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
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.’
‘THERE’S AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE THAT COMES WITH OUR HOME,’