A Home in Bloom

Victorian Homes - - Contents - By Sally Grif­fiths

Spring brings out the best in this lovely Vic­to­rian home.

Carolyn, who runs an interior busi­ness, Carolyn Sh­effield De­signs, has al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the 18th cen­tury phi­los­o­phy of build­ing houses with an aus­tere ex­te­rior and a sur­pris­ingly flam­boy­ant interior.

But when Fran­cis John­son went one step fur­ther and sug­gested rooms with ar­chi­tec­tural de­tails from dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods, she and her hus­band Ju­lian were happy to go along with it.

BELOVED PIECES

To­day, the out­come is a tri­umph of ar­chi­tec­tural in­ge­nu­ity. The once tum­ble-down barn and cat­tle sheds have trans­formed into a clas­si­cally el­e­gant coun­try house of beau­ti­ful plas­ter­work and warm col­ors. In tones of honey, blue­bell and bur­gundy to echo the Re­gency style, it is a per­fect set­ting for the Sh­effields. Their fine furniture, paint­ings and ob­jets d’art work well with the clever re­cy­cling of much-loved fur­nish­ings from their for­mer home.

An ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of Carolyn’s ap­proach is the yel­low draw­ing room. “My aim was to recre­ate the sit­ting room in our previous house,” says Carolyn. “By paint­ing the walls ex­actly the same shade of golden yel­low and reusing the curtains and soft fur­nish­ings, it looks as if it has been this way for decades.”

“My aim was to recre­ate the sit­ting room in our previous house.”

ARTIS­TIC AM­BI­ENCE

A splen­did 19th cen­tury door opens from the draw­ing room into the din­ing hall, framed by two cup­boards full of porce­lain. For this room, Fran­cis John­son de­signed an un­usual “bar­rel” ceil­ing to create an im­pres­sion of height, in­spired by a pair of large mid-18th cen­tury Adam mir­rors that now hang in the room. In fact, beau­ti­ful ceil­ings with dec­o­ra­tive plas­ter­work are a su­perb fea­ture through­out the house.

For ex­am­ple, Fran­cis John­son broke up a long cor­ri­dor, lead­ing to the up­stairs, re­ferred to by the fam­ily as the “mo­tel pas­sage,” with a beau­ti­ful domed ceil­ing and skill­fully in­te­grated arches and pi­lasters. Sim­u­lated pine book­cases, which create an 1840s feel, were painted by one of Carolyn’s team of artists.

More of her artists’ work are on the chairs in the con­ser­va­tory, which over­looks the gar­den and sur­round­ing coun­try­side, and was the only ex­ten­sion the plan­ners al­lowed. “Most con­ser­va­to­ries look like an af­ter­thought,” says Carolyn. “But I was determined not to let that hap­pen here.” So the win­dows blend with the others in the house to give the room a sense of con­ti­nu­ity. “We use the con­ser­va­tory all the year round,” says Carolyn. “For din­ner in the sum­mer, or sim­ply re­lax­ing dur­ing the win­ter.”

UP­CY­CLED BARN

Per­haps one of the most stun­ning rooms in the house was orig­i­nally the two-story barn, which is now a replica of a mag­nif­i­cent early 18th cen­tury hall for for­mal din­ing.

The once tum­ble-down barn and cat­tle sheds have trans­formed into a clas­si­cally el­e­gant coun­try house.

“We had to re­tain the full ceil­ing height, so, rather than adopt­ing a con­ven­tional ap­proach, we de­cided to do some­thing rather grand,” says Carolyn. To em­pha­size the over­all ef­fect, a pair of 18th cen­tury doors— res­cued from a house des­tined for de­mo­li­tion—give the room a sense of im­por­tance, while the mag­nif­i­cent 18th cen­tury mar­ble fire­place and stone floor add bal­ance and pro­por­tion. Busts from the li­brary of the Sh­effields’ previous home look spec­tac­u­lar in their new lo­ca­tion, perched on the ledges of the up­per win­dows in the roundels.

In this room, the furniture makes a bold state­ment. At one end, doors lead­ing into the draw­ing room are flanked by a hand­some com­mode and an early 18th cen­tury Ir­ish table, both set off by a pair of beau­ti­ful 18th cen­tury mir­rors. A ma­hogany din­ing table from the Vic­to­rian pe­riod and a set of mid-18th cen­tury chairs take pride of place, while oil paint­ings and a mag­nif­i­cent ta­pes­try add the fi­nal touches.

COL­OR­FUL COL­LEC­TION

Carolyn’s love of antiques stems from her child­hood. “My mother died when I was very young and I spent most of my youth with my grand­mother, who lived in North Carolina,” she ex­plains. “She was a close friend of the Van­der­bilts and of­ten took me with her to visit them at Bilt­more House, which was filled with exquisitely beau­ti­ful things. It made an ev­er­last­ing im­pres­sion on me.”

