‘I LOVE A COOL COUNTRY LOOK’
Millie stripped away the Nineties decor in favour of a more subtle style
Before I’d even set foot in this house, I knew it was the one I wanted to live in,’ says Millie Masterton of her Victorian townhouse in tunbridge Wells. ‘Fortunately, the interior lived up to the exterior, with its original features, light-filled rooms and the fact that it didn’t need much work. I liked that it was habitable as it was so we could move straight in, although it definitely wasn’t decorated to my taste.
At the time, we were living in southeast London, but I didn’t want my children, Felicity and Rupert, to grow up in the city. Instead, I wanted a lively town within a short commute of London. But despite searching most of Surrey, I’d drawn a blank. Then, while visiting my best friend in Tunbridge Wells, I realised the town ticked all my boxes – it was exactly what I had been looking for.
The previous owner had painted most of the rooms in a bland magnolia shade, but with garish feature walls, like a chimney breast painted a bold blood red. The main bedroom and hall had to be re-plastered, as the walls were in very poor condition, and had been painted so many times that when I stripped the wallpaper off, the plaster came with it. To achieve a uniform look throughout the house, I chose a palette of grey and off-white to create the backdrop for the simple country look I wanted.
Adding personal taste
Next I wanted to tackle the kitchen – and fast! It‘d been decorated with Nineties yellow melamine units and chequerboard-effect yellow and turquoise wall tiles. It was also practically unusable. One worktop was at an angle, while the oven was stacked on the other worktop, leaving nowhere to prepare food. So I
‘whenever possible,combine jobs– like updating the guttering and soffits when there’s already scaffolding up for another job’
got the cupboards replaced first, fitting the oven into a run of base units. Then a wall was moved so we could straighten the worktop, and an ugly plaster feature on the chimney breast was ripped off. The doorway to the utility was moved over by a brick’s width, and the washing machine moved to the kitchen so I could fill the utility with floor-to-ceiling cupboards.
Lack of storage was an issue throughout the entire house, so I created built-in units in most of the rooms – adding a bench seat in the hall, plus extra cupboards and shelves in the sitting room and Rupert’s bedroom. Whenever I buy furniture, I make sure to find a piece that incorporates some kind of storage. Quite often I’ll pick up something second-hand from a car-boot sale, and then
transform it into something more functional and multi-purpose, or simply refresh it to fit my style. In the bathroom, for example, the mantel mirror was a £30 second-hand buy. It’s steel, probably from a pub and incredibly heavy. It was covered in coal dust, but once I’d cleaned it up, it returned to its original white.
The last major work I completed was converting the loft into an office for myself. As I work from home one day a week, I needed somewhere quiet, as well as space to store the sewing materials for my business, Ruby & Custard. There was a hatch into the loft above the stairs but it was so tricky getting anything up there, so I couldn’t actually use it as storage,
‘YOUTUBE IS GREAT FOR LEARNING HOW TO FIX AND UPCYCLE FURNITURE’
never mind as a workspace. But there were cupboards backing on to each other in both bedrooms on the second floor, so I took out one set and ran a staircase up to the loft from there. I then had Velux windows fitted and turned the space into a studio. It’s my retreat where I can get creative and keep all my bits and bobs out of reach of the children.
I combined the loft conversion with other jobs to make good use of the scaffolding and, after a chance conversation with both my neighbours, the scaffolding ended up stretching across all three of our houses so they could also fix a leaking chimney and add a rear extension. This meant I gained the space for a tiny en-suite off the main bedroom, too, which I wouldn’t have
had if the neighbours hadn’t done their extension at the same time. It made it easier it all round, doing a three-in-one job, and the builders were fabulous.
Home with heart
While I prefer a calm, clutter-free, mainly neutral interior most of the time, at Christmas I do like to really go for it and add lots more colour and fun decorations. I try to buy my tree as early in December as possible so that I get to enjoy the decorations throughout the whole month. I’m always so sad to pack them away the first week of January, but we do have a tradition of choosing one decoration to keep up for the rest of the year, which helps with the post-
‘PUT A SPIN ON TRADITIONAL COUNTRY STYLE WITH DECADENT, ORNATE DETAILS LIKE A FRENCH-STYLE MIRROR OR VINTAGE VASE’
Christmas blues! Last year we chose to keep a grey metal heart out, which we have on display on the windowsill above the sink in the kitchen. Heart accessories and motifs are a bit of a theme actually, we have a few dotted around most of the rooms. I like to think they’re representative of the heart and soul I’ve tried to put into every inch of our home. It’s a good place for us, and has a friendly feel – the children and I couldn’t be happier here.’
idea to steal ‘Hang a wreath above the fireplace to create a festive focal pointõ HEARTH And HOME ‘the wood burner, which was already here when I bought the house, adds country-style cosiness to this room’
Hidden corner ‘I made the most of little nooks in hallways and landings by adding extra shelving and storage’ PALE And INTERESTING ‘To give a classic look a modern twist, I choose traditional-style furniture, like this low-arm sofa, but in a contemporary neutral colourway’
‘I picked up the chair cheaply because the leg was damaged. If something’s broken, that doesn’t deter me. If I don’t know how to fix it, I’ll watch a Youtube video’ BOY ZONE
GORGEOUS AND GIRLIE ‘The wooden rocking chair, inherited from my great uncle, takes pride of place and I made the bunting from scraps of Cath Kidston and Tilda fabrics’
‘This little space in the loft is where I come to escape into my sewing and crocheting’ CRAFTY CORNER
IDEA TO STEAL ‘Pop a tabletop tree on a bedside table or chest in a kid’s room for a fun touch’
GIDDY UP ‘Joey the rocking horse was mine when I was a child, and now lives in Felicity’s colourful bedroom’
PERFECT SHADE ‘As the bedroom is north-facing, neither cream nor grey were right for the walls, but I found Farrow & Ball’s Strong White to be a happy medium’ SPOT OF SPARKLE ‘I bought the chandelier on ebay for £20 but I must have misread the size, as I got a real surprise when the huge box turned up!’ IDEA TO STEAL ‘Add some grown-up glamour to a bedroom with a striking chandelier‘
HERITAGE STYLE ‘The dressing table was originally stained and painted pine, and while it was beautiful, it just didn’t work in the room, so I bit the bullet and painted it in Farrow & Ball’s Cornforth White’
CHECK IT OUT ‘I kept the previous owner’s Victorian-style roll-top bath and chequerboard vinyl flooring, but softened the look with pale grey walls’