design for life
Emma Emmerson used her creative skills to reimagine the interior of her home, filling it with a host of unusual touches
A Victorian villa in Hove is the perfect fit for a young family
Graphic designer and illustrator Emma Emmerson fell in love with her spacious Victorian villa in Hove as soon as she viewed it, but there was one obstacle – her husband, James. ‘I could see the potential of the space straight away,’ she says. ‘The back doors and fireplaces were boarded up, and the interior was really dark, but the original features and stained-glass windows were stunning.’
James, however, needed convincing. ‘He loved our old flat, which was right by the sea, and he thought this house looked dingy by comparison,’ says Emma. ‘But we needed a bigger property – we were running a business and had to have an office at home – plus, we wanted another baby.’ So they decided to take the plunge.
Determined not to spend too much money, the couple began their renovation project. ‘There wasn’t much to be done structurally, but the interior needed a complete overhaul,’ says Emma. ‘ We took down the boarding that concealed the fireplaces and sanded all the floors. There was so much work to do that we wouldn’t have taken it on if my dad, who’s a builder and carpenter, hadn’t helped us.’
The couple and daughter, Bo Lily, now 9, stayed with Emma’s mother while the initial work was completed. ‘The kitchen door was
moved from the middle of the wall to the side, and we got rid of the existing cloakroom,’ says Emma. ‘We removed some walls, put in a new kitchen, cloakroom and bathrooms and painted throughout.’
Emma searched Pinterest and magazines for design inspiration, avoiding trends and opting for a classic style that feels modern and yet blends perfectly with the period features. The finished look is a testament to her creative skills. ‘I made all the curtains in the house and also a few pieces of wooden furniture,’ she says.
The interior layout has evolved gradually around the family’s needs – the en suite next to the master bedroom was a tiny box room when they moved in, then a bedroom for their new baby, Herbie, now 6. The basement has served as a home office for the couple’s greetings card and stationery business, 1973, then a playroom and den, and is currently being used as a workshop for Emma’s woodwork. The house is impressively clutter-free, which she puts down to her innate love of clean, organised spaces and the children being ‘very well-trained’.
On the ground floor, the modern kitchen is white with splashes of colour provided by artwork and Turkish wall tiles. The knocked-through sitting room is bright and spacious with folding
doors creating two separate spaces when needed. Stained glass windows fill the entrance hall and stairwell with colour and light, and upstairs, the three bedrooms all have original fireplaces. Another flight of stairs leads up to the second floor, which used to contain three bedrooms. ‘We knocked down a wall, and put in some storage instead,’ says Emma. ‘Eventually, we’ll build a guest en suite, but right now I mostly use it to store my clothes.’
Art by illustrators who work with the couple hang on the walls and treasures brought back from trips abroad and gifts from friends lend a personal feel. The couple found the sheepskin cushion covers in the kitchen on a skiing holiday in Sweden, and the floor tiles in the en suite are from Sicily. Two huge prints in the sitting room were a wedding present from photographer friend Ewen Spencer, and a wooden hippo in front of the fireplace was given to them by James’ cousin after a visit to Africa.
‘ We’ve created our dream house,’ says Emma. ‘It was quite challenging because I kept changing my mind about what I wanted, but the result is that everything we have in the house, I love.’
decorating advice‘ Don’ t follow trends because they easily date, instead keep your design ideas classic and timeless for long-lasting appeal’
KITCHEN Colourful Turkish wall tiles bring pattern and interest to this contemporary white space. yurtbay Seramiks Nikea tiles are a good alternative, £31.75sq m, Tiles-direct. Retro-style chairs, £125 each, Amara. The Muuto E27 socket suspension...
HALL The couple were drawn to original features such as the beautiful glass windows. Radiator, £100, Brighton Architectural Salvage
SITTING ROOM Mid-century pieces, simple window treatments and natural materials evoke classic Scandi style. Sofa, £ 4,000, Zanotta. Cushions, £ 45 each, Ferm living. Aspen armchair, £1,379, Content by Terence Conran. Charles 20° sofa (right), £ 4,500,...
MASTER BEDROOM ‘The vintage haberdashery cupboard is a bit impractical, but looks fantastic,’ says Emma. the 1920s oak haberdashery shirt cabinet, £1,680, selling antiques, is near-identical. see Hanaskog crystal chandelier, £197, Wayfair
EN SUITE ‘We ran out of floor tiles so we added a wooden border,’ says Emma. freestanding bath, £1,000, sottini. stool, £ 45, three angels