Through the Keyhole with Emma and her beautiful Warwickshire restoration project
Susie Watson Designs Homes:
Emma’s Warwickshire restoration project
On a beautifully sunny day in early September, our design team took a chance to catch up with one of our clients in the northern Cotswolds. Emma and her family have been busy restoring a beautiful period home. Here she is speaking to us about the highs and lows of taking on a “project…”
What made you fall in love with the Old Rectory?
We stumbled on it just over two years ago. When we first went to see it, we drove into the village and it was just so pretty: a quintessentially quiet English village with thatched houses and a small church. That was definitely a tick in the box! The location was good too situated just north of the Cotswolds, where Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire intersect.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t love the house when I first saw it. It’s a mish-mash of styles from different periods: the oldest part is late 1600s, then there’s a Georgian façade and two Victorian extensions but we wanted a project that would keep us interested for years to come – and well, we’ve definitely ticked that box as well!
Where did you begin?
The first changes we made were necessary but invisible: we replaced the wiring and all the pipework, put in a new boiler and replaced all the radiators! After that, we had to prioritise – we did the master and the boys’ bedrooms first, followed by the drawing room, dining room and main hallway. The rest is to follow, with three more bedrooms to do, plus the snug and back hall and staircase. And of course, the biggest job of all, the kitchen.
Was there any interesting history that influenced your interior design choices?
The house is listed, so we can’t make too many structural changes. On the landing above the main stairs is a screen which was rescued from the village church when it burnt down in the 1820s. (The village now has a very ordinary Victorian church that was built to replace it.) The shape in the screen is repeated in the house, in the shape of the wardrobe doors in the master bedroom and in an outhouse. It looks quite Eastern, or African, and so we love Moroccan rugs and kilim cushions!
Tell us a bit about the choices you made...
I am always drawn to bold, vibrant colours in interiors magazines and so wanted to do something like that here. We actually invited a colour consultant from Farrow & Ball to help with colour choices, although we mostly went with the ones I had provisionally picked out. We love entertaining at home and wanted the house to be homely and relaxed, although the drawing room and dining room are a bit more grown up. My husband works in film and collects old movie posters, which we have up around the house. We also both love antiques. For me, my great passion is fabrics!
I hadn’t realised Susie Watson did fabrics by the metre, so when my friend who makes my curtains recommended looking at Susie Watson for some trims and I discovered the range, I was completely delighted. There is such a great range – enough variety, but not too much to be overwhelming.
There are so many fabrics out there, it can be difficult to know where to start, so I love the fact that I have found a range of fabrics I absolutely adore and can do all the curtains in the house with them. The fabrics go really well with any décor – we have some rooms which are bold, but I will definitely go prettier in some of the bedrooms. And the trims are just gorgeous and add the perfect finishing touch.
Which is your favourite room and why?
I love the drawing room, it feels very grown up. I love the colours, with the blue walls and the pops of pink. We already had the sofa and the chairs and had chosen the blue paint, but it was very blue and serious. My friend/curtain lady had suggested pink to lift it, which works really well. We have curtains in the pink rose linen; I ordered cushions in blue velvet plus the burgundy and old rose silk and had them finished with a piped edge. I just love the colours!
I also absolutely love Ollie’s room, up in the attic. Both boys want the room as you go up through a tunnel and it has a real den feel to it. I’ll be honest and admit that I didn’t give him much choice over much! He has Roman blinds and an ottoman in blue Salcombe plus a headboard in blue Mika. I fell in love with the Salcombe fabric – and I think Oli loves it too!
Are you glad you took on a “project?”
Well, there is still a long way to go, which is probably my biggest frustration. I’m so impatient and want it all done at once. That said, I do enjoy panning and pulling it together and there is a real benefit to living in a house and doing it up as you go, because you can really work out what you need. I have found the Susie Watson mood-board tool really helpful for pulling together ideas.
I absolutely love the brand on Instagram – Instagram is a new discovery for me during lockdown and is a hobby I’m really loving. I used to tease the boys and think it was crazy how much time they could “waste” on it – I probably spend more time than both of them on there now!