This 19th-cen­tury Berk­shire cot­tage has been rein­vented with glam­orous Hol­ly­wood styling and char­ac­ter­ful an­tiques, break­ing the mould of a tra­di­tional coun­try home

Homes & Gardens - - CONTENTS - Words Ser­ena Fokschaner Pho­tographs Da­vide Lo­vatti

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.’


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.’


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.’

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