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

Homes and Antiques Magazine - - CONTENTS - FEA­TURE CHAR­LOTTE METCALF

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.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS AN­DREAS VON EINSIEDEL

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

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