the dark arts

Jane Rock­ett and Toby Er­lam used an imag­i­na­tive blend of moody hues, strik­ing art­work and vin­tage finds to re­vi­talise an unloved coun­try home

25 Beautiful Homes - - CON­TENT - Fea­ture EMMA J PAGE | Pho­tog­ra­phy BÉNÉ­DICTE DRUM­MOND

Few of us have the knack of mak­ing a pot plant and vin­tage desk sal­vaged from a Ci­ti­zen’s Ad­vice Bureau look cov­etable, but Jane Rock­ett has an en­vi­able de­sign eye. In her home, she has el­e­vated the ev­ery­day to the in­ter­est­ing, and cre­ated har­mony from dis­parate pieces. ‘I just com­bine el­e­ments I love,’ she says. ‘A home can’t be staged – it needs to evolve.’

This is a phi­los­o­phy that Jane, co-founder of home­wares brand Rock­ett St Ge­orge, put into prac­tice when she came across this Vic­to­rian cot­tage in a pretty Sus­sex vil­lage nearly 10 years ago. Her aim was to strip it back to its orig­i­nal lay­out, al­low­ing it to breathe, and make al­ter­ations over time, like re­mov­ing walls, ex­pos­ing the top floor to the rafters and adding a sim­ple con­ser­va­tory to the rear. ‘Pre­vi­ous own­ers had carved more rooms out of the space, but it had be­come some­thing of a rab­bit war­ren as a re­sult,’ she says. ‘How­ever, I fell in love with the gen­er­ous win­dows and I knew I could make the place work for fam­ily life.’

Jane and her part­ner, Toby, moved in with their chil­dren, Tyler, now 19, Lola, 17, and Eden, 13, and lived on site while the task of sim­pli­fy­ing the prop­erty’s flow was car­ried out. ‘I re­mem­ber en­dur­ing a very cold win­ter with the back of the house cov­ered in tar­pau­lin, while Tyler’s 10th birth­day party took place in a kitchen with no floor and the guests climb­ing over joists,’ re­calls Jane.

With an eye for know­ing ex­actly what to add and what to re­move, she has

stream­lined stor­age, cre­at­ing a util­ity room out of a ground floor cor­ri­dor space, leav­ing the kitchen free of wall units, and al­low­ing bare bricks to add drama. Aged metal bar stools, a poured resin floor and mod­ern art­work add a gen­tle in­dus­trial note. ‘I like that prac­ti­cal ele­ment, but for a softer look we’ve in­cor­po­rated rus­tic ma­te­ri­als, tex­tures and fo­liage,’ says Jane.

Tex­ture plays an im­por­tant part in the sit­ting room, with dra­matic, moody­toned walls off­set by quirky finds, vin­tage fur­ni­ture, and eye-catch­ing sil­hou­ettes. Up­stairs, seven bed­rooms were re­duced to five, al­low­ing for three gen­er­ous-sized rooms and a fam­ily bath­room on the first floor, and two bed­rooms and a shower room on the sec­ond, with the ceil­ings re­moved to ex­pose the eaves. Through­out, Jane has opted for un­usual fin­ishes to add depth and draw the eye.

The fam­ily’s light but co­coon­ing gar­den room is the jewel in the crown of this sen­si­tive restora­tion. It fea­tures a slim, dra­mat­i­cally dark frame, and doors that can be fully opened to a pretty court­yard gar­den. ‘We have din­ner par­ties there and it’s mag­i­cal at night, with the lights dimmed,’ says Jane. Mean­while, Sun­day lunchtime sees ex­tended fam­ily gather round a huge for­mer map ta­ble, which was once ear­marked for Rock­ett St Ge­orge’s con­ces­sion in Lib­erty, but deemed too large to make it to its des­ti­na­tion.

‘When we bought this house, our aim was to cre­ate a space that our chil­dren and their friends would want to hang out in,’ says Jane. ‘Fast for­ward a decade, and that’s ex­actly what’s hap­pened. It’s a fan­tas­tic home that seems to ab­sorb peo­ple, and since our mantra is “the more the mer­rier”, we couldn’t have asked for a bet­ter re­sult.’

SIT­TING ROOM Dark walls pro­vide a co­coon­ing feel in this dra­matic space. Walls painted in Madi­son Grey matt emul­sion, £33 for 2.5L, Abi­gail Ah­ern. Black-and-gold framed con­vex mir­ror, £80; Oslo black/ivory cot­ton rug, £195, both Rock­ett St Ge­orge

KITCHEN A strik­ing seat and a se­lec­tion of favourite art­works make a state­ment in this cor­ner. Resin floor, price on ap­pli­ca­tion, De­signs in Resin. ‘Af­ter the Disco’ art print, £125 un­framed, Om Mu­dra hand chair, £ 450, both Rock­ett St Ge­orge

KITCHEN Jane chose a light, white look in this room. ‘I like an in­dus­trial style,’ she says, ‘but I wanted to add some soft­en­ing notes, so I opted for crisp white cab­i­nets as a gen­tle con­trast to the bare brick walls.’ Resin floor, price on ap­pli­ca­tion, De­signs in Resin. Ce­ramic Drop pen­dant ceil­ing lights in White Gloss, from £125 each, Orig­i­nal BTC. Mi­das bar stool in an­tique brass, £145 each, Rock­ett St Ge­orge

GUEST BED­ROOM ‘I wanted a jew­ellike, op­u­lent feel here,’ says Jane. Walls painted in Hud­son Black matt emul­sion, £33 for 2.5L, Abi­gail Ah­ern. Bare­foot lamp, £56, Rock­ett St Ge­orge pat­tern, paired with un­pol­ished brass taps and bare wood floor­boards cre­ate a her­itage feel. La Fon­taine Noire basin mixer tap is sim­i­lar to this one, from £480, Catch­pole & Rye. To recre­ate the look of this basin, try the Lon­don Con­sole leg set, £363, CP Hart BATH­ROOM White tiles laid in a her­ring­bone

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