A Christmas home in the country

PUBLISHED: 09:47 18 December 2013 | UPDATED: 09:47 18 December 2013

Exterior facade of 18th century Hampshire farmhouse with pebble path

Exterior facade of 18th century Hampshire farmhouse with pebble path

When your life revolves around textiles and furniture, you would expect a home full of unique finds and fabulous interiors. Kate Forman’s Hampshire farmhouse doesn’t disappoint

Home for textile designer Kate Forman is a farmhouse in the Hampshire countryside, which she shares with her husband Jake, their three children, Francesca, 23, Harriet, 20 and Sebastian, 16 and Milo, the family’s cat. “It’s not often that we are all here together so we make a point of having a real family Christmas and when it snows, the house really does look like something out of a fairy tale,” says Kate, wrapping presents to put under the Christmas tree. “The house was built about 250 years ago but around 1800 it was extended and the gothic porch was added, along with the unusual carved freize, which looks especially picturesque in the snow when it’s festooned in icicles. ”

Christmas for the Forman family is relaxed and informal. “My stepson Robbie often stays with us and there’s a traditional Christmas stocking for everyone. Once we’re all awake on Christmas morning, the children sprawl on our bed and see what Father Christmas has brought them. Then it’s a walk followed by a not very traditional Christmas lunch – a joint of beef or a pheasant or two followed by Christmas pudding. I like to wait until after lunch before opening the presents under the tree.”

Kate grew up in a home she describes as shabby chic. “My mother, Pixie Weir, was a film costume designer and there were props and mannequins draped in fabric everywhere. Maybe that’s where my passion for fabric comes from.”

Kate’s first foray into the design world was to study fashion at art college, but when a friend suggested she share his antique shop in London’s Lillie Road she jumped at the chance. In due course that led her to undertake interior design projects and her plan to create a range of fabrics based in vintage designs evolved from that.

“I’d begun buying fabric remnants at antique auctions here and in France and was so inspired by the designs. I re-coloured them to suit contemporary interiors and then found a firm of textile printers who advised me on the technical details. The next step was market research. I invited everybody I knew to lunch and quizzed my guests as to what they thought of the designs, the colourways and the proposed prices.” The response was resoundingly positive and Kate Forman Designs was launched in the spring of 2004.

“We moved down to Hampshire with the children at around the same time. Friends of ours used to have this house and we always had such a good time visiting them here, that when they decided to move on, we moved in. There was no heating and it was pretty scruffy but after London we loved the idea of being in the country surrounded by fields; and I knew, with a few changes, the house could be made more comfortable and would work well for us - as indeed it has. When they come to visit, our friends say the house is unrecognisable and I suppose it is very different.”

One of the first things Kate did was demolish the wall between the kitchen and the adjoining larder, creating a dining area. A similar approach was applied upstairs where the wall between the bathroom and adjoining loo was knocked down, increasing the sense of space considerably. However a wall or two went up on the landing. Kate explains: “We needed a fourth bedroom so I enclosed part of the upstairs landing, put in a skylight and that became Harriet’s bedroom.” Next on Kate’s to-do list is to install French windows in the kitchen. “It’ll make the kitchen lighter and brighter and improve access to the garden.”

Having dealt in antiques for around five years, Kate has a natural affinity when it comes to furnishing a house with period furniture.

“I’ve always loved moving the furniture around and every year I redecorate at least one or two rooms at home with my latest wallpapers and fabric designs which are then photographed to illustrate how the designs look in real life.”

The New Generation range of cottons, which Kate launched earlier this year, includes the bold retro style ‘Daisy’ as well as ‘Ikat’, a timeless pattern which would adapt to both period and contemporary settings. Kate’s preference for colour veers towards the traditional with warm reds, yellows and pinks featuring strongly.

“Apart from our own bedroom, which is papered in a softly coloured floral design, the walls have been painted in earthy tones, which give a contemporary slant to a traditional style.”

Kate’s decorative style gives the rooms in her home the appearance of having evolved over years rather than undergoing a radical makeover every year or so. Her tips to achieving a similar look include using a mix of prints and patterns in different sizes and designs.

“Juxtaposing a floral design with a narrow ticking strip or check adds interest. And don’t be afraid of using a large scale wallpaper design in a small room. It can really change the feel and can often make it look more spacious.”

When it comes to decorative schemes for bedrooms, Kate’s preference is for pale colours which help to give the room a sense of calm.

“I add colour using accessories such as cushions, a quilt, a rug or two and always a vase of fresh flowers. A room can be transformed very quickly, especially if the backdrop is neutral.” But whatever the room and whatever the style, Kate considers comfort an essential factor. “I think that every bedroom no matter how small should include an upholstered reading chair. Decoratively, of course it’s a way of introducing another patterned fabric but I like to think of a bedroom being a haven – somewhere to read and relax as well as sleep.”

The two large sofas in the family sitting room provide plenty of room for relaxed lounging and a pair of Victorian armchairs and a French style painted chair provide additional seating.

“The fabrics are a mix of plains, patterns, and colours but against the plain backdrop of earthy wall colour and natural linen curtains the effect isn’t overpowering or busy.”

Kate’s skilful use of colour is well illustrated in the drawing room.

“It has windows on three sides and is a chilly, north-facing room so reds and pinks give it warmth.” The furniture is mostly antique apart from the painted desk which stands beside one of the three windows. “It looks old but it’s part of our furniture range. The design is based on an antique desk, which I bought in France years ago. It was just the right size and whatever the setting it always looks right so I included it in the collection. Now it’s available to anyone in any colour and without having to trawl through France to find it.”

Re-inventing the past never looked so pretty or appealing.

To inject a bit of Kate Forman’s style in to your own home visit www.kateforman.co.uk, call: 01962 732244 or visit the showroom at: Long Barn North, Sutton Manor Farm, Bishops Sutton, Alresford, SO24 0AA

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