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.
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 given to Rhona by her late husband, Hugh LEFT This attractive Georgian house is painted in Farrow and Ball’s ‘Middleton Pink’
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, who isn’t accustomed to our northern climate. A modern copy, it was bought from the house sale of a friend and is weathering rapidly; these charming 20th- century tin clockwork !gures, collected over many years, give the dining room mantelpiece a "ash of quirky humour dotted amongst the more traditional objects such as the 19th- century French clock (an old family piece) and the Chinese soapstone carving of monkeys FACING PAGE The elaborate ironwork seat in the garden, probably Moroccan, was bought at Brightwells auction house and decorated with a selection of Rhona’s Victorian beaded cushions
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 cylindrical, mahogany pot cupboard in the principal guest bedroom is Victorian. The wallpaper is by Little Greene and the curtain fabric is by GP & J Baker