DECK THE halls
Jackie and Mener Tsitsis’ beautifully restored period house is the perfect setting for a traditional family Christmas
Lovingly restored, this Georgian manor in the New Forest is wonderfully grand but warmly inviting
With the fires lit and the fairy lights twinkling, Jackie and Mener Tsitsis’ 18th-century house comes into its own during the festive season. ‘It is made for large gatherings,’ says Jackie. ‘On Christmas day, we walk in the forest and come back to a late lunch with family and friends. We then sit around the fire playing games – it’s a relaxed, sociable time.’
Jackie and Mener, who have three children – Gregory, 24, Anna, 21, and George, 18 – are London-based, but their love affair with the New Forest began in 1999 when they bought a beach hut in Mudeford. ‘We then progressed to a cottage and after that, a six-bedroom house,’ says Jackie. The family used to pass this place regularly, and so when Mener, a property developer, spotted that it was for sale, his curiosity was piqued. ‘I don’t think we went to view it with any intention to buy,’ says Jackie. ‘But it simply took our breath away.’
The house had once belonged to Lady Emma Bingham whose husband, Sir George Ridout Bingham, was Napoleon’s gaoler. Lady Emma bought it after her husband’s death and she lived there from around 1840 until she died in 1870. During the Second World War, the building was requisitioned for the Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces, and it was an RAF pilot who bought the property after the war.
By the time Jackie and Mener bought the house, it needed attention. ‘It had been divided into flats and many of the original features had been ripped out,’ says Jackie. By a stroke of luck, the pair found a Twenties postcard of the property on ebay, and this provided a reference for missing details such as the windows and the railings at the front of the house. They also obtained sale documents from 1920, which included floor plans. ‘ We wanted to reinstate the rooms but also bring the building into the 21st century,’ says Jackie.
While Mener managed the restoration, Jackie sourced furnishings, choosing an aesthetic that is informal yet befits the grandeur of the spaces. ‘We brought pieces from our previous home but when we moved them here, they seemed to disappear,’ she says. ‘I realised that furniture needed to be scaled up in order to hold its own in the rooms.’
At this time of year, three Christmas trees grace the manor house. ‘There is nothing quite like walking into the double-height hall when it is all decked out for Christmas and the fire is roaring,’ says Jackie, who adds, ‘I feel an immense sense of pride that we have brought this house back to life so that it can be enjoyed again.’
decorating tip‘ I wanted to create a sense that the interiors have evolved over time, so I mixed designer and high-street pieces with antiques’
SITTING ROOM The couple sourced the antique fireplace to fit the period of the house. Antique fireplace, price on request, The Fireplace Shop. Try Dunelm’s Verbier grey faux fur cushion, £14
BATHROOM The roll-top bath was positioned to enjoy the views across the parkland. try the Astonian rimini bath, £1,199.91, Aston Matthews
GUEST BEDROOM A plush velvet headboard lends a luxurious feel. For a similar seat, look at the Italian vintage leather brown bench, £607.60, turnbull & thomas. the house, as well as the coach house and cottage in the grounds, is available to rent, heathfieldhouseresidence.co.uk