WILTON PLACE – A LABOUR OF LOVE
Wilton Place, a Grade 11 listed Georgian property in the market town of Wilton, is a breathtaking 18th century house. The romantic red brick exterior surrounded by two acres of rural Wiltshire woodland would look at home in any period drama. According to the listing, Wilton Place was built in 1795 for the Olivier family, glove manufacturers who were perfectly situated due to Wilton’s status as a hub of cloth manufacturing. Luckily, many of the original features of the property remain and although most needed a lot of love, the home feels nothing short of grand. However, a complete cosmetic overhaul was needed to update the property and make it suitable for modern family needs.
David and Claire were raising their family in the Middle East when they made the decision to move back to the UK. They bought the property and gave me a six-month deadline before they would step off their one-way flight and walk into their new home. My job is to thoroughly listen to clients and learn what they want and what they need, offering my advice in areas in which they lack some expertise. Claire was a perfect client in that she had a definitive style and vision. We began a working relationship which spanned continents and time zones. Claire was fantastic in providing me with images via Pinterest which I would then collate and produce mood boards for us to discuss. I would present her with colour schemes and fabric options based on her initial descriptions. Claire knew how she wanted the house to look and feel, but needed this to be expanded and implemented, which is where I came in.
Clearly with Claire and David being based in Dubai, and having recently
welcomed their third child, they needed a full-time project manager on site. An aspect of the job I really enjoy is overseeing various trades and ensuring a smooth and efficient renovation process.Project managing allows me to ensure the vision is successfully realised. It was instilled in me by my Father that you treat everyone as you’d like to be treated yourself and I carry this through into every aspect of my life. Cultivating a strong relationship with the architect, fantastic tradesmen and planning officers such as Peter Borchert, Jeremy Thompson, David Jacobs, Mark Dibben and all of the others mentioned in this blog, was key in tackling the challenge of renovating the home in a short space of time. We all put our heart and soul into Wilton Place, anticipating the look on the owners’ faces as they saw it for the first time.
Wanting to remain sympathetic to the original architecture, the only structural changes concerned the kitchen, master bathroom, music room and drawing room. Having been accustomed to the Middle Eastern lifestyle in which the kitchens are small quarters and there are separate rooms for dining, the couple were happy to remain with a small kitchen at Wilton Place. I suggested it might be
worthwhile extending the kitchen and allowing it to become the family hub. Just to the side of the kitchen and out of view were two large Georgian windows overlooking the breathtaking landscape. Light poured in through these windows and it seemed natural to build the kitchen around this focal point.
A small thirty-year-old wooden kitchen was already in place. Wooden kitchens are brilliant and worth the investment as they can be updated easily. Mark Dibben, the main kitchen contractor successfully mirrored the original cabinet design meaning we could extend the kitchen without ripping it apart. We changed all drawer handles and hinges in the kitchen to ensure the kitchen cabinets would have a long life. We then designed an open plan room with a Neptune Island and relocated the AGA, with which Mark created a new hood. Austin from Neptune was very knowledgeable and supplied the marble kitchen surfaces. The kitchen now framed the beautiful garden and remains one of my favourite rooms of any project. We also added wooden paneling to the hall stairs and landing, which gave the space a wonderful elegance and depth. I suggested it might be a good idea to think about creating a snug, adjacent to the kitchen. This way whoever is cooking can be near the young children and less isolated slaving away over dinner. This worked well and allows easy communication from different, but well-used rooms.
The master bedroom suite originally had a his & hers bathroom. The client wanted a walk-in wardrobe, so with the help of David Jacobs from D&N Construction, we installed a dividing steel framework to produce one larger shared bathroom and a walk in wardrobe. The design of the walk-in wardrobe required meticulous attention to detail, and with boxes of possessions arriving daily I spent many hours measuring handbags and boots to ensure the storage and display facilities would be a success.
Wessex Timber were fantastic in providing the bespoke cabinets for the dressing room. I embraced my inner neat freak and threw myself into colour coding, organising possessions and distributing hanging space between the couple.
Monograming is a perfect way to help a home feel personal to you. A Wilton Place doormat was made so before the family even crossed the threshold there was an element of belonging. In their daughter’s room we had her initials monogrammed onto the wardrobe, so she could immediately feel the room was truly her space. Claire chose a tasteful design for Wilton Place, which we then monogrammed onto the dining room chairs by Embroidery Unlimited in Salisbury. In the final few days, knowing how much Claire and David had loved the monogram, I decided to surprise them with one on the bath in the master suite. With limited time I couldn’t find a graphic designer to replicate the design as a stencil which I could paint myself. Having done my research, I found a local tattooist who felt comfortable ‘tattooing’ the design freehand onto the bath with a special gold enamel paint. The result was a gorgeous white and gold monogrammed bath, and a good tale to tell!
