With its rock star-meets-manor house cre­den­tials, Joanna and Mark’s fam­ily home is a cel­e­bra­tion of luxe grandeur

Living Etc - - CONTENTS ⁄ ETC -

Once a se­cret hang­out for cool Six­ties cre­atives, Joanna and Mark’s manor house flat still boasts a good-time vibe

Mick Jag­ger and Jimi Hen­drix partied in our liv­ing room and Rod Ste­wart wrote Mag­gie May in one of the bed­rooms, so it would be a crime not to throw a Christ­mas party here,’ says Joanna Ship­ton. She and hus­band Mark live on the ground floor of a ram­bling Hert­ford­shire manor house that was a hush-hush hang­out for cool cre­atives back in the Six­ties. Pop art greats in­clud­ing Peter Blake lived here. Ken Rus­sell wanted to film Women in Love here, but was turned down in or­der to pre­serve the se­crecy of this par­tic­u­lar bo­hemian en­clave. Think a more dis­creet ver­sion of Keith Richards’ coun­try pile, but mi­nus the po­lice raids.

‘We bought it from the son of the artist Barry Daniels, one of the orig­i­nal free spir­its who founded the Danad De­sign col­lec­tive and made ev­ery­thing hap­pen here,’ says Joanna. ‘It def­i­nitely feels as if an air of cre­ativ­ity is still float­ing around in the ether.’ Rem­nants of the lives of pre­vi­ous in­hab­i­tants – from paint­ings to fur­ni­ture – were still piled up high in all the rooms when they first vis­ited. ‘It was hard to see past it all, but slowly, the place re­vealed it­self, like a hid­den gem,’ says Joanna.

When it came to find­ing a style to suit the house’s glam back story – not to men­tion the older ar­chi­tec­tural flour­ishes added by Sir John Soane in the 18th cen­tury – Joanna and Mark called up Camilla Kelly, who runs The Mint List In­te­rior De­sign. ‘We had a lot of fun to­gether,’ says Joanna. ‘Camilla has an eye for sourc­ing pieces that ex­ude a grandeur that fits in with the sur­round­ings, but with­out go­ing at all “Na­tional Trust”.’

The sheer scale of the ball­room-like spaces was ini­tially daunt­ing. ‘We moved here from a more “nor­mal” house and our style was more slick, con­tem­po­rary fur­ni­ture,’ says Joanna. A few pieces were in­vited along on the short road trip to their new home, but, over­all, Joanna and Mark’s style needed a to­tal re­think. Tex­tures needed more depth; fur­ni­ture needed added stature. And the over­all ef­fect needed to be cast through a more glam­orous fil­ter.

‘Camilla helped us to turn what could have been sev­eral cav­ernous spaces into a co­he­sive flow,’ Joanna says. The fam­ily’s cen­tral space is an open-plan liv­ing room with a dining area, united and soft­ened with rich vel­vets, a gleam­ing étagère and lay­ers of lush cur­tains. Large-scale Tom Dixon pen­dants add a sense of drama that suits the high pro­por­tions.

Then there’s the chil­dren’s zone: a vast nurs­ery space the cou­ple wanted their kids to share, rather than carv­ing it up into sep­a­rate rooms. But they also didn’t want it to feel like a draughty Vic­to­rian dor­mi­tory. Camilla’s so­lu­tion was to de­fine three cosy spaces with scaled-up head­boards and a cool il­lu­mi­nated ini­tial over each bed. A shared play area is there for when they want to hang out to­gether. ‘It’s a dream room for kids,’ says Joanna. ‘I can al­ready imag­ine them all waking up on Christ­mas morn­ing…’

This will be the fam­ily’s third Christ­mas here and 24 are in­vited for lunch. ‘It re­ally is a fab space for fam­ily gath­er­ings,’ says Joanna. ‘Last year, I cooked for ev­ery­one, but this time, ev­ery­one’s bring­ing one dish, so hope­fully, I’ll es­cape potato duty. I must have peeled 150 pota­toes last year.’

Just as well for Santa’s im­mi­nent ar­rival that the orig­i­nal fire­place sur­rounds have been re­stored, along with the pe­riod mould­ings. But the house’s grand en­trance, de­signed by Sir John Soane, is the ar­chi­tec­tural star, with stately Ionic pil­lars that were pro­to­types for his de­sign for the Bank of Eng­land. ‘That view of the en­trance from the long drive had us hooked from the start,’ says Joanna.

Given its Grade Ii-listed sta­tus, the cou­ple have ‘left the ar­chi­tec­ture to speak for it­self.’ Joanna says: ‘With a house like this, you feel as if you’re look­ing after it for the next gen­er­a­tion.’ And find­ing out more about its past lives has been part of that plea­sure. In the base­ment, Joanna and Mark found stacks of paint­ings left by the artist Barry Daniels and asked his son if they could have them framed. Hang­ing in a row be­neath or­nate 18th-cen­tury cor­nic­ing, th­ese draw­ings are a per­fect ho­mage to the house’s cre­ative past. ‘When you walk in, you can feel that good things have hap­pened here,’ says Jo. ‘Now we’re here, I reckon there are plenty more good times to come.’

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