A col­lec­tor’s re­treat

Rhona Hamil­ton’s Ge­or­gian home pays homage to a num­ber of styles and eras, re­veal­ing a ro­bust col­lec­tion of cu­riosi­ties, fine art, porce­lain and books, as well as Rhona’s eye for all things ‘odd or old’


From amethyst geodes to her mother’s em­broi­dered cush­ions, Rhona Hamil­ton’s Ge­or­gian home is full of cu­rios span­ning thou­sands of years

Rhona Hamil­ton’s home, nes­tled in a lush, wooded land­scape near the English bor­ders, is un­usual for the area. It’s thought to be partly de­signed by John Nash and cer­tainly doesn’t con­form to the ver­nac­u­lar style. ‘It was the odd­ness of find­ing this for­mal-look­ing house within a ru­ral set­ting that re­ally ap­pealed to me,’ she says.

Rhona moved here from a much larger 19th- cen­tury coach house three years ago and there has been many a dra­matic change since then. The ‘strongly in­di­vid­ual’ decor that she in­her­ited was sim­pli­fied with a Ge­or­gian colour scheme that com­ple­ments her colour­ful art and an­tiques. The din­ing room had been pa­pered in black flock wall­pa­per and the hall, stairs and land­ing were a dark olive tone with sal­mon ceil­ings and walls. Colour- chang­ing disco lights il­lu­mi­nated some of the rooms and a bold tar­tan car­pet ran through­out. The car­pet grew on Rhona so re­mains, but the wall­pa­per has been re­placed. As for the disco lights, they were re­moved as swiftly as pos­si­ble.

There’s a hint of what’s in store when you glance at the con­fi­dent, var­ied ob­jects in the en­trance hall, which in­clude a cu­ri­ous group of early 20th- cen­tury plas­ter fig­ures of In­dian trades­men, dis­played pre­car­i­ously above the door lead­ing to the study. As you glance at them, your eye is nat­u­rally drawn through the open door to a por­trait, bought at auc­tion, of an El­iz­a­bethan lady, which Rhona is re­search­ing. ‘A cu­rios­ity for the odd or old prob­a­bly stems from my child­hood,’ says Rhona, re­call­ing when her mother dis­cov­ered the lo­cal auc­tion house

A cu­rios­ity for the odd or old prob­a­bly stems from my child­hood… my par­ents were en­thu­si­as­tic col­lec­tors

and would ar­rive home each month with a wild as­sort­ment of fur­nish­ings. ‘My fa­ther’s an­ti­dote to work pres­sure was to make some­thing – and that could be stained glass mir­rors and lamp­shades, with more than a nod to art nou­veau. My mother calmly em­broi­dered cush­ions and pic­tures for which my fa­ther made the frames, so the art on our walls changed fre­quently. They were also en­thu­si­as­tic col­lec­tors – any flat sur­face in our house was cov­ered in min­er­als, cut and pol­ished to show their crys­talline struc­ture.’

Rhona’s own col­lec­tions to­day are broad and ‘not of any one thing but per­haps just a sin­gle ob­ject that sat­is­fies some­thing, be it a com­bi­na­tion of form and colour which gives emo­tional stim­u­la­tion; or a piece that cel­e­brates an in­ter­est or a mem­ory,’ she says. She does, how­ever, have a par­tic­u­lar fond­ness for books. Peer­ing through to the study, floor-to- ceil­ing shelves re­veal her

pas­sion for the arts, po­etry and phi­los­o­phy. ‘De­spite hav­ing more books than I have the life­time in which to read, I am ad­dicted to the trail of cu­rios­ity,’ she says. Some of her most in­trigu­ing items are dis­played in the glass-topped co ee table in the liv­ing room. The glazed sec­tion of the table is filled with ob­jects: am­monites, pieces of 600-year- old stained glass, a pol­ished amethyst geode, wa­ter­colours by her friend, Harold Coats, and two minia­ture oil paint­ings – pos­si­bly by An­gel­ica Kau mann – await­ing re­pair.

Tex­tiles play their part in the house, too; so­fas and chairs are cov­ered with plump 19th- cen­tury beaded and kilim cush­ions, adding to the lay­ers of colour and pat­tern. Never one to fol­low trends or to be tied to one pe­riod, Rhona buys purely on in­stinct. ‘This lack of rules gives me com­plete free­dom of ex­pres­sion, mak­ing this the most com­fort­able house that I’ve lived in.’ As cham­pi­ons of eclec­tic liv­ing, we are fully on board with Rhona’s ethos.

FROM TOP The large 19th- cen­tury Dutch chan­de­lier bought at Brightwells auc­tion house 20 years ago lights the 20th- cen­tury din­ing table from Court­yard An­tiques; faded grandeur per­vades the gar­den’s ob­jects, such as the Greco- Ro­man ter­ra­cotta god­dess,...

ABOVE LEFT The 18th- cen­tury cup­board in the sit­ting room was bought at Here­ford An­tiques Cen­tre. Above it hangs a land­scape of Hi­malayan moun­tain Kanchen­junga by Guy Dol­man. The ob­jects on the cup­board in­clude a glass vase by René Lalique and a bronze...

TOP In the guest bed­room, the 19th- cen­tury French bed from Brightwells is a per­fect ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the an­tique gold damask walls. The bed and match­ing mar­ble-topped cab­i­net are painted in a pale sage green with lightly gilded mould­ings ABOVE The...

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