Written by Jo Leevers / Narratives

Travel inspired Victorian cottage: ‘Our home has a global feel’

Roxi Zeeman introduced artisan homewares, travel mementoes and sun-drenched colours to her family’s Victorian cottage

Image: Brent Darby / Narratives

Meet the owners

Roxi Zeeman, an interior and product designer who runs Souq Design Studio, lives here with her husband David Zeeman

Image: Brent Darby / Narratives

Roxi Zeeman, an interior and product designer who runs Souq Design Studio, lives in this four-bedroom Victoria cottage in Tunbridge Wells, Kent with her husband David Zeeman, CEO for a fashion retail store, and their children Scarlett, 11, Noah, seven, and Coco, 18 months. The cottage was bought for £550,000 in 2006.  However, a similar property now would cost around £950,000. Take a tour of their cosy cottage, inspired by far-flung lands…

International inspiration

Carved animal heads above double bed with brass lamp in Tunbridge Wells home, Kent, UK. Image:

 Image: Brent Darby / Narratives

Roxi Zeeman and her family live in a Kentish cottage that lies at the end of an unmarked, bumpy lane, surrounded by woodland. Deer regularly take a shortcut through their front garden and cows graze in the field behind. The setting couldn’t be more quintessentially English. But inside, Roxi has created a fresh version of rustic style that also draws on her South African roots and her love of hand-crafted objects from around the world.

Storage solutions

 Image: Brent Darby / Narratives

The cottage is double fronted, with a family room to the left and reception room to the right, which leads into the living room with dining area. The kitchen is at the back of the house, off the living room. It is small, but, says Roxi, ‘We had to get creative with storage solutions, which was no bad thing.’

Living room

Image: Brent Darby / Narratives

For the living spaces, she and David chose furniture that is crafted rather than traditional, made from sun-bleached mango wood and upholstered in raw linen or soft velvet. There are pendant lights threaded with rows of tiny clay beads or made in metal that has been welded by hand and then buffed to a dull sheen. Even the baskets that store all the stuff of family life have been woven by hand, while cushions have been woven, stitched and appliqued to age-old patterns. ‘We love the traditional feel of this cottage, but we wanted to add a style that feels a little bit more exotic,’ says Roxi. ‘We’ve both travelled a lot around Africa and Asia, so it’s lovely to bring some of that aesthetic into our home.’

When Roxi and Dave relocated to the UK eight years ago from South Africa they arrived without any furniture – just suitcases full of summery clothes that were fine in Cape Town but less suited to the British weather. ‘On our second day in the UK, we had to do a mammoth trolley dash around Ikea to buy everything we needed for our unfurnished rental home,’ remembers Roxi. ‘We started from scratch, with a shopping list that ranged from beds right down to cutlery,’ she recalls.

Initially, the family lived in London, then decided to move out to Tunbridge Wells in Kent, which still has easy access to the capital but is closer to the countryside and the coast. ‘We love it here – we’ve definitely put down roots in this town,’ she says.

Roxi worked as an interior designer in South Africa, so it wasn’t long before her design skills came to the fore when they moved into their cottage four years ago.

Tactile textures

‘We bought this rug and realised the weaving is like a work of art, so we decided to frame it,’ says Roxi.

 Image: Brent Darby / Narratives

‘I have always loved the crafted look,’ she says. ‘I prefer objects with texture and character, rather than pieces that are production-line perfect.’ Of all her finds, she particularly loves the cushions in their living room, that are embellished with traditional stitching and embroidery. ‘I think they are a really important part of the making process because they represent an age-old tradition.’

But before they could begin to think about these kinds of details, the couple’s first job was to paint all the walls of this house. Every room was in standard magnolia, which Roxi says actually made the rooms feel a lot darker than they are. They decided to paint everywhere in a crisp, clean white to give themselves a fresh backdrop for their furniture and collections, except for one wall in the living room, which is a warm pink. ‘I became slightly obsessed with finding the perfect shade of faded mulberry,’ says Roxi. ‘After several tester pots, we settled on this one. I love how it works with our fabrics and the dulled metal of the pendant shade.’

Vintage revival
Rustic, reclaimed doors bought in India frame the entrance to the cottage’s kitchen

Image: Brent Darby / Narratives

Roxi has added some vintage finds into the mix, including the pair of beautifully battered doors that are set either side of the entrance to the kitchen. Roxi spotted them in a reclamation yard in India, where she also bought a brilliant blue cabinet that stores her kids’ craft materials and pens. ‘Did I haggle for them? Of course!’ she laughs. ‘It’s expected and I think I struck a deal that worked for both sides.’

Cottage comforts

 Image: Brent Darby / Narratives

Nowadays, the interiors of the cottage now feel refreshed and reflect Roxi’s love of travel and handicrafts, as well as its quintessentially English setting. A gallery wall of blown-up iPhone images that hangs behind a luxe velvet sofa in the family room is a reminder of special family trips to Thailand, Paris and India.  ‘We love living here,’ she adds. ‘The house is in a beautifully secluded spot and our walk to school takes us over the common, which is lovely in the summer. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, but it’s also really nice to be surrounded by furniture and pictures that remind us of South Africa and other exciting places we have visited together.’

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