A beautifully remodelled period property in Kent
After expanding their property search from East Sussex to Kent, Carrie and Ed Steer found the ideal Victorian villa. Already extended, it just needed reconfiguring upstairs and an injection of bold colour downstairs.
When Carrie and Ed Steer finally spotted a house they felt could be ‘the one’, the timing could not have been more inconvenient.
‘We were literally on the way to the airport to go on holiday, when Ed, a recruitment company CEO, saw this property in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, online. When he showed me, I just thought, “Wow, I want to live there!” says Carrie, a director of a family-owned business.
‘We called my parents who stepped in and went to view it for us. They guessed we’d fall in love with it, so on the strength of photos and floorplans, we made an offer.’
The couple had been house-hunting for some time. They were expecting their first child and were on the lookout for a comfortable family home with an open-plan layout and roomy garden.
‘We hadn’t found the right place in Brighton, where we were living at the time, so decided to expanded our search and that’s when Ed spotted the house,’ says Carrie, who grew up in that area of Kent, so knew the location. ‘I love Victorian properties for their high ceilings and period features, so even without seeing it, my gut instinct told me this house was just what we wanted.’
The couple’s intuition was spot on and the house, which they bought in 2016, proved to be ideal in more ways than one. The previous owner had already remodelled and extended to make a large, open-plan kitchen, dining and living area with glass doors opening onto a secluded garden. There was a separate living room for more formal occasions, as well as a generous reception hall and five bedrooms.
Refresh and revamp
Not only did the house have the sociable, family-friendly layout they wanted, but much of the interior décor, such as the classic bathroom scheme and stylish window shutters, was what Carrie and Ed would have chosen themselves. The kitchen cabinets, painted in Farrow and Ball’s Down Pipe, and white marble work tops, for example, were similar to what the couple had in their previous home.
‘There was a palette of cool, pale greys and neutrals all through the house, and beautiful lighting, which I was very happy with,’ Carrie says, ‘It was a great mix of old and new, which is definitely my taste, so most of our existing furniture fitted in well, too. Rather than make big changes, I just needed to refresh what was here.’
Once their first daughter had arrived – the couple now have two girls, Clementine, 5 and Fleur, 2 – and the family were settled into the new surroundings, Carrie began to think in more detail more about how they would use the house day-to-day.
Dark and dramatic
She decided to revamp the pale-grey living room, and called on the expertise of interior designer Katie Knight, of Katie Elizabeth Design, who had helped to style her previous home. ‘I knew this would be the room for celebrations, evening entertaining, and special occasions like Christmas Day so I wanted it to feel glamorous, grown-up and a little different from the rest of the house,’ Carrie explains.
Katie suggested a dark, dramatic look with deep aubergine walls and a striking monochrome patterned ceiling – the perfect setting for hosting festive celebrations in a Victorian villa. ‘There’s always a wonderful sense of occasion in this room,’ says Carrie.
‘On Christmas Day, we’ll sit in here to open stockings and presents, next to my fabulous Christmas tree. I spend some time dressing it, but there’s no colour or style theme. We’ve got all sorts of hanging things from traditional baubles to toys and trinkets, and it’s just about having fun.’
The transformation of this room, however, made Carrie think about the upstairs spaces, that she felt lacked the wow factor of the ground-floor rooms. ‘The first floor was missing any impact in comparison,’ she explains. ‘Plus our bedroom was short on wardrobe space, and it overlooked the road rather than the gorgeous garden, which seemed such a shame.’
To address the issues, Carrie and Ed embarked on a major building project, reconfiguring and enlarging the upper floor to include an extra bedroom and luxurious master suite with a dressing area and en suite bathroom at the back of the house. At ground level there would be a new utility room, too. Style-wise, Carrie let the existing house inspire the feel of the extension, incorporating Victorian proportions, decorative cornicing, soft colours and elegant lighting.
‘I can be a bit of a design magpie, and I like lots of different, interesting looks, so I had to home in on what would work best in this setting, she says. ‘I felt it was also important that the extension felt like part of the original house, rather than an add-on.’
The Victorian villa extension took around a year to plan and another year to complete, but overall, the project ran smoothly, with the only issue being the choice of windows. ‘The architect had picked a modern style that just wasn’t in keeping with the house, but I only noticed at the last minute,’ Carrie recalls. ‘We had to make a quick change, and amend the planning permission, which was a hassle, but worth it for a better outcome.’
The light-filled main bedroom suite has become one of Carrie’s favourite spots in the house. Its easy-on-the-eye palette of soft greens, pinks and neutrals creates a restful atmosphere and reflects the garden view, while the scale and feel of the room help it to blend seamlessly with the existing period structure.
‘It was a challenge to move into a house that was already looking pretty good, as I didn’t want to spoil anything, but I still wanted us to make our own mark here,’ she explains. ‘There are things I love in every part of this house; I’m thrilled with our new bedroom, and I love the bright, open-plan kitchen and garden in the summer. In winter, though, our warm and cosy living room is just perfect and the ideal place for all the holiday celebrations.’
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