Visit a country house with period features and jewel tones
“It was a sad, crumbling building and we brought it back to life,” says Stephanie Dunning of the historic New Forest home that she and her team at interior design studio Dunning & Everard , alongside the recently renovated Sheerin Bettle Architecture, which has now been transformed into one of the best homes in the world.
The Grade II listed house was built in the 1770s. Later additions were made and it became the local magistrate’s house, with cells (which still exist) in the cellar. Rare and beautiful papier-mâché ceilings dating from the 18th century adorn the hallway and the study, but these, like other elements of the house, were in a sorry state.
The owners, two successful London lawyers with three boys in their teens and early twenties, had bought the house as a holiday home seven years ago with the aim of it becoming their full-time residence. “It had to be a good family home where they could work and play,” says Stephanie. Extensive renovations were required, as well as improving the harmony of parts from different eras. “It was about bringing the building back to the 21st century because it hadn’t been touched for nearly 70 years.”
The work took 18 months, hampered by Covid lockdowns. “It was difficult because there could only be one person in each room at certain times,” observes Stephanie. “Every part of the building has been restored. We have consulted with the Curatorial Office of any changes. Expert restorer Peter Martindale was hired to restore the papier-mâché ceilings. “As much as possible has been repurposed and restored to the house to keep it running for another 100 years,” says Stephanie. Little by little, the house was reorganized for family life.
The rare and beautiful papier-mâché ceiling is the focal point of the space. Hallway ideas therefore included painting the ceiling with a historical paint and choosing a scheme appropriate to the era. The antique furniture brings warmth and character. A flat weave wool stair runner was chosen for its subtlety and to allow the antique rugs and artwork to shine.
The living room
Decorative pieces ring with the lavish original features and silk wallpaper extends the luxurious aesthetic and injects texture. The living room ideas included adding an elegant fireplace which was in keeping with the period ambiance as the original one had not survived.
At the heart of the house is the friendly, open kitchen. The existing veranda has been replaced with a new one and houses the dining room. The room also has an informal sitting area with a modular sofa. Kitchen ideas included choosing a strong green hue for the kitchen cabinets and island as a nod to the rural surroundings, as well as to provide depth. Brass accents in the lighting, handles and shade fabric add a touch of glamour.
The key to the aesthetics of interiors are bright colors. “The house was originally a panoply of beige,” says the owner. While pale hues were used in the lighter Regency part of the house, Stephanie went to town with color in the older Georgian bedrooms due to their lower ceilings. The downstairs cloakroom is a luxurious space with dark brown lacquered walls, while a gorgeous sap green has been used in the back hallway. “We wanted to think outside the box,” explains Stéphanie. Art is particularly important to the couple, which is why the colors were carefully considered and formed a backdrop for their rooms. “We painted the architraves and doors in the back hall the same color as the walls and the artwork stood out,” observes Stephanie.
Home office ideas include specially designed bespoke cabinetry with shelves and drawers large enough to store work equipment. The lines of the contemporary carpentry harmonize perfectly with the original papier-mâché decorative ceiling.
Bedroom ideas included using patterned wallpaper for drama and warmth. The paper and the four posters seemed like suitable partners for the fairy tale window.
The son’s room
Strong blues and bold artwork in the son’s bedroom create impact and are timeless.
The waterscape can be enjoyed while soaking in the bath. Bathroom ideas include bespoke doors with a smoked mirror finish, which are glamorous and increase the feeling of spaciousness.
His and hers sink is matched with two towel rails.
“In each project, we took the opportunity to mix antiques and more modern furniture to reflect the different elements of the house, and it flows beautifully,” says the owner. “Stephanie has woven a mix of old and new really well – it doesn’t feel organised, it feels lived in.”
Stephanie has taken care to use sustainable fabrics made from traditional fibers, using local suppliers whenever possible. “We chose robust and comfortable fabrics such as wool, horsehair, velvet and linen. Textured wallpapers provide an additional tactile element. The end result is exactly what the owners envisioned. “It is a comfortable, welcoming and inhabited house. We are absolutely thrilled.
Interior design / Dunning & Everard
Photography/ Brent Darby