Making the right design decisions can be tricky for any home, but particularly one that is listed. Fine & Country Interior Design’s Rebecca Hughes Interiors explains how they approached this unique and challenging design project.
It is every interior designer’s dream to work with a Grade II Listed Georgian stately home. However, it takes lots of experience and knowledge of listed building requirements to do justice to such an incredible property. When Rebecca, owner of Rebecca Hughes Interiors, first visited the stately home, set in in the surroundings of a stunning country estate, she knew it would be a labour of love.
“We knew from day one that this project would require a great deal of our resources and thinking outside the box” says Rebecca Hughes. “For me, a successful renovation of a historic building always looks to the past whilst moving forward, and although a little restrictive, the listed status did not mean that we were paralysed in our design suggestions. It is a myth that it is impossible to make changes to a home with a strict listing status on it, but we certainly did need to make compromises on some of our design choices.”
Their first area to tackle was the hallway and staircase which, despite their grandiose proportions, were poorly lit and felt dark and unwelcoming to those coming through the main entrance. The staircase itself was particularly impressive with a spectacular ceiling height reaching up to the roof of the building. Designing a lighting scheme with proportions of this size required additional assistance from a specialist.
“The listed building status stipulated that we could not touch or disrupt the original fabric of the walls,” explains Rebecca. “Therefore, with the help of John Cullen, a company specializing in lighting design, we sat down and mapped out which areas we should highlight and the best method, whilst staying within the restrictions”.
The hallway is completely unique, with a high-vaulted ceiling lined each side with superb bronze statues raised at first-floor level, so it took some careful planning.
“We decided that the best way forward was to create boxing for the light fittings to sit on along the walls, designed to mimic the original architectural elements. For example, we extended the bases of the columns and painted them in such a way that they appeared as though they had always been there. This boxing didn’t touch the original fabric of the building but rather sat alongside it, meaning that no damage or alterations were impacting the original walls,” says Rebecca.
The project was a constant voyage of discovery for Rebecca Hughes Interiors. When designing the bathrooms, they discovered layers of old wallpaper rich in history that revealed previous fashions through the ages. They also spent time researching the drawing room design and used historic paintings of the original room as a reference for their new scheme.
“When decorating the main rooms, such as the drawing room, we also had to think creatively about how to work around the listed status. Rather than stripping the walls back and repainting them, we built walls in front of the original structure instead. This meant that the dado, picture rails and the original wallpaper were not touched in the process, so the room could easily revert back to exactly how it was originally intended to be. It also ensures that the original plan, form or appearance of the building isn’t lost forever. The need for a fresh and more up-to-date look and feel in these rooms was imperative for our client who wanted to bring the property sympathetically into the modern day,” explains Rebecca.
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