25 Beautiful Homes
HOME TO STAY
Amanda Congreve teamed up with friend and designer Jo Thorp to bring warmth to a partially converted house
Relocating to an Edwardian terrace in the city where she spent her early 20s was a dream come true for this art-loving owner
More than a century has passed since Fulham was a rural village, but in many ways its quiet charm remains. ‘This area carries happy memories for me,’ says Amanda Congreve, who lived there in her early 20s. Moving from Yorkshire for the sake of her daughters, Fleur, now 18, Honor, 16, and Grace, 14, who needed a London base, was, Amanda says, ‘like coming home’.
After months of searching she found a large early-edwardian property in a quiet leafy street, in a half-finished state. ‘It was a challenge,’ she says, ‘but most of the main renovation work had been done. The bones were sound, with well-proportioned rooms, high ceilings and plenty of light, but the house needed a complete cosmetic overhaul.’
Even before exchanging contracts, Amanda rang interior designer Jo Thorp to help. ‘Jo immediately gauged the style I was looking for,’ says Amanda. ‘I’d grown weary of the grey minimalist look of my previous home and wanted something new. Her idea was to add colour and make it really comfortable and inviting.’
Jo’s verdict on the house was also encouraging. The previous architect had some clever ideas, she pointed out. ‘All too often London terraced houses are gutted in one clean sweep leaving an uninteresting shell. This architect had sensitively divided the ground floor into two levels with a partly glazed and partly open wall section creating an intimate feel to the sitting room, with a view onto the kitchen-diner below.’
Having started her working life in the contemporary art department of Christie’s, Amanda has accumulated a dazzling collection of paintings, which Jo skilfully integrated into the colour schemes. ‘The classic old-school vibe in the living room
was inspired by a painting of Kitty, the much-loved family pony, nuzzling up to a pack of hounds.’ Jo recalls how pleased they were the day they found the rug for this room. ‘It exactly matched the background colour of this painting,’ she says.
On the same shopping spree, Jo and Amanda found a red geometric rug to bring warmth and a contemporary edge to the girls’ sitting room on the lower ground floor, The room links to a terrace with a glass roof, so is unusually light for a basement.
The plan of the new kitchen, designed by Grainne Tuite at Mark Plant, was an important ingredient in answer to Amanda’s request for relaxed dining for younger guests. ‘It’s our social space with a large island unit and four bar stools,’ she says. ‘This is where my daughters’ friends tend to group for nibbles and a glass of wine.’
The dining table for more formal parties is divided from the kitchen by a light switch. As Amanda explains, ‘I switch off lights to darken the kitchen and highlight the dining area with dimmed spots and candles.’
When it came to finishing touches, the choice of cushions and accessories was a joint effort. Amanda admits this was a good decision. ‘My natural inclination would have been for more masculine choices,’ she says, ‘but Jo encouraged me to go for a softer look with floral patterns and stripes.’
The evidence is in the relaxed happy vibe, achieved despite Amanda’s selfconfessed leaning to perfectionism – she is passionate about order. ‘I hope I’ve become more of a relaxed perfectionist, rather than a totalitarian one,’ she smiles. ‘My girls are a good influence in this respect. They arrive with a gang of friends who tend to create a homely mess. The atmosphere buzzes when they are around and we all chat non-stop.’