East goes west

When Susy moved from Dal­ston to deep­est Devon­shire, she used im­mer­sive colours and tex­tures to bring out the char­ac­ter of her fam­ily’s new home

Living Etc - - HOMES ⁄ ETC - Words and pro­duc­tion ⁄ Jo Leev­ers

says Susy Parker of the be­guil­ing style she’s wo­ven through her fam­ily’s Devon­shire house. From the out­side, this one-time rec­tory is your clas­sic choco­late box cot­tage. But step over the thresh­old and the mood is more ab­sinthe in a Paris bar than tea with the vicar.

That was al­ways part of Susy’s plan. ‘When you walk into a room, I think you should feel some­thing – your senses should come alive,’ she says. ‘It should star­tle, or bring the thrill of some­thing un­ex­pected.’ The re­sult of this dec­o­rat­ing ethos is a war­ren of rooms that each casts a spell, from the kitchen’s daz­zle of mala­chite, black and gold, to the smoky greys and foxed mir­ror glass of the din­ing room. Up­stairs, bed­rooms are awash with palm fronds and glossy leaves that re­mind Susy of ‘a moon­lit gar­den’. To add to the ef­fect, jun­gle crea­tures peep out from shelves and clam­ber up their wall­pa­per vines. ‘I never have any prob­lems get­ting the kids to have a bath in “The Mon­key Room”,’ says Susy, re­fer­ring to the whim­si­cal simian wall­cov­er­ing in the fam­ily bath­room.

Susy, who runs Piper & Poet, her doc­tor hus­band Ben, and their chil­dren Felix and Os­car, both nine, and Darcy, just three, moved from Dal­ston, east London to this idyl­lic vil­lage set­ting two years ago. ‘It was al­ways our dream to move to Devon even­tu­ally, but then Ben was of­fered a job here, so we put our plans into fast-for­ward,’ says Susy. ‘The aim was to lead a less fre­netic life and to give the kids an ex­pe­ri­ence of na­ture that ex­tended be­yond the bedrag­gled London pi­geons they saw on their way to school.’

These days, pretty Jersey cows mooch past their front door and swal­lows swoop in and out of the eaves of their tum­ble­down barn. In­side, ev­ery­thing is rosy, al­beit through a darker, less pre­dictable fil­ter. The house is os­ten­si­bly Ge­or­gian, but at its core are sev­eral snug Tu­dor rooms, dis­sected by beams or pan­elled in wide, weath­ered oak planks.

The cou­ple didn’t al­ter the bones of the build­ing, but in­stead chose to re­cast most of the rooms in deep paint shades, en­livened by swirling sea­weed greens and ex­otic glimpses of colour. ‘I wanted to cre­ate the feel­ing of be­ing at the bot­tom of a lake and im­mersed into a com­pletely dif­fer­ent world,’ says Susy.

She first fell for her aquatic palette in the fam­ily’s pre­vi­ous London home. ‘It was more about con­trast­ing monochromes there,’ she says. ‘But with this home, I was drawn more strongly to­wards the dark spec­trum. I love shades that are be­witch­ing in their own right, but that also make brighter colours come to life.’

Inky blues and blacks bring an air of mys­tery to this ram­bling vicarage, where plenty of vin­tage finds are dot­ted around for added at­mos­phere. Sev­eral ves­tiges of their old ur­ban life have made the tran­si­tion to the coun­try­side. In the mas­ter suite, hazy Po­laroids by pho­tog­ra­phers Anita Barry and Matt Schwartz suit the sub­mer­sive theme. Mean­while, the nat­u­rally faded Wil­liam Mor­ris Chrysan­the­mum wall­pa­per that al­ready lined Darcy’s bed­room walls adds a nostal­gic aura.

The fact that the house al­ready echoed with the past lent it­self eas­ily to Susy’s evoca­tive style. It has plenty of its own idio­syn­cra­sies, such as the se­cret back stair­case hid­den be­hind a pan­elled door in the kitchen, and a break­fast room lined with wide oak boards, snug as the creaky cabin of an an­cient ship. ‘Be­cause it has Tu­dor roots, the house al­ready felt war­ren-like and mys­te­ri­ous,’ she says.

Be­fore she moved into in­te­rior styling and re­tail, Susy worked in fash­ion, co-run­ning be­spoke cloth­ing com­pany Fox in a Glove. ‘What ex­cites me about in­te­ri­ors is the end­less scope for cre­ative play,’ she says. Along­side in­te­rior styling, Susy sells an edit of her favourite vin­tage finds on­line. ‘I love giv­ing for­got­ten ob­jects a new life and show­ing how they can be reimag­ined with a con­tem­po­rary eye,’ she says.

The same goes for this house, which Susy trans­formed by tap­ping into its in­nately dra­matic char­ac­ter. ‘I feel as though it will con­tinue to grow and evolve,’ she says. ‘And it’s ex­cit­ing, wait­ing to see what will come next.’


Pho­tog­ra­phy ⁄ Rachael Smith

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