Brim­ming with vin­tage finds, up­cy­cled fur­ni­ture and bold colours, this south Lon­don cot­tage has plenty of in­di­vid­ual style

25 Beautiful Homes - - CONTENTS - Fea­ture JACKY HOBBS | Pho­tog­ra­phy HE­LEN FICK­LING

He­len and An­drew Fick­ling were look­ing to move to Lon­don from Hamp­shire and quickly re­alised that ren­o­vat­ing a run-down prop­erty af­forded the best op­por­tu­nity on their lim­ited bud­get. Months of house-hunt­ing fi­nally re­vealed a po­ten­tial prop­erty – a for­mer work­man’s con­verted cot­tage, which hadn’t been touched since the For­ties, when it had been split into two flats. ‘It was in des­per­ate need of love but had some­thing spe­cial about it,’ re­calls He­len.

The build­ing’s mea­gre fa­cil­i­ties meant there was con­sid­er­able work to do; there was an out­side toi­let, a dan­ger­ous gas burner in the sit­ting room, elec­tri­cal ca­bles strung across the ceil­ings and a prob­lem­atic roof. But de­spite its di­lap­i­dated state, the po­ten­tial was clear and, stretch­ing them­selves, the cou­ple bought the prop­erty. Plans and ren­o­va­tions pro­ceeded at a pace. Both An­drew and He­len have a keen eye for de­sign and swiftly made their mark on the pre­vi­ously lack­lus­tre and cramped dwelling, cre­at­ing a spa­cious home of great char­ac­ter.

Key to the re­design was open­ing up and ex­tend­ing the in­ter­nal space by in­cor­po­rat­ing a side al­ley into the hall, eras­ing the di­vid­ing din­ing/sit­ting room wall and adding a full-width, lanterned din­ing area to the kitchen. ‘It’s a great, flex­i­ble en­ter­tain­ing space, per­fect at Christ­mas when friends and fam­ily de­scend,’ ex­plains He­len, pleased that, ‘all the rooms are now a de­cent size’. The walls and high ceil­ings are pre­dom­i­nantly white, with pale grey ac­cents and sur­pris­ing splashes of colour. ‘This is a throw­back to my Zim­bab­wean roots,’ says He­len. ‘Africans

who move west im­port sun­shine and colour.’ Her home pro­vides a nat­u­ral set­ting for an eclec­tic and ever-chang­ing mix of fur­ni­ture, fur­nish­ings and ac­ces­sories. ‘I love mid­cen­tury de­sign,’ she en­thuses, and uses their Arkana din­ing ta­ble, Eames din­ing chairs and the Ital­ian Fifties side­board ev­ery day. The clean, sculpted look spills into their 19-year-old daugh­ter Han­nah’s kitsch Seven­ties-style bed­room, too.

Re­cently, He­len has skil­fully in­tro­duced a more pared-back look where French vin­tage pieces as­sume a quiet au­thor­ity. Fur­nish­ings, tex­tiles and ac­ces­sories bring gen­tle tone, tex­ture and sheen, adding sub­tle lay­ers to win­dows, man­tels and walls. He­len har­bours un­usual pieces, too, such as a vin­tage sledge, used sea­son­ally as a cof­fee ta­ble. The Fick­lings travel to flea mar­kets, car-boot sales, auc­tions and bro­cantes here, in Bel­gium and France, in search of un­usual and in­ter­est­ing pieces. ‘We go with an empty car and an open mind,’ says He­len. They gather beau­ti­ful vin­tage para­pher­na­lia, which can be bought from their on­line busi­ness, Ge­orge & Beth Vin­tage, or at their bian­nual pop-up shop in south Lon­don.

At Christ­mas, He­len em­bel­lishes the decor with gold, sil­ver and glass. Mir­rors are dec­o­rated with ivy or mistle­toe, and trees in the sit­ting room, hall and kitchen af­firm the sea­son and shim­mer with fairy lights. ‘We join neigh­bours for pre-christ­mas drinks, or some­times we share the fes­tiv­i­ties by di­vid­ing out the cook­ing,’ says He­len. ‘Some­one or­gan­ises the starter, the main course is served some­where else and dessert at an­other house. It’s a great way of cel­e­brat­ing.’

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