Clever be­fore and af­ter trans­for­ma­tions


It was while their Lon­don home was be­ing ren­o­vated that Tori Odell-Ro­manoff, her hus­band Erik and their baby son Harry dis­cov­ered life in the countryside. They’d moved in with Tori’s sis­ter in ru­ral Hert­ford­shire while their house in Toot­ing Bec un­der­went a to­tal over­haul, and when they re­turned home nine months later, Tori says, ‘some­thing didn’t quite fit’. In April 2013 Thea was born, and the cou­ple re­alised that the cap­i­tal was no longer for them.

Tori says: ‘One evening, not long af­ter Thea ar­rived, Erik looked at me and said, “You’re not happy, are you? Shall we move to the coun­try?” And that was it. We put our house on the mar­ket the next day and it sold that af­ter­noon.’

Next, the cou­ple faced the dilemma of where to move to. ‘We knew we wanted to live in Kent,’ says Tori, ‘so we drew a tri­an­gle be­tween Lon­don, where Erik works, and both sets of par­ents – mine near Sand­wich and Erik’s in Rye. Wye in Kent’s Great Stour Val­ley was the mid­dle point.’

One sum­mer’s day shortly af­ter­wards, the fam­ily piled into the car to check out the area.

Once they left the M20 and were met by hedgerows froth­ing with cow pars­ley and as­tound­ing views of the Great Stour Val­ley, their minds were made up. They house­hunted on­line and found a beau­ti­ful weath­er­boarded cot­tage near Wye. The wis­te­ria-clad prop­erty had pretty green win­dow frames off­set­ting the white cladding and at the bot­tom of the gar­den was a seat­ing area with a breath­tak­ing view of the rolling countryside. ‘I rang the es­tate agent and they put me in touch with the ven­dor,’ says Erik. ‘I called and told her we were cash buy­ers and begged her not to show any­one around un­til we could see it. She agreed and we put in an of­fer straight af­ter our view­ing, which was ac­cepted.’

The sale of the Lon­don house went through quickly and the fam­ily briefly moved in with Tori’s par­ents near Sand­wich in Kent while wait­ing to com­plete on the pur­chase. The ven­dor was chain-free too so, by Au­gust 2013, they had the keys.

When they bought it, the house was in good shape but it needed a lit­tle cos­metic up­dat­ing. Tori and Erik also de­cided to con­vert part of the up­stairs land­ing into a nurs­ery for Thea, turn­ing the cot­tage into a four-bed­room home. Erik, who works for Lon­don ar­chi­tec­tural

de­signer Staffan Toll­gard, over­saw the project. The cou­ple also re­vamped the kitchen by hang­ing new tiles and re­mov­ing the over­head cup­boards, which they re­placed with open shelv­ing crafted by Erik. He also lime­washed the stun­ning in­glenook fire­place in the din­ing area.

To make the house bright and airy, they had the dark beams light­ened and opted for a calming pal­ette of off-white, taupe and green for the walls. Now the cou­ple’s home is filled with pieces that re­flect their love of trav­el­ling as well as Erik’s Amer­i­can her­itage – he spent his early years liv­ing in Chicago and moved to the UK when he was 12, re­turn­ing to go to univer­sity in upstate New York.

‘We’ve col­lected things from al­most ev­ery­where we’ve been,’ says Tori. A carved wooden gi­raffe peep­ing out from be­hind an arm­chair is just one ex­am­ple. ‘When I was 18, I made my fa­ther bring it back from Kenya af­ter a fam­ily hol­i­day,’ Tori laughs. Mean­while, the smat­ter­ing of Amer­i­can flag mo­tifs, bright pip­ing, plaid fab­rics and re­claimed shut­ters on the liv­ing room wall lend a New Eng­land feel to their new home. Tori – a for­mer man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of an up­scale floristry busi­ness – has also in­jected her de­sign flair, which has in­cluded plac­ing a glo­ri­ous white in­door hy­drangea in a huge blue and white china trug in the hall­way. The cou­ple de­scribe their style as ‘mod­ern clas­si­cal, with a touch of clut­ter’. ‘I’m a max­i­mal­ist,’ laughs Erik. ‘Our home feels com­fort­able and re­laxed.’

Up­stairs, the bath­room has been spruced up with a lick of paint and the bed­rooms fea­ture an eclec­tic mix of fab­rics, in­clud­ing lace and a happy mix of checks and toile from var­i­ous sources in­clud­ing Dunelm and Nina Camp­bell.

It’s clear the fam­ily love their coun­try life. ‘When I leave the con­fines of Lon­don, the sky opens up and my ten­sion lev­els drop,’ says Erik. ‘This place is my tonic. One of our favourite things to do is take the chil­dren for a walk, meet friends for a drink by the fire in the pub and then all head back to ours for a roast.’

As for the house, there are fur­ther plans afoot. ‘We’re planning an L-shaped ex­ten­sion to cre­ate more space down­stairs and two more bed­rooms up­stairs,’ Tori ex­plains. ‘This is our for­ever home.’

MAN­TEL The cou­ple in­her­ited the fire­place seat that sits in front of the open fire. Ei­ther side of the mir­ror are prints that were bought at auc­tion LIV­ING ROOM Ac­ces­sories re­flect Erik’s Amer­i­can her­itage and the cou­ple’s love of trav­el­ling. The ot­toman is cov­ered in a strik­ing fab­ric by Manuel Canovas and the shut­ters on the wall were sourced at Wish­barn An­tiques in Rye. The light­house paint­ing is by Erik’s brother, artist Misha Rostislav Ro­manov

PORCH Erik and Tori Odel­lRo­manoff with Harry, six, and Thea, three, out­side their wis­te­ri­aclad cot­tage near Wye

‘Our home is com­fort­able and re­laxed. I’m a max­i­mal­ist – I’d de­scribe our DIN­ING ROOM Erik lime­washed the in­glenook fire­place and hung two mo­las (em­broi­dered fab­ric pan­els) from Panama in­side it. The bas­kets were bought at TK Maxx

KITCHEN Over­head cup­boards have been re­placed with hand­made open shelv­ing MAIN BED­ROOM A head­board cov­ered in a Nina Camp­bell fab­ric works well with the blan­ket from John Lewis. The print above the bed was bought from Ga­lerie Dei Barri in Gassin near Saint-Tropez BATH­ROOM The cou­ple bought the tow­els at Bed Bath & Beyond in the US and then had them mono­grammed

style as mod­ern clas­si­cal, with a touch of clut­ter,’


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