past & present
Elizabeth Allen took on a tired Arts & Crafts semi and turned it into a welcoming home with an emphasis on heritage
Classic furniture and plain tones provide the perfect backdrop for quirky artwork in this family home in Kent
When Elizabeth Allen’s eldest son Theo moved to a new school in Kent, she was under pressure to find a house nearby. ‘I had a thatched cottage in the Cotswolds and when it was sold, I decided to focus my search on Sevenoaks, which is only 30 minutes from central London where my other children, Hope, now 19, and Thomas, 9, were at school,’ explains Elizabeth.
She fell for this 1910 semi at first glance. It was a 10-minute walk from the station and had the right number of rooms, a good layout and many well-preserved Arts & Crafts characteristics. ‘I’m quite a fan of the style,’ says Elizabeth. ‘It’s quirky, which suits my character – my friends say I’m a bit outside the box.’
Swapping the thatched roof and low, beamed ceilings of her previous home for light and airy rooms proved a welcome change. ‘There’s a lovely conservatory linking the dining area to the garden,’ says Elizabeth, ‘and a great kitchen, too.’
However, there were several essential tweaks to be made. ‘I had to repoint the façade, retile the roof and install new electrics, radiators, a boiler and window sills,’ says Elizabeth. ‘Getting the open fires to work was another problem, which was eventually sorted out by a blacksmith. Only after nine months could I start the fun bit. That was when a friend gave me a consoling cushion, inscribed with the words: “Home wasn’t built in a day”.’
Keen to pay tribute to the past, Elizabeth chose vintage-style fabrics and paired them with modern touches. ‘I like
Art Nouveau wallpapers, but they were rather busy, so I chose to combine a period look with plain tones and selected simple neutrals, such as soft greens and off-whites for the walls, which act as a calm background to artwork,’ explains Elizabeth. ‘Rather than pitting the walls with holes, I hung paintings using inconspicuous nylon string attached to hooks clipped over the picture rails. It makes it much easy to swap pieces around from time to time.’
Throughout, the interiors also pay homage to the design aesthetic of William Morris. ‘He was such a remarkable, talented designer and so prolific,’ reflects Elizabeth. ‘Searching through fabric samples, I kept changing my mind. The more I appreciated his vast repertoire, the harder my final choices became.’
Downstairs, floors were sanded and stained, and furniture was kept clean and classic. The contemporary dining chairs and table make an interesting contrast to the cosy tweed and suede sofas Elizabeth brought from her previous home.
‘Looking at the final result, I’m especially pleased with how comfortable the house is and that it has been returned to its former self,’ says Elizabeth. And the latest addition, a cute cockerpoo called Juno, completes the picture. ‘ We feel we’ve really put down roots here.’
MASTER BEDROOM Reversing the trend for neutral floors, Elizabeth chose a deep green carpet. william Morris Larkspur blind fabric, £86.40m, house Decor Interiors. wall paint, tunsgate green estate emulsion, £43.50 per 2.5 litres, Farrow & ball
STUDY Colourful wallpaper introduces a note of fun to Elizabeth’s work space. Cockatoos wallpaper, £ 46 per roll, osborne & Little. Amazon.co.uk sells vintage leather bins like this one, £14
BATHROOM A reclaimed roll-top bath was painted to complement the panelling. heritage Quirinius heated towel rail, £263, Victorian Plumbing, is a match
HALL ‘It’s lovely stepping into such a warm entrance in winter,’ says Elizabeth. Multicoloured wool ‘Funk triangles’ rug, £300, Debenhams, will suit this space