A light sprinkling of contemporary touches has revived this 16th-century home in Berkshire
decorating tip‘ Classic designs in neutral colours will enhance the character of a period house without making it look too traditional or fussy’
design tip‘ Employing an interior designer at the beginning of your project will help you top in down costs and choose the types of finishes you want for each room’
The 16th-century origins of this large country house appealed to Victoria and John Hemmings, but the historical additions had resulted in an elongated floor plan, raising questions about how they would use the space. ‘ We loved the low ceilings and beams but weren’t sure about the layout,’ says Victoria. ‘The rooms ran into one another without a corridor. Our children, George, six, and Lily, three, are still young so we wanted to get the spaces right for both now and years to come.’
Hives Architects and interior designer Fiona Parke from Johnston Parke Interiors were enlisted to help with the renovation. ‘ We wanted to retain the character of the house but not make it feel old-fashioned,’ says Victoria. ‘ When we met Fiona, she really understood what we were trying to achieve.’ Fiona worked closely with the couple’s architect to enhance the property’s historical elements but also improve the flow and light. She suggested removing the ceilings in the children’s bedrooms to expose the rafters and gain head height, as well as putting a laundry room on the first floor.
Builders worked carefully and systematically to remove anything that wasn’t in keeping with the old property such as gas fires, modern radiators and lighting. Walls were taken down to open up the family room to the breakfast room and kitchen, and the shared 16th-century chimney breast was knocked through and fitted with a new double-sided woodburner. The dark entrance hall needed attention and was remodelled with a double-height ceiling and rooflights.
Fiona worked on the decor with Victoria and John. ‘I wanted a classic look and prefer clean design, so the muted colours and soft, tactile materials work well,’ says Victoria. Tumbled limestone and whitened oak flooring with neutral walls set a contemporary tone, connecting the downstairs rooms and allowing the oak beams and brickwork to remain prominent. Antique furniture is a nod to the building’s origins, modernised with patterned fabrics in shades of blue and green, and an underlying warmth of stone and taupe.
The continuity in the decor and revised layout give shape and purpose to each space. Formal furniture draws the garden room into the house, and the doors between here and the sitting room are kept open for a seamless link. The loggia – once an external walkway – is the passage to reach the garden and utility room but is also a place to relax in. ‘I love that there’s a reason to use every room and we can still appreciate the wonky walls and old beams,’ says Victoria. ‘The layout works well for us now as we don’t have any wasted space.’
decorating tip‘ Layer patterned fabrics successfully by sticking with a common thread of colour to tie them together’
GARDEN ROOM ‘Our interior designer Fiona Parke suggested we replace the old conservatory with this room,’ says Victoria. ‘I love being in here and use it all year.’ Balmoral round dining table, from £1,630, Neptune. Painted antique chairs, £ 465 each; metal and wood coffee table, £1,250, all Horsch Interiors. Large lattice pendant light, £6,600, Jamb
KITCHEN Exposing the underside of the upstairs floor during the renovations introduced a striking antique timber aesthetic to this space. Toaster table, £895, Loaf. Ercol Originals Windsor dining chairs in black, £390 each, Heal’s
HALL Oak flooring is a warmer and quieter choice than stone tiles for a high-traffic area like this. Flaxman flatweave stair runner in Quartz, from £903 for a flight of stairs with 13 steps, Roger Oates Design. For similar wood flooring, try Natura Oak Ironbark Whiteleaf, £ 40sq m, Flooring Supplies
FAMILY ROOM ‘We started with the fabric on the ottoman and then played with lots of samples until we found a combination that worked,’ says Victoria. Ottoman in GP& J Baker Victoria Plaid Quartz, £98m, TM Interiors. Chairs in Quantock linen, £110m, Fermoie. Izmir rug, £2,500, Oka
GEORGE’S BEDROOM ‘The vintage bedside table is covered in an aeroplane wallpaper,’ says Victoria. Bedside table, £895, Bryonie Porter. Mini Gaston lamps, £65 each, Loaf. Contrasting Stars cotton bedspreads, £79.99 each, Zara Home
Main BEDROOM A navy velvet upholstered headboard helps ground the silvery-blue colour scheme. Sienna bed, £1,199, Feather & black. For similar headboard fabric, try osborne & Little Abacus velvet in blue, £79m, tm Interiors. Curtains in Small Paisley Parma grey fabric, £38m, Volga Linen
Main En SUITE A bespoke vanity unit makes the most of the space. Custom vanity drawer unit and double basin, £3,375, Porter bathroom. walls painted in Plummett estate eggshell, £60 for 2.5L, Farrow & ball. east hampton hexagon mosaic marble tiles, £165sq m, Fired earth
GUEST BEDROOM Blue and white create a clean, crisp look. hawa Mahal rug in Coin grey with navy outline, £195, From Jaipur with Love. Artur table lamp in stone crackle glaze with straight empire 30cm shade in green block-printed cotton, £160, Pooky