When property developer Lydia Fay found her Bath home, it was a mess. Now, painstakingly restored period features are combined with modern flair. Words and photographs by Huntley Hedworth
Renovating a beautiful Bath house
IN A QUIET QUARTER of Bath, a short stroll across Victoria Park from the city centre, stands Westfield House, a vision of Georgian splendour. One of a row of imposing Bath-stone villas, its elegant façade is matched by a smart contemporary interior. But when its owner, interior designer and property developer Lydia Fay, first spotted it three years ago, it was a different story.
The house had been occupied since the 1940s by the same family, the last member of which had recently moved out, and it was, by this point, a scruffy mess. The previous owners had partitioned off some areas to make bedsits and it had become, according to Fay, ‘something like a rooming house’. Yet it was a rare find – a detached Georgian property with a secluded rear garden, ‘so [you] feel away from everything, even though it’s so close to the centre’. It had also remained architecturally intact, its original fittings unloved but largely untouched, if accompanied by unwelcome modern additions.
Fortunately, Fay was just the person for this particular job. With a degree in art history and design experience with furniture brand Oggetti, she has both an appreciation for classical grandeur and an eye for modern design. She specialises in doing up listed Georgian
buildings, overseeing everything from renovation to decoration. ‘It’s very personal; I’m emotionally involved with the whole process,’ she says.
In the case of Westfield House, Fay started by reconfiguring the interior, taking down partition walls and returning the house to its period proportions. Each of the seven bedrooms had a washbasin, s o another task was to remove these, along with the accompanying waste pipes on the back of the house, all of which drained directly into the back garden. Fay also rejuvenated the almost- derelict basement into a series of guest rooms and a den.
‘Paint-encrusted blobs’ in the hallway were revealed to be lion-head corbels
The original shutters were present but pretty incorrect; firmly painted in, they had to be chiselled out. Cornices and marble fireplaces were stripped, cleaned and brought back to their former glory, and what Fay describes as ‘paint-encrusted blobs’ in the hallway were revealed to be lion-head corbels.
After she had dealt with the basics, Fay got to work on the decoration. ‘We had great fun shopping at House of Hackney in Shoreditch, but I like to get as much as possible in Bath, including wallpapers and fabrics from Rossiters department store,’ she says. ‘Bath also has Fired Earth and Farrow & Ball,
which we hit hard for tiles and paint.’
Fay ’s choice of paint colours and wallpapers has transformed the house from a warren of white and magnolia banality into a sophisticated but characterful interior. ‘If I had to choose my favourite influences, they’d be [modernist architect] Mies van der Rohe and the interiors at Knole in Kent,’ she says, and indeed the most striking element of her scheme is the contrast between cool neutrality and vibrant pattern and colour. This is exemplified as soon as you arrive through the back door. The hall has pale wooden floorboards, while the staircase and panelling are painted a deep grey. A door leads down to the basement, the stairwell greeting you with a green-gold blast of intense colour and print: Seraphina wallpaper by Designers Guild. Towards the front of the house, the dining room is a riot of House of Hackney flamboyance on one side, while in the kitchen opposite, the clutter of the dresser is balanced by an island in granite and reclaimed wood.
In the sitting room, Fay has indulged her love of Murano glass with specially commissioned chandeliers. But her favourite space is the most serene: the breakfast room, inspired by the muted calm of Jim Ede’s Kettle’s Yard house in Cambridge. ‘It looks straight out on to the magnolia tree in the garden, so it’s a great room to sit in and get ideas,’ she says. ‘I feel creative at that table.’
She and her boyfriend have lived in the house for two years, ‘actually quite a long time for me’, notes Fay. ‘In my line of work I’m always travelling and seeing different houses, but this is a beautiful, very calm place. It’s a wonderful constant, to which I love returning.’
Left In the dining room, the colours of House of Hackney’s Artemis wallpaper are picked up in dining chairs by Hay. Below Lydia Fay
Left to right The bathroom is furnished with a pair of mirrors specially made in Murano and a spectacular chandelier; House of Hackney’s Palmeral print lines the walls and windows of one bedroom; the exterior of the Georgian house