Playful Touches (Scalloped Stone! Rhubarb Shelves!) Grace Every Room in This English Home
Things start off strong with a sunny yellow entry.
Published Apr 24, 2022 1:15 AM
It was never the plan for Katy Mitchell, the owner of a Victorian townhouse in West Sussex, England, to hire an interior designer once she got the keys last summer. But having moved with her husband, Alex, and their 9-year-old daughter, Chloe, from a 500-year-old cottage and selling most of her antiques in the process to its new owners, she conceded that she needed a little help in filling their space with stylish new furniture. Not to mention, as a busy working mom (she is the managing director of a commercial laundry business), Mitchell admits she just didn’t have the time or imagination to bring their new home to life herself. “Left to our own devices, it would have gone in a really ordinary direction,” she says.
Luckily, the couple’s project manager, Will Vaughan, who was managing the single-story kitchen extension and renovation of the property, is married to Holly Vaughan of Vaughan Design & Development. “In a very cute way, the scope turned from me asking Holly, ‘Can you help me sort out my furniture?’ to her saying, ‘Let me design your house for you!’” says Mitchell, laughing.
Right off the bat, Holly pushed the envelope with her time-poor but open-minded client with blue geometric floor tiles and clashing yellow tongue-and-groove wall paneling in the foyer. “I just can’t help but smile when I see it; it’s so visually striking,” notes Mitchell. They saw the adjacent kitchen-dining room as an opportunity to embrace a more classic feel. “Katy wanted Shaker-style cabinets and I’ve long loved Edward Bulmer’s Azurite Blue,” explains Holly of the bold, spray-painted finish. To add a touch of texture, the designer clad the walls in ribbed tiles and popped out the upper cupboard fronts and replaced them with fluted-glass panels.
Holly reimagined the few pieces of furniture Mitchell and her family had saved from their previous home to chime with the new decor. That included a dated ottoman, once swathed in floral Laura Ashley fabric (now it’s covered in a bouclé-like textured finish by Tibor) and a wingback armchair, which she made over in a graphic Flora Soames fabric. “The print is so busy that at first I wasn’t sure,” says Mitchell. Fortunately, she agreed to it on a whim at the end of a very tiring week. “Now it’s one of my favorite pieces,” she adds. The tranquil library is also her go-to hangout, thanks to the addition of rhubarb-colored shelving: “On the days I work from home, I’m in there and it always feels so fresh.”
One of the challenges Mitchell threw at Holly and Will was her need for built-ins throughout. In the entrance, that took the form of a neat corner bench with lift-up storage to stash shoes and the dog’s leashes. In the main bedroom, Holly embellished the wardrobes with diamond-shaped cane inserts and brass bow-shaped hardware by Beata Heuman. “I use them every day, and simple touches like those handles make such a difference,” says Mitchell of the elevated detail.
To keep costs down, Holly and Will relied on their in-house carpenters for these bespoke projects as often as possible. The designer also embraced affordable work-arounds, such as sourcing fabric for blinds from Haines Collection, which sells end-of-roll and defective prints from big-name brands, and having a stonemason create a charming scallop detail out of marble offcuts for the utility room’s countertop and backsplash. The dining chairs look luxe, but are actually from Zara Home, while the custom-made headboards are positioned on top of budget-friendly divan bases (you just can’t tell because they are hidden behind coordinating valances).
Although the project was completed more than six months ago, there are still plenty of finishing touches to be added, a task that Mitchell is relishing, now that all the major work is done. “When I’ve got 10 minutes to spare, I’ll look online for a beautiful cushion or a new lampshade,” she says. And when she’s totally stumped, Mitchell knows it’s always okay to ask for help.