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. Ama­ 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

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