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Journey Home: Charlie’s Victorian Haven

Journey Home: Charlie’s Victorian Haven

What I am starting to realise about myself that I am becoming a pure and unadulterated colour lover. And this isn’t just in interiors but in life as well whether clothes, fabric or just noticing complimentary shades in nature. It just makes my heart sing. I also love exploring and understanding why we all have such different preferences for shades and patterns (no two homes are ever the same are they?) and why colours are so meaningful on an individual level. You may remember my blog post (and maybe a little bit of a rant!) about white and why I’ll never be painting it on my walls BUT as someone who helps others in their homes and wants to provide a blog with a balanced view, I decided to go explore the abode of a dear friend who adores white and uses it brilliantly in her home.

 Personally, I don’t think gallery walls are on their way out…

Personally, I don’t think gallery walls are on their way out…

Who would live in a house like this?

Charlie is a book designer for a prominent publishing house for children’s books in London and lives with her husband who is a sound engineer and her gorgeous pug Peanut. They also rent out their spare room. I remember about a year ago she explained that being surrounded by a myriad of hues all day long in her book design work, she craved the pared back neutrality of white in her walls at home to help her relax and restore her mind after a busy day. She also feels strongly that white works as a perfect backdrop for pops of other colours and textures and also helps to make skirting boards a real feature (music to my ears)!

Charlie loves her Victorian converted flat with it’s big windows filling the rooms with a light and airy atmosphere (something she has accentuated in her decorating choices) as well as the long hallway space that all the rooms come off. It’s quirky layout gives it a sense of fun and really feels like a house rather than a converted flat to be honest. The master bedroom loft conversion (more on that later) which you access through open stairs in the living room is another great feature and provides a lovely space to escape and rest.

Let’s begin with the most important room...

Instantly, I’m hit with it in a gentle way. A calm and peaceful air as I traverse across the long hall into a homely white room where the softness and relaxed atmosphere is punctuated by bright sunlight (whatever time of the year it is). There is a curated feel but not so over the top that it stops you relaxing and the tones and textures dotted around soften the space. Darker lines of skirting and architrave define the dimensions and there is an antique feel and yet a modernity but this juxtaposition doesn’t jar. This is how I always feel walking into Charlie’s Living Room...

I’ve always found sitting in Charlie’s living room (I love that phrase as I really believe that rooms come alive with a people’s presence and aesthetic) a very relaxing and inviting experience as I described above but we’ve never talked about how considered it all is and how Charlie intentionally planned it to be this way. This is where we started our conversation and I’d like to invite you to join in what I discovered about her process

 Charlie relaxing on her made.com sofa

Charlie relaxing on her made.com sofa

How do you want the room to feel?

This is the starting point for me with any room and it made me giddy inside when Charlie started to talk about how for her that light = atmosphere! This is such a simple principle that we sometimes forget. She has a strong desire to create peace and how she started to go about that was by utilising the natural light available to her. White walls, original floorboards and gloss paint on the woodwork bounces light around the space and the armchair intentionally faces the window so Charlie can sit bathed in the light and enjoy the peace that it brings her doing so. In the same way the long sofa does the same thing where you can also sit or lie in the sun at any time of day.  Who else has ever considered placing the furniture where they will be most enjoyed rather than solely what works for the layout?

 Peanut enjoying a doze in this sun-bathed chair

Peanut enjoying a doze in this sun-bathed chair

That vintage feel....

One of the ways that Charlie has maximised the light available to the west facing living room and bedroom is by using pure white on the walls but that can appear quite harsh if not softened and Charlie has achieved this by adding worn, natural wood through antique furniture. The dining table was used by her great grandfather's many years beofre her and the distressed chairs rescued from an old pub. A distressed danish school desk with green legs is used as a console for electricals sourced from a local shop in SE London and some other items in her home like the oak shelves in the bathroom have come from Margate (I feel a visit and a blog post coming on!). She also uses dried flowers and wool textures to bring in warmth and comfort and making this space a great place to be.

I love the space we have - the big windows and the long hallway. I’ve enjoyed whittling down the essence of each room. It’s a feeling, an atmosphere but also loads of fun!
— Charlie
Victorian converted flat-Donna Ford2018-24.jpg

But Charlie isn’t only about feeling and aesthetic. She has great logic and has created amazing storage and a hidden utility area in the long thin hall to make up for the small kitchen and those items that need to be tucked away. There isn’t any clutter in the hallway and everything is streamline, drawing attention to the colourful artwork (which was a wedding present).

