This grand Georgian house in Kent rewrites history with its contemporary transformation
Sometimes history just needs a little nudge. Modern designs bring this Georgian house in Kent bang up to date, ensuring it celebrates its heritage without being weighed down by the past. The result is a style that blows the dust off the house’s handsome features, while adding the odd surprise...
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A Georgian house in Kent, with Victorian and Edwardian additions. The ground floor of this modern home (opens in new tab) has a kitchen-diner, dining room (opens in new tab) with an adjoining family room, living room (opens in new tab), utility room (opens in new tab) and WC. Upstairs on the first floor, there are five bedrooms (one en suite), an office and two bathrooms. There are three more bedrooms on the top floor and a media room and gym on the lower ground floor.
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A soft grey paint shade tones down the decorative panelling on the walls and ceiling in the dining room (opens in new tab) (pictured above), linking with gunmetal-effect velvet curtains. Mid-century furniture and mesmeric lighting provide modern focal points.
The grey softens the period decoration that gambols across the walls and ceiling, leaving just some key areas – the fireplace and a set of sliding doors – in the original dark oak, while the gentle curves of furniture by mid-century masters Arne Jacobsen and Yngve Ekström sit comfortably in the setting.
Architecturally, this house is a masterpiece of balance and measure, designed by leading 19th-century architect Decimus Burton, with Regency Revival pillars, a portico and elegantly high windows to prove it. But, as the home demonstrates, sometimes it’s good to give history a bit of a nudge.
This is a style that blows the dust off the house’s handsome features, while adding the odd surprise. It’s a home where you can admire delicate cornicing and carved oak banisters, but then spot a Banksy or an audaciously glam Eighties coffee table – and where Persian rugs come in acidic green and pink rather than traditional shades. Think less English Heritage, more English eccentric.
While the house’s core dates from Burton’s heyday (the mid 1800s), later additions have brought Victorian panelling and some Arts and Crafts features into the architectural mix. Final flourishes include pulp fiction art and a sprinkling of offbeat but glam finds.
The house came with an ornate wallpaper (opens in new tab) that was too beautiful to lose, even though it errs towards a more traditional mood. The solution was to paint the other walls and ceiling in a pale green shade and add mid-century furniture for contrast.
The dark panelling and carvings are beautiful, but had started to feel rather overwhelming, so influences were brought in from other eras – ranging from the Sixties icons right up to pieces by contemporary makers – to create spaces that are coherent yet varied. The reworked rooms now have an elegance that suits the historic setting, but created with designs that hail from a wider, more interesting spectrum.
In the family room, the centrepiece is a split-level brass coffee table that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Stringfellows nightclub, circa 1983. It might not please an architectural purist, but sometimes adding a “little bit of wrong” can be very right.
A dark, shimmering chandelier echoes the shapes of the architecture in the family room (pictured below), while striking a more contemporary note.
In the kitchen-diner, the room’s original dark oak woodwork were kept, but with gleaming pieces and sculptural shapes add to the mix to give the frame a lighter feel. A cluster of oversized vintage Holophane lights from Paris, bespoke brass shelving and iridescent glazed Moroccan tiles combine to give the darker features a style lift.
Tiling is taken up to the picture rail to accentuate the heightof the room, while vintage lighting, fluted glass-fronted cabinets and shelves that replicate luggage racks add extra gleam.
An old kitchen tablewas stripped of its previous glossiness for a softer finish and partnered with mid-century chairs. A pinky paint shade gives the oak panelling a fresh feel.
See Also: The 15 best modern kitchen ideas (opens in new tab) - stylish, smart and chic
FIRST FLOOR LANDING
The renovation project was inspired by hotels and restaurant design.Hotels are also great at showing how modern design and art can work inside a historic setting. One trick that was borrowed from hoteliers was to create small break-out seating areas in the hallway and landing, turning unused corners into relaxing spaces.
The thick, vibrant rugs in The Greenwich Hotel in New York were the inspiration for this space – with an added dashof British artistic licence.
There’s a hint of locker-room luxe in here, with a hefty headboard made from an old leather gym mat and metal lockers as bedside tables.
Pops of colour and hyper-real photographic art liven up the downstairs cloakroom.
A stair runner dyed in rainbow shades gives the house’s dark wood detailing a new vibrance.
Interior design by Justine Hodgson-Barker at barker-design.com (opens in new tab)
Photography ⁄ James Merrell
See Also: Cloakroom and powder room ideas: small spaces, big patterns
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Shining a spotlight on the now and the next in home design and decor, Livingetc is the UK's best selling high end and contemporary home design magazine. As a brand, Livingetc showcases the world's very best homes, breaks and makes the trends, and has access to leading international designers for insight and ideas. It was first published in 1998, and is currently edited by Pip Rich.
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