Collections of a lifetime
The home of Helen Bromovsky and her late husband Francis effortlessly blends the couple’s tastes and interests – the result is a masterclass in mixing old and new to create a look that’s truly personal
Fashion designer Helen Bromovsky shows us round her elegant Somerset home, where textiles and European antiques take pride of place alongside more contemporary pieces
When everyone else was doing chintz and Colefax and Fowler in the 90s, I was filling my home with Theresa Tollemache’s Volga Linen and fabulous quality Perspex furniture from Austria,’ says fashion designer Helen Bromovsky of her Somerset home. She and her late husband Francis moved to the house with their three daughters in 2010 and were keen to move on, decor wise, from the look of their previous place. ‘Our home in Notting Hill was all white linen and white painted floors. Here, I wanted to create my Tuscan villa in Somerset.’ And so, Helen introduced terracotta into the entrance hall, stone and painted parquet floors throughout and shutters on the generous
With its symmetry, its large, shuttered windows and its faded, rose- coloured stucco, it reminded me of a Tuscan villa
windows. Aside from the colour schemes and textiles, Francis’s pieces – many from Austria – were an important consideration. ‘Francis loved beautiful furniture and paintings, many of which were entirely at odds with my contemporary furniture,’ says Helen. Creating a harmonious fusion between old and new was a challenge for Helen as she was keen to find a way to mix in the antiques of Austria where her husband grew up. ‘Francis loved anything slightly provocative or unconventional and appreciated the influence of central Europe and the East. He loved the juxtaposition of a painted Austrian bench with a 19thcentury, gilded hall table, an Anatolian embroidery against a Perspex or suede cube… he added exoticism to my purity.’ Helen first spotted the house in
Country Life magazine in 1999. ‘It looked so romantic but, in reality, the stucco wall finish was falling o exposing the stonework beneath, there were old iron gates making it feel like Fort Knox and a garden full of towering, encroaching trees,’ Helen remembers. ‘But with its symmetry, its large, shuttered windows and its faded, rose- coloured stucco, it reminded me of a Tuscan villa and my heart was set on it.
‘I was running away from London as I wanted my children to grow up in mud and proper dirt,’ she says, explaining what prompted her to swap a busy life managing an interiors business and shop, which specialised in sleek, contemporary furniture, in London with a very rural life in the heart of Somerset. ‘I wanted our daughters to be outside and active. Our passion here was, and remains, horses.’
There were other draws to the house, too. ‘It’s really rather a hotchpotch of a building,’ says Helen. ‘It began as an old medieval cottage yet has Regency and Victorian parts. I have this dream that originally it was lived in by a family dealing in sail cloth, as the local town is home to
On travels abroad, it was always magical to find unexpected, fabulous, secret little antiques shops bursting with textiles
cotton, sailcloth and wool mills. It all fitted in beautifully with Francis’s love of boats and my own passion for woven fabric.’
The Bromovskys’ knack for combining old and new and British craftsmanship with antiques and treasures from around the world is evident the minute you enter the house and see a Turkish flag and Union Jack either side of the hall. The couple travelled extensively together, particularly in Asia, Turkey, Morocco and Central Europe. ‘It was always magical to find unexpected, fabulous, secret little antiques shops bursting with textiles,’ says Helen. It’s in the drawing room though, that there is most evidence of the couple’s ability to merge their visions and styles. The result is a harmonious room that reflects their di erent backgrounds and interests. Much of the furniture is from Helen’s previous interiors business, allowing sleek, straight lines to complement the antiques and other beloved treasures. It’s also here that the family’s passion for horses is particularly celebrated. There’s a portrait of Helen on horseback painted by Miranda Cresswell and a photograph of a Ming dynasty horse hanging by the fireplace.
Francis sadly died from meningitis in June 2010. Helen works closely with charity Meningitis Now to raise awareness of the illness and the house remains a celebration of their lives together and a tribute to Francis’s style and flair for collecting beautiful antiques.
TOP A neoclassical hall table with marble top stands opposite an Austrian wooden bench. A Thai Buddha wears a headdress made by Helen’s daughter. The two hand- painted, lacquered chairs are French 19th- century ABOVE Helen at an Oka desk in her bedroom
ABOVE Most of the furniture in the drawing room is from The Cube Collection, including the chess board, and is covered in Volga Linen fabric, offering a counterpoint to the antiques and art on display. Above the original Regency replace hangs a painting by Tim Woolcock. To the right of the
replace is a photograph of a zebra by Rory Carnegie, which was bought for Helen’s mother shortly before she died. Helen has always collected vintage writing and travel cases, of which there is a stack in front of the window FACING PAGE Helen uses her pashas to add colour and texture to her home. Here, one of her collection hangs on the drawing room door that leads into the hall
The spare bathroom is painted in a deep red to carry through the fuchsia accents from the adjoining bedroom. The bath is from CP Hart BELOW Helen’s love of Venice is re ected in her collection of carnival masks, which sit alongside silver christening presents