ur­ban oa­sis

Draw­ing on her love of wildlife and na­ture, Sally Gille­spie has turned her townhouse into a rest­ful city re­treat


A na­ture lover has filled her Vic­to­rian West Lon­don townhouse with botan­i­cals and birds

Sally Gille­spie’s townhouse in Lon­don teems with wildlife. Not the real va­ri­ety but the dec­o­ra­tive. There are tapestries adorned with hum­ming­birds, dragonflies hover over wall­pa­pers and birds flut­ter across cush­ions. Lights take their cue from na­ture, too, in the guise of antlers or branches with crys­tal drops that glit­ter like frost. On walls, tran­quil land­scapes paint­ings add to the feel­ing that you have stum­bled out of a ma­jor city and into a se­cret gar­den.

It’s a set­ting that mir­rors Sally’s taste and her pro­fes­sion as a healer at the Heal­ing Hands Net­work, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that looks af­ter war sur­vivors. ‘I wanted every­thing to feel fresh and rest­ful,’ she says, ‘with my love of na­ture threaded through­out.

Sally dis­cov­ered the prop­erty, which is set in a quiet cul-de-sac, three years ago. ‘I’d just given up look­ing be­cause I couldn’t find any­thing in my bud­get,’ she ex­plains. The house im­me­di­ately ap­pealed to Sally, as she could see that, with a few tweaks, it would of­fer plenty of space for her­self and her two grown-up daugh­ters, who live with her. Yet it was also com­pact enough to be easy to man­age.

The project to up­date the house be­gan cau­tiously. ‘At first, I only in­tended to raise the kitchen ceil­ing to bring in more light,’ says Sally, ‘ but, as I hope

to be here for a long time, it made sense to make other al­ter­ations.’ She was keen to open up the rear of the house, adding space to the back of the sit­ting room to in­cor­po­rate a re­laxed din­ing area. From here, glass doors lead into the kitchen, with its sub­tle glass ex­ten­sion, which in turn has a new open­ing through to the gar­den room.

An­other set of slid­ing glass doors link this room, orig­i­nally a util­ity, to the pa­tio gar­den, de­signed by Sally’s friend Maï­tanne Hunt, for a true in­door-out­door ex­pe­ri­ence. Here, ferns, shrubs and peren­ni­als flour­ish in a liv­ing wall, and a con­tem­po­rary wa­ter fea­ture adorns the back wall.

‘By day, the gar­den is the per­fect sun­trap,’ ex­plains Sally, ‘and at night, clever lighting hidden in the fo­liage trans­forms it into a re­ally mag­i­cal space.’

Cre­ative think­ing is also ev­i­dent in the mas­ter bed­room, where a false wall be­hind the bed cre­ates al­coves for glass shelv­ing, pro­vid­ing ac­ces­si­ble but un­ob­tru­sive stor­age.

‘I’d planned to do the in­te­ri­ors my­self un­til a friend rec­om­mended de­signer Har­riet Forde,’ says Sally. ‘She gave me lots of great ideas and we worked to­gether to cre­ate my own look.’

At last, the trans­for­ma­tion is com­plete and it has clearly been a re­sound­ing suc­cess. ‘I’ve ren­o­vated homes be­fore,’ says Sally, ‘yet this is first time I feel that it’s not just the ob­jects in it but the en­tire house that re­ally ex­presses who I am.’

Kitchen this room was re­designed and ex­tended to cre­ate a bet­ter con­nec­tion be­tween the liv­ing spa­ces and gar­den. units de­signed by Mark Brook, price on ap­pli­ca­tion, Mccar­ron & Co. Apollo bar stools, £39 each, Dunelm, are sim­i­lar

Gar­den a liv­ing wall softens the look and feel of this cosy out­door spot. Sim­i­lar bistro chairs, £57 each; ta­ble, £149, both The Worm That Turned

gar­den Room this colour­ful, light-filled space was once a gloomy util­ity area. jack Frame paint­ing, price on re­quest, Fairfax Gallery. For lime green cush­ions, £25 each, try john lewis

Mas­ter Bed­room a fea­ture wall be­hind the bed en­sures it is the fo­cal point in this ap­peal­ing scheme. amazilia wall­pa­per, £62 per roll, Har­lequin. Birdie cush­ions by Paul smith, £395 each, the rug com­pany. for a com­pa­ra­ble an­tique bed try swans of...

Bath­room White walls al­low for flam­boy­ant ac­ces­soris­ing. take a look at My­de­sign wall-hung van­ity unit with sink, £215, Bath­rooms.com

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