Small is beau­ti­ful, when it comes to the dec­o­ra­tive de­lights of the quin­tes­sen­tial English town­house

Town & Country (UK) - - CONTENTS - BY ROS BYAM SHAW

How to make the most of your town­house

Cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that suits the way you live, that makes you feel com­fort­able, and brings you plea­sure, is ev­ery decorator’s aim and am­bi­tion. Dec­o­rat­ing is vis­ual alchemy, draw­ing on the power of colour and pat­tern, the charm of shape and tex­ture, the con­trast be­tween the plain and the fancy. Vastly dif­fer­ent ef­fects can be con­jured in the same space by chang­ing the choice of paint, pa­per, floor­ing, pic­tures and fur­ni­ture. This is par­tic­u­larly ap­par­ent in town­houses be­cause their ar­chi­tec­ture and lay­out is of­ten quite sim­i­lar, as I dis­cov­ered last year when writ­ing a book about 14 houses in English towns and cities, each with its own dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter and at­mos­phere.

A good place to start is in the hall. The foot­print of the typ­i­cal ter­raced town­house is lim­ited, and so its en­trance hall is in­vari­ably long and nar­row, with just enough space to pass the stairs to rooms at the back, or to the back door. This in­tro­duc­tion to the rest of the prop­erty has been treated in a var­i­ous ways by the own­ers fea­tured in the book.

One of the small­est houses, a late 18th-cen­tury ter­raced cot­tage on four floors, be­long­ing to the an­tiques dealer Jack Laver Bris­ter and his part­ner Richard Mawes, has a hall barely wider than the front door. When they bought it, the in­te­rior was painted white through­out, set off by wall-to-wall fit­ted car­pet­ing in pale por­ridge – con­ven­tional dec­o­rat­ing wis­dom for mak­ing a house feel lighter and more spa­cious. Jack and Richard took the op­po­site ap­proach, rip­ping up the car­pets

left: the re­cep­tion­rooms in gavin wad­dell’s regency town­house. right: ros byam shaw with tasha

left: the bath­room and de­tails (right) in jack laver bris­ter and richard mawes’ home

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