Here and through­out the house, the Sh­effields’ own pas­sion for collecting is in ev­i­dence. “Hap­pily, Fran­cis John­son was also fas­ci­nated by paint­ings and ob­jets d’art and, as he of­ten stayed with us, he got to know our col­lec­tion rather well,” Carolyn says.

When it came to the color scheme, Carolyn had very definite ideas. She painted the walls a glo­ri­ous bur­gundy, which high­lighted the de­tail­ing.

Beau­ti­ful ceil­ings with dec­o­ra­tive plas­ter­work are a su­perb fea­ture through­out the house.

COZY KITCHEN

The adjacent part of the for­mer barn is now a kitchen, with ex­posed beams, a run of three floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows over­look­ing the gar­den and a com­fort­able din­ing area at one end. The walls are the color of blue­bells and lined with an as­sort­ment of paint­ings and draw­ings, rang­ing from botan­i­cal prints to por­traits and land­scapes. They also pro­vide a com­ple­men­tary back­ground for the hand­some French painted cup­board and an ar­moire that houses the china. “I wanted a prac­ti­cal yet cozy kitchen filled with coun­try furniture and an arm­chair for Ju­lian, so he can read the news­pa­pers or chat to me while I’m cook­ing,” says Carolyn.

OUT­DOOR LIV­ING

Long be­fore they even tack­led the house, how­ever, Carolyn and Ju­lian planted the gar­den, which is only three years old but al­ready well estab­lished. A cen­tral path­way leads from the court­yard gar­den to a pond at the far end, where a charm­ing 18th cen­tury gazebo, built in me­mory of Ju­lian’s mother, takes pride of place.

To create a gar­den that was not only beau­ti­ful but in har­mony with the land­scape, with the help of de­signer Ian Myl­lis, they re­in­stated the pond and planted trees, fan­ning out to­wards the wooded ar­eas bor­der­ing the prop­erty. The glo­ri­ously per­fumed thyme walk has been in­ter­planted with al­li­ums, tulips and pop­pies, mov­ing to roses and then asters in au­tumn, while con­tain­ers over­flow with petu­nias, tulips and cro­cuses in spring, and the ev­er­green he­lichry­sum.

IN­SPI­RA­TIONAL IN­TE­RI­ORS

A bay win­dow in the master bed­room over­looks the court­yard part of the gar­den. Here again, fab­rics, furniture and paint­ings from Laver­stoke have been reused to great ef­fect. The key for the dec­o­ra­tion in this room is a de­light­ful com­bi­na­tion of pink and yel­low, de­lib­er­ately cho­sen to bal­ance with the col­ors of the gar­den.

In con­trast, the main guest bed­room has a more ro­bust color scheme. Black pa­pier mache pieces are off­set by a splen­did col­lec­tion of 18th cen­tury French prints in black frames, all set against the rasp­berry red of Os­borne & Lit­tle’s Khokanel wall­pa­per.

Mov­ing from a large stately home to a con­sid­er­ably smaller abode is a ma­jor up­heaval, but the Sh­effields have sailed through the or­deal. “Work­ing with Fran­cis was a plea­sure and an ex­pe­ri­ence I would not have missed for the world,” says Carolyn. “Sadly, he died be­fore we moved in and was un­able to see the fruits of his la­bor.”

But the trans­for­ma­tion of these hum­ble farm build­ings into a home of such im­mense style is a last­ing tes­ta­ment to his ex­cep­tional vi­sion and skill.

Above. A cluster of hats has trans­formed into a work of art in the en­try­way. Right. A red AGA stove reigns supreme in the kitchen.

Painted chairs in the kitchen's din­ing area echo the French cup­board. Lovely sketches and wa­ter color paint­ings work to­gether to re­flect the coun­try themes of the room.

The Sh­effields have cre­ated a mag­nif­i­cent replica of an 18th cen­tury hall within the con­fines of the old barn. The space was mag­i­cally trans­formed by a pair of 18th cen­tury en­trances res­cued from a de­mol­ished house, ma­hogany furniture and ob­jets d'art.

Golden yel­low walls and elab­o­rate plas­ter­work evoke a Re­gency style in the draw­ing room. So­fas and chairs cov­ered in warm tones add com­fort. The chandelier is 18th cen­tury.

Left. Yel­lows and pinks lend a pretty coun­try house feel to the main bed­room. Above. Rasp­berry red wall­pa­per in the main guest bed­room is the per­fect can­vas for black and white 19th cen­tury French prints.

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