Embrace your House’s Past with its Interior Future

Having interiors authentic to property is something that Francesca, Fiona and Amy all use as a basis for starting a house’s design story.

‘Source authentic pieces that reflect the origins of the house.'

For Francesca, lead interior designer of Mulberry’s Battel Hall a 14th Century manor and Goodnestone Park a stately home frequented by Jane Austen, there was no question when deciding whether the past should inspire their interior futures. With an abundance of period features already embedded within the properties, including a medieval lavar and a replica ‘retable’ table, Francesca was keen to restore and emphasize these elements and entwine the rest of its unique history within other rooms and features. ‘I always do thorough research into the property and its past inhabitants. There are often so many eras, people and stories to discover, and their influences can provide inspiration and ensure that the interiors are authentic to the property.

Peony Bedroom at Battel Hall

Francesca states that it is the history of a property that can give the interiors soul and that thorough research is essential in achieving this. If you have a period property, sourcing what would have been original or replica features and reinstalling them is ‘like putting a puzzle together’. Francesca claims that she likes to ‘source authentic pieces that reflect the origins of the house’ and ‘combine items from the many eras of the property so that it doesn’t feel too much like a homage or museum.’- an important note how to avoid going overboard on history. This should be done subtly, in the way that previous inhabitants affect Francesca’s designs. Most notably Lady Bailie, at Battel Hall, who herself undertook the massive renovation of the castle in the 1930’s, ‘The marble bathrooms and fittings at Battel Hall are a nod to the Art Deco ones she installed at the castle.’ This also goes for the bedrooms of Battel Hall which needed to achieve a romantic ambience so thus Lady Bailie’s love of chinoiserie was paid tribute to.

The Wisteria Bedroom at Battel Hall

Amy Gardner also pays close attention to the historical elements of her properties, and sometimes that includes rescuing them from latter refurbishments. She removed ‘mock beams’ on a wall in Bells Cottage’ sitting room and replaced them with neat panels to seal the electrics discreetly behind and then painted it a clean white to give a spacious illusion. A decision that is far more in keeping with the room’s original state and also works well for modern life. Amy also wanted to reflect the cottage’s quiet and idyllic rural history “It’s in such a beautiful little road, it doesn’t get spoilt because there’s no access through and it’s so central – and so friendly. It feels so rural and so close to the true Weald of Kent,’ So she reflected this historical location in the natural colour palette she used throughout the house, which gives an overall calming and peaceful effect. Rays of colour are picked out by rural life paintings dotted around the cottage- gentle reminders that it’s past has not been forgotten.

‘Mixing pieces always gives an eclectic warmth. A property needs to feel like a home.'

Like Amy and Francesca, Fiona Naylor’s properties also have a rich historical background and her designs respect their histories. The Pump Station was built to inconspicuously pump oil under the sea in World War II and works as a perfect representation of Fiona’s respect for history, ‘We don’t use a massive amount of materials, only about four or five in the whole scheme, which makes the spaces more like canvases to place furniture and objects’ . This reveals how Fiona doesn’t let her interiors dominate her buildings, and instead allows original shape and style to merely be enhanced and made more comfortable through simple furnishings.

The Pump Station at Dungeness

Thus involving historical elements doesn’t mean that modern luxuries must be surrendered. ‘Mixing pieces always gives an eclectic warmth. A property needs to feel like a home.’ Francesca’s advice for adding modern essentials is that they must be, ‘done subtly by making choices and finding fittings and furniture that are sympathetic to its history. The most effective way to achieve this balance is by focussing particularly on fixtures and fittings for kitchens and bathrooms, as well as radiators and light fittings throughout.’ Francesa encourages people with period properties to scour antique fairs for great bargains. If you don’t have a period property but are keen to use Francesca’s designs as inspiration, this doesn’t exclude you from having timeless, classic elements in your home. This can be achieved with prints, furnishings and features- as long as they reflect you the designer.

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Meet the designers here: Fiona NaylorFrancesca Rowan-Plowden, and Amy Gardner.