This 19th-century Berkshire cottage has been reinvented with glamorous Hollywood styling and characterful antiques, breaking the mould of a traditional country home
Glamorous additions give this reworked 19th-century Berkshire home a stylish appeal that is more Hollywood than Home Counties.
Atour of Jessica Pownall’s house offers a vivid introduction to the who’s who of mid-century modern, continental design. ‘That is by Curtis Jeré,’ says Jessica, pointing out the gleaming bronze mirror. You spot a coffee table by French house Maison Baguès and a sleek chest of drawers by Carlo de Carli. Elsewhere, collectable pieces in lustrous, metallic tones pepper the interior, adding a discreet glamour (more Hollywood than Home Counties) to this Berkshire home.
The previous owners might have approved. ‘According to locals they were rather “jet-setty” – there were rumours of helicopters landing on lawns,’ laughs Jessica, an interiors consultant and founder of Artisanna London, which specialises in mid-century modern-inspired seating. ‘We liked the huge party room, which they had built at the back of the house in the Seventies. They also added five bathrooms so their guests could stay in what was, at the time, very un-english comfort.’ These details and, somewhat counter-intuitively, the house’s lack of period details were what drew Jessica and her husband Robbie, an antiques dealer, to buy the property back in 2013. ‘This house isn’t an architectural masterpiece, with interesting features like cornicing or beams,’ says Jessica. ‘But that worked in our favour. Our antiques have strong personalities so they need space to breathe.’
The rest of the house was less appealing to the Pownalls. ‘There was brown and orange everywhere,’ Jessica recalls. The layout was equally unwelcoming for a family of four. ‘What is now our sitting room was divided in to a galley kitchen with a narrow dining area next door, and upstairs, part of the house had been partitioned off to create a separate flat. There was no flow to the interior.’
A NEW LOOK
Armed with a clipboard, Jessica (whose background as a set decorator for films has honed her eye for ‘the final look of a room’) supervised the transformation, which took a fraught five months. The ungainly partition walls upstairs were removed to create a comfortable guest wing. Downstairs, the grown-up but friendly drawing room bears no trace of its dark past. ‘We took down the old kitchen wall and added the fireplace to give the room a focus.’ Creamy stone flooring leads to the former party room, where some ‘strange arches’ were removed so the Pownalls could create a room where the family can relax. Jessica also had a log-burning stove installed and added a comfortable sofa for suppers in front of the television. She designed the streamlined kitchen to offset against a set of vintage brass bar stools, while for dinner parties an antique screen is used to hide the culinary clutter from view from the dining table. ‘It is not just about the looks. We’ve made the space much more practical.’
ALL IN THE DETAIL
Years of raiding flea markets in Paris or Parma also inspired Jessica to design her elegant, handmade slipper chairs, armchairs and dressingtable stools in way that perfectly enhances the silver-screen style of this home. ‘I have drawn inspiration from known collectable pieces, but I have updated the shapes and proportions to make them suitable for modern living,’ she explains. The inclusion of the chairs is the perfect finishing touch for a home that oozes 20th-century glamour – from the walnut parquet laid instead of conventional flagstones in the hall, to the mirrored splashback in the kitchen, which cleverly reflects the ‘millionpound’ views of the countryside and the door handles of Lucite or bronze instead of conventional brass. As Jessica puts it: ‘This is not your predictable country house.’