THE WELL-CURATED HOME
This former Victorian school store now hosts its owners’ lovingly edited collections
Katie Tyler can still remember her first impressions of The Store House when she and her husband, Jon, first saw it in 2003: “The floors were covered in cheap carpets, woodchip paper was on the walls, plus it had a 1970s kitchen and a leaking roof.” Heading outside to look at the overgrown garden, they heard the bell ringing in the playground of the red-brick primary school that stands on the hill above the house. As the couple have two daughters, a meeting with the “lovely” headteacher was all it took to convince them that they had found their new home.
The following 15 years have seen Katie and Jon working slowly and carefully to restore the property from top to bottom, approaching every task with a light touch and genuine sensitivity to its curious past. The Store House was built in 1859 for a local charity committed to educating the children of three parishes, and providing ‘physick, provision or clothes’ for the poor inhabitants of the area. A handsome, brick-built, Tudor Revival building with three floors and a basement, it once doubled as a home for the clerk of the charity and a store for the meat, blankets and boots he would give out. The windows at the back of the property look towards almshouses and the school, which were built by the charity at the same time.
This intriguing history is written into both the name and the architecture of the property, which has two front doors – a private one for the clerk and another for tradesmen and the parish poor. And then there is Katie and Jon’s bedroom on the top floor. “We always assumed it used to be the servants’ quarters,” Katie says, “but we couldn’t understand why the staircase wasn’t narrower and why there were no fireplaces.” Eventually, they discovered that the space had originally been an unheated storeroom
for boots and blankets, while the hooks in the basement suggest that meat and other provisions for the needy were stored there.
Despite its practical, utilitarian past, everything about The Store House is generous, from the size of its high-ceilinged rooms and the breadth of its stone mullioned windows to the width of its doors and the expertly crafted turn of the banisters. The only decorative detail is a stopped chamfer, delicately carved and faithfully repeated on doors, spindles, windows, shutters and panelling. “This simplicity translates well to a modern aesthetic,” Jon remarks, and it is true that the interior has the feel of a bright, contemporary and uncluttered space.
Both Katie and Jon are inveterate collectors – habitués of house sales, auctions and flea markets. The hall at the foot of the stairs is not large, but, by dismantling and reassembling the shelving from a derelict mill, they have created enough storage for a library’s worth of books, alongside such curiosities as an artificial ham that was used for display by an Italian grocer, Edwardian ice skates, antique bottles, sewing silks, a small marble bust and some old leather walking boots. Up in their bedroom, a bevy of wooden hand mirrors congregates on a chest of drawers, while close by is a small collection of hats and a towering pyramid of leather suitcases. Paintings, prints, children’s drawings and a lovely scarf in a frame line the walls on the landings, and a glass-fronted cabinet in the sitting room is filled with intriguing instruments for forgotten trades and pastimes, as well as more delicate finds, such as an antique tortoiseshell box. “I never put anything new into the cabinet,” Katie explains, “without taking something out.” This curatorial instinct is in evidence all over the house, and as a result every object works hard to earn and keep its place. Katie shares her
admirable skill for creating interesting spaces through Curated Room, the design company and styling service that she offers in partnership with her friend Justine Cook.
She also specialises in creative upholstery – running the business from the house, where she keeps an eclectic mix of modern and vintage fabrics – and has a passion for chairs, from the antique to the cutting edge. When it comes to choosing them, her only criterion is “quirky uniqueness”. Sometimes, a particular chair and a fabric will create the perfect match, and the delightful result of these happy couplings can be seen all over the house. The seats bear such distinctive upholstery that they set the tone wherever they are, and it’s easy to understand why Katie gives them all names to suit their styles and personalities.
The Store House may have a new chapter in its long history as a family home, but it still throws up several surprises from the past. Take Jon’s discovery of dozens of table-top mangles gathering cobwebs in the potting shed, a relic from the days of the charity school behind the house, when local girls came for training before going into service. And, as if the house is keen to keep Katie and Jon on their toes, only last year they discovered a hidden, panelled wall in the spare room, with the same stopped-chamfer design as the rest of the woodwork in the house. You can’t help wondering what they will discover next.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT The Store House; the sitting room is home to a constantly rotating collection of furniture, including a table made from a church pew seat supported by apple crates (above) OPPOSITE The hall shelves feature antiques market finds and inherited treasures
OPPOSITE The kitchen is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Shaded White, as are many rooms in the house THIS PAGE, FROM TOP LEFT The splashback for the butler’s sink was made from a slate mantelpiece found in the garden; shelving in the hall came from a derelict mill
OPPOSITE Jon and Katie’s bedroom is a serene space in the attic THIS PAGE Katie’s designs add character – she made the black lampshade in her daughter’s room from a skirt fringe; the bath is edged with fabric cut from caravan curtains; one of her handmade cushions in the spare room