So where did it all begin, my love of things that make houses homes? That’ll be my childhood. We had a furniture shop well my Grandfather and Father did, Lindsey Price of Hereford. ‘The Shop’ as it was referred to was a traditional independent store of four floors, an arcade of display windows and workshops. It sold furniture, of course, carpets, soft furnishing fabrics and accessories. There were definitely similarities with Grace Brothers department store featured in the BBC sitcom ‘Are you being served?’ From the time he went into the business Dad was on a path to develop The Shop for the 20th Century. The workshops of cabinet maker and French polisher became redundant as the bespoke furniture gave way to more mass production, although the curtain makers and upholsterer remained for some time.
He was ahead of the curve importing furniture from Scandinavian in the late 60’s when IKEA was a twinkle in its founder’s eye. There followed modular Dutch furniture in the early 70’s, sharp clean lines and pop art colours. At home we refurnished rather more often than your regular household although there were also times that a chair would disappear back to the shop for a customer. I was thrilled with the latest shag pile carpet in my bedroom complete with rake for use after vacuuming to make the pile stand up.
My Saturday job at 14 was in the fabric department of The Shop. I remember Sanderson union linen William Morris design ‘Golden Lily’ as a top seller however, I had no idea then about the Art and Crafts movement or the significance of the lily design. One of my favourite tasks was to help with the window displays. The opportunity to choose and arrange furniture, accessorise and drape bolts of fabric to best demonstrate how to put a room together, I was in seventh heaven.
During my gap year I spent time in North Carolina, the hub of the furniture world in America, working with one of Dad’s business partners who manufactured occasional tables. The twice yearly furniture markets were key selling opportunities and an experience I remember well.
Then there was the Green Group, a buying association for independent retailers. Mum ran this from the spare bedroom expanding eventually into offices in Hereford. Finding enough members with orders for chairs and other occasional furniture sourced in the Far East she filled 40ft containers for shipping the aim to get the best price so the independents could compete in the changing retail landscape.
Over the next 15 years Mum and Dad started importing under their own company selling to the likes of Harrods and John Lewis as well as the network of independent retailers. We imported quilted upholstery from America and Dad designed occasional tables which he had made in Taiwan.
Spreading my wings
I didn’t follow Dad into the family business. My business studies diploma introduced me to the world of Marketing and I spent 8 years working in the cosmetic industry. Most of my time focused on brand and product development for the likes of Marks and Spencers, Avon and Yardley. If you ever bought a tin of eyeshadows, lipsticks or nail varnish in your local Marks and Spencers these were my products. I worked with colour, be it products, packaging or marketing displays, on a daily basis which was a joy.
It was my homes that allowed me to play with design of space. This was often governed by tight budgets and existing furniture. My husband has always been my most challenging client although fortunately he shares my love of colour. We started with his bachelor pad, a spacious 60’s flat with a blue bathroom suite, a hotchpotch of post war utility furniture and a three piece suite that I wouldn’t have chosen but with which we were to spend many years. Here we had our initial foray into wall papering, Sanderson pink ribbed paper donated by Dad. We put it up and went to bed despondent; it look dreadful, huge bubbles and damp patches, we were sure it would all have to come off but by the following morning it had settled and looked really rather good.
We bought our first house, a Victorian terrace in West London from an architect and his wife. They had completely renovated and there was a wonderful decked area at the back with vines growing over a pergola, this before the big trend for decking. I managed to find a colour scheme that elevated our peach beige coloured sofa and chairs. We painted the walls apricot and the cornice a deep salmon pink. The abstract curtain fabric was a vivid green with electric blue, yellow, red and white. I had my first experience of kitchen design; we replaced the budget units with quality mid-range cabinets and appliances. On reflection the red and white spotted tiles were probably overkill, hard on the eyes but you need to make mistakes in order to learn.
Next we moved to a red brick Edwardian semi in Reigate. With tall ceilings and large sash windows it was a wonderfully light house with a panelled dining room and plenty of scope to flex my design muscles. We replaced the mundane louver wardrobe doors with sleek ash panels made by my brother-in-law who was training with renowned furniture designer John Makepeace. Those ash doors were to come with us for use in future houses and now adorn our dressing room.
Our move to Hampshire in the mid-90’s brought its challenges not least of which was the cost of property, an eye watering 20% uplift on those in Surrey. Added to which we found the classic thatched cottages dark and claustrophobic after our light, airy Edwardian and Victorian properties. Eventually, we found a building plot with outline planning permission.
The next nine months were the steepest learning curve as I focused entirely on the build. We quickly dismissed the builder’s plans for a myriad of small reception rooms in favour of a large kitchen, dining, and living area, a Drawing Room of equal proportions, spacious hall and compact dining room. I leant about space planning and visualising. When I first stood on the foundations of the kitchen it seemed far too small, I quickly learnt that the feel of a space changes the minute the walls are in place and I heaved a sigh of relief. There was not one detail that we didn’t address; more kitchen planning, bathrooms with good size basins and interesting taps, statement staircase, hard flooring, lighting, fireplace and details such as dado rails. We were determined not to end up with a ‘modern box’, to stamp some design detail and interest on the house. It was to be our home for the next 14 years.
The Game Changer
I happened to look in the local estate agents window one day in 2007 when a house for sale in the village caught my eye. Now we were not looking to move but there was something about this house that drew me in. It certainly wasn’t the colour, the render was pink and the interior was desperately in need of an overhaul - that is an understatement if ever there was one. But the proportions of the building exterior elevations were balanced; the lines were clean and symmetrical rather like a young child’s drawing of a house. This was a great example of a rural 17th century Cob house. Buildings made of Cob walls are found in the South West of the UK; in Hampshire the Cob is usually a mix of chalk, sand, grit and animal hair bound with water. When I first saw this house I knew none of this. I have learnt so much over the year of living here about historical construction methods, I could go on but the crux of the matter is that by 2008 the house was ours.
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