Victorian converted flat - Beatles Art work

The process of choosing items

Why do we buy decorative items for our homes and put them on display? I believe that such objects should have some sort of personal meaning to us and Charlie talked about falling in love with items and furniture and having to have them. This is a very intuitive response and is particularly great advice for choosing artwork. If you find something you really adore then you will find a place for it in your home. Trust your gut! This is a simple yet complex concept that is key in creating a home that you love. And echoes William Morris’ feeling on the matter - “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Victorian converted flat-Donna Ford2018-19.jpg

Starting a room scheme in an unconventional place

Where do you start when you first approach a room? Is is the paint colour, a piece of art or some furniture that you want to re-use? Charlie gave me a really thought provoking response that is probably one of the last elements for me in designing a room - the floor! For her it’s a travesty to not exploit and reveal natural floorboards in a period home and she even kept the old tiles from the discarded fireplace area to weave a little character into her home. Even though they are not pristine, they add to that torn and tattered look which contrasts so well with the more modern pieces of furniture that has cleaner edges. This punctuates the idea that mixing styles and period works brilliantly if you have enough of each in  the room. You can’t be half-hearted about it and only add one thing!

Victorian converted flat-Donna Ford2018-25.jpg

A more colourful bedroom

Now on to probably my most favourite room in the house - the bedroom. The use of colour intermingled with vintage and exposed brick makes this quite an eclectic yet calm place to be. Early in our conversation Charlie also spoke very fondly of this space and explained that she was trying to create an atmosphere of absolute peace and timelessness. Again she commented on creating an atmosphere rather than a style or a palette and that the Cornish cottage vibe of this room makes her feel like she is on holiday every day which brings her so much joy. For anyone who has visited Cornwall there is a tangible magic and mystery to this coastal part of Britain which Charlie brilliantly explains as not necessarily related to the landscape or the charm of it's residents or history but the remarkable quality of the light.

For this reason the roof windows in the loft conversion were intentionally placed so that when you stand up by the bed you can only see sky. This is a stunning concept to embrace in the architecture in such a busy urban area and this decision most definitely affects the emotions and well-being of Charlie and Dan on daily basis. I love the power of design to affect our emotions and well-being. On a more practical level, sun pours in this bedroom bringing plenty of light and an illusion of space!

(I was with charlie when she bought this amazing colourful and joyful rug from Anthropologie)!

Plants breathe life into a home

I know that this sounds very obvious but greenery will visually and physically breathe life into your spaces and make it feel more like home. I remember chatting to someone who felt very unsettled in their life and even more so with moving into a flat with new housemates. She spoke of how she didn’t feel at home until she placed plants everywhere and reflected on how that growing up that her parents used plants extensively in her childhood home. Association and positive memories play a huge part in home-making and what will bring calm and peace on an individual level. I’m by no means a plant expert but I know the more I put in my home the happier I feel! Flowers, even dried ones help too and Charlie has some lovely specimens taken up residence in her home…

Conclusion

All that’s left to be said is massive thank to Charlie for letting us inside her home and being so honest about her creative process. I know I’ve learnt lots of little ideas and really hope you have too! I’ll leave you with some top tips from Charlie’s home and some more photos from her little Victorian haven:

  1. Start with the floor

  2. Vintage items change the mood of the space

  3. Use the natural light you have

  4. Pops of colour never go wrong

  5. Placement of furniture isn’t just functional but also atmospheric!


Firstly apologies that it has been so long since the last ‘Journey Home’. I have totally forgotten that these are my favourite blog posts to write! I love discovering how other people journey towards home and what it means to them. It can be so revealing and enlightening when someone reflects on this process for themselves. I actually featured Charlie’s mum as one of my very first posts so feel free to have a read here to see if there’s any comparison between mother and daughter. And any local homes that would like to take part let me know!

What was your favourite tip from Charlie? I have to say that starting with the floor is a whole new concept for me and something I’ll be thinking about a lot more in my room schemes. Did anything particular resonate with you? Or a tip that you’d never considered before? Let me know in the comments below. (Did you know bloggers actually do a happy dance when someone comments on their post!)

In other news I am beyond excited to be finally launching some interiors workshops in SE London next week on Thursday 15th November from 7:30pm. Would love to meet some of my readers there and have more in depth conversation about your homes and how to bring your schemes together with lots of opportunity for ask questions in a relaxed, fun environment. Book tickets here and let me know if you’re coming!

Your in colour and creativity,

Donna Ford Skirting Boards and chandeliers

Disclaimer: All photography taken by and belongs to me. (Yes I also do event and portrait photography so let me know if you need a gal like me for the job!)

Colour Story: Yellow

Colour Story: Yellow