of
bringing our sometimes random collections together and encouraged us to upcycle,’ says Doug. ‘This not only saved us money, but it also meant we avoided falling into the trap of acquiring yet more stuff.’
To create a sense of unity, walls are painted in soft shades of white, which also serve as a neutral backdrop for their large selection of art works. Avrille particularly enjoys creating stylishly grouped collections around the house. ‘Things don’t need to be of the same vintage. I just like to make an interesting arrangement,’ she says. ‘It might be a group of perfume bottles on an antique tray or a wall of artistically arranged prints and old decorative mirrors.’
While there is a strong sense of their love for all things French-vintage in their home, from toile de Jouy curtains to antique furniture, the couple also enjoy contemporary design, including shelving units by Sir Terence Conran and modern ceramics in the sitting room. Now that they have finally emptied the garage, are there any plans to move again? ‘I’m sure there are more interesting times ahead, but we will be staying put as we feel very happy and settled here,’ says Avrille.
favourite item‘ Our shabby old mirrors– some are beautiful as they are, others we repainted’
SITTING ROOM Asymmetric shelving gives the space a modern feel. Balance Alcove shelving by Terence Conran, from £599, The Conran Shop KITCHEN-DINER Mohican, a contemporary limitededition print by US artist Ludwig Sander, adds a warm burst of yellow....
SITTING ROOM Light-coloured walls and linen upholstery create a calm backdrop, balanced by a bright rug. Walls in Old White estate emulsion, £ 43.50 per 2.5 litres, Farrow & Ball. Sofas and cushions, made to order, Elizabeth Stanhope Interiors
home truths the Property Part of a 17th-century hunting lodge Location Rutland ROOMS Hall, sitting room, kitchen-diner, two bedrooms (one en suite), bathroom PURCHASED 2013 PREVIOUS Property ‘ We used to live in a large cottage in the area,’ says...
GUEST BEDROOM This romantic space was inspired by French vintage style. Just Fabrics has a range of toile de Jouy fabrics, £15m. The French Bedroom Company has similar antique-style beds, from £800 BATHROOM A Shaker-style peg rail keeps towels close to...
MASTER BEDROOM Subtle patterns and rich textures add to the luxurious feel. Walls in Stone II pure flat emulsion, £ 46.50 per 2.5 litres, Paint & Paper Library