The majority of carpets, curtains and flooring were replaced with long lasting alternatives which suited the aesthetic of the rooms. Over 400 metres of carpets were provided by Jeremy Thompson, the director at Carpet Corner: they were fantastic in fitting such a high quantity to a perfect standard. Nikki and her daughter from Creative Curtains, supplied all of the curtains for the house and helped with re-upholstering. Robert O’Boyle, who provided flooring, was an absolute angel and it was a pleasure to see somebody take so much pride in what they do. We used a classic herringbone floor and a two-board border bonded to the subfloor in a fumed oak in the kitchen and snug. The Sunday before the family were due home I arrived to see a huge scratch on the floor, Rob was my hero and spent the Sunday working with me to fix it. I have so much respect for each and every person involved in Wilton Place who consistently went the extra mile. Every wall, door and window was repainted and all metalwork was polished.
We transformed the cellar into a basement cinema and games room, complete with monogrammed seating to add that luxurious touch. I wanted to truly provide a cinematic escape experience, so alongside creating a platform for the seating, we dressed the walls with curtains from Creative Curtains, for that immersive experience.
However, the remainder of the house was a task in upcycling and organisation. All of the possessions from the couple’s former two homes were boxed up and sent to Wilton Place. Although immaculately categorized and labelled by Claire, the challenge began in turning two homes into one. Exchanging photographs and texts regularly, myself and Claire created a system which allowed for each item to be placed exactly where it should be. Much loved furniture pieces were reupholstered to update them and repair damages, with fabrics that complimented the design.
Chris the electrician worked wonders with fitting all the electrics in the most discrete manner, we were able to hide all unsightly wires. He emptied numerous boxes filled with electrical appliances, fitting all the TV’s and lighting. Chris was instrumental in creating the technically impressive cinema. Sean, the other electrician fixed a new CCTV system and changed all plug sockets and light switches.
David and Claire were aware that moving their children from the Middle East to a new home in Wiltshire could have an emotional impact. Understandably, they wanted the move to be as seamless as possible and provide a lovely environment for their children to enter and call home. We focused a lot of attention on the children’s bedrooms.
For their daughter, we created a bedroom which was stylish yet a perfect room for a young girl. Mark built a small stage area with a canopy curtain which could become the ultimate childhood escape teepee. Chris fitted lighting to give that magical glow. Their eldest son had a top floor bedroom. A huge football fanatic, I made him a sleek goal and fixed his signed shirts onto the sloping ceilings. To give that magic touch, his bedroom was accessed via a secret bookcase door.
A brand-new nursery was created for their baby. I used a subtle three-tone colour palette and provided a cot and furnishings which were playful, yet in keeping with the aesthetic of the home. David Jacobs built a fantastic basketball court and re-turfed the secret garden, producing the perfect play area for the children.
A four-hour round trip from Worcestershire to Wiltshire whilst ensuring I was also present enough for my two children, was challenging at times. The builders gradually got used to the sight of me looking more and more disheveled. However, the project became our mission, we rallied together day and often most of the night to produce a finished home for the family. A gentle giant, Daniel, whom I affectionately called Tenmen because of his superhuman strength, stayed until the small hours as we grappled with a 16-seat sofa which needed to be reassembled. I thrive on the fact that as a project manager, the responsibility lies with me to create the energy and motivation necessary to meet deadlines.
The last week before the family were due to fly to their new home, was exhausting. All of those last-minute malfunctions were taking place, problems with the newly installed heating coupled with the kitchen ceiling of my own home collapsing, and completion was considered by most to be impossible. One well-meaning builder who had been on the phone to Claire discussing the likelihood of an unfinished home upon their arrival, assured me he’d let them know how hard I tried. There was absolutely no way this was happening. With every ounce of energy myself and the team had left, remaining boxes were unpacked, fittings installed, surfaces polished, beds made and candles lit. You might assume that after those final weeks of heightened stress, I’d say ‘never again’. But I loved it.
Once I handed the keys back over to Claire and David I unexpectedly felt like I was saying goodbye to a huge part of my life. Putting so much passion and hard work into a project which becomes all-encompassing, is more rewarding than anything.
Claire and David nervously exited their car, understandably anxious about their first date with their home. Much to my relief, it was love at first sight. They were finally able to see and touch everything they’d been talking about for six months. In the garden myself and the team awaited their response with a bottle of Champagne at the ready.
Their visible emotion touched my heart and I felt incredibly proud of how they, myself and all the tradesmen worked together to produce a beautiful family home. It further ignited my passion for interior design and I feel lucky everyday to be part of an industry that provides a setting for families to love and grow.
Neptune Island / Granite
Creative Curtains Salisbury
Salisbury hardwood flooring