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