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How injecting colour to your home can see dramatic improvements

PUBLISHED: 12:10 20 August 2014 | UPDATED: 12:10 20 August 2014

The formal sitting room has lots of rich warming colour - credit: Jake Fitzjones Photography Ltd

The formal sitting room has lots of rich warming colour - credit: Jake Fitzjones Photography Ltd

Jake Fitzjones Photography Ltd

Forest dweller Jo MacMillan put her faith in an interior designer to help her inject a bit of colour into her home; Emma Caulton visited her in Burley to see

the results

What is it with home owners? No sooner have they renovated, extended and redecorated their lovely homes than they’re up and off. So it is with Jo MacMillan and her husband, owners of a picturesque tile-hung cottage in lush gardens (with heated outdoor pool) in the honeypot village of Burley in the New Forest. They admit they’re sad to be leaving, even a little anxious, but they’re not moving far as they’re taking on a “project” in the village.

They’ve lived at Merry Gardens Cottage for ten years; a fair old time. Jo has always lived locally, at nearby Ringwood, while her husband was based in Chiswick. They considered moving nearer to London before deciding it was difficult to beat the quality of life in the country, and they both liked the idea of living in a village and being able to walk into the centre. Neither has the novelty of having horses and cows wandering freely worn off – a feature of life in the Forest.

The house was very different to how it looks now. Jo remembers: “The rooms were typically cottagey and the decoration was traditional – windows draped with William Morris curtains. It was nicely done, but not my thing. We lived in the house for three years before we did anything. In the Forest there’s a restriction on extending houses by more than 30 per cent, so we took our time and thought very carefully about the space we wanted to create.”

What they decided to do was open out the house at the back, creating a big, modern, light, bright kitchen-dining-family space on the ground floor, and extended their bedroom to create a second en-suite on the first floor.

“The kitchen was the first thing we did and I love it. It was designed by Andrew Rizza of Dream Design in Hinton, on the edge of the Forest, and it was Andrew’s idea to have the kitchen on a different level so that you step up into it. It’s a great way of separating the living area from the cooking area.”

The kitchen is an elegant contrast of finishes, combining opaque glass doors with aluminium frames and minimalist matt units the colour of string with a worktop that appears to have been rough hewn from stone. It is not just a kitchen, it’s a focal point.

The conservatory flows on from this space, but was actually an after-thought and is now used as a dining room. This works better for Jo who felt that the kitchen and what was previously the dining area (now a casually relaxed sitting area) was a bit too open-plan.

After the walls had been taken down, the structural work completed and the builders had left, Jo simply painted it all beige. “I just wanted it looking clean and finished. But then I wondered: how can we add colour? And how can we make the best use of the space?”

Enter interior designer Charlotte Crosland.

“Charlotte was fantastic. She came up with colour schemes and introduced blinds and flooring and things I didn’t even know I needed! We didn’t have any matting in here, just exposed wooden boards. Charlotte introduced these smart linen band edged sisal mats. I wasn’t sure as I didn’t want the boards covered up too much, but actually I love the mats; they’re perfect for kids, dogs and cats.

“And we didn’t have any blinds in the kitchen as we don’t need them, it’s so private. Charlotte put up these blinds in the kitchen, which soften the space. While in the conservatory, which faces south so it would become uncomfortably hot at times, the blinds are the perfect solution, they’ve allowed us to use the conservatory all the time.”

Charlotte recalls: “The interior was very plain with nothing happening in it, but Jo is full of pattern and colour and loves rich fabrics, which was fantastic for me as I love working with all of that.”

The entrance hall is a design statement of intent with a dramatic patterned wallpaper designed by Charlotte’s sister, Neisha Crosland.

“I absolutely love this, and yet I would never have picked something as bold as this,” says Jo.

Jo wanted to have what she calls “school radiators” throughout, but it was Charlotte who persuaded her to have them in an elegant black finish. “I’d never have tried that.”

It was also Charlotte who suggested painting the “orangey” pine staircase a muted grey-green with ebony black handrail, and encouraged her to mix patterns with a diamond motif carpet running up the stairs and across the landing. Jo, with the practicality of someone living in the Forest, says it’s perfect as it’s stylish and doesn’t show the dirt.

Warm colours have been added to what Jo refers to as the snug – the area leading from the hall into the kitchen/living space – with Farrow & Ball’s Earth Red on one wall, complementing the original exposed brick fireplace with wood-burning stove.

However it is the formal sitting room which shows the most exuberant use of colour.

“Is that what interior designers do, encourage you to take risks?” wonders Jo.

Charlotte says: “The sitting room never has a lot of natural light while most of the rest of the house does, so I said ‘let’s make it comfortable and cosy as well as smart’. I wanted to make it Jo’s room, and she loves golds, oranges and reds, so we’ve used them in this room.”

Jo adds: “All the furniture in here is new, but the paintings were mine and they are all the strong, opulent, bold colours which Charlotte has picked out and used.”

The television was moved so that it wasn’t the main focus and a spectacular feature mirror positioned over the fireplace was added. Jo’s collection of gold bowls was used by Charlotte to introduce lampbases and shades with a sophisticated metallic sheen. The curtains in burgundy and gold are by Neisha while the carpet is a striking patterned sisal (from Sinclair Till as all the carpets are).

In contrast the master bedroom is cool and pale.

“When I first met Charlotte our daughter was six-months-old and I wanted my bedroom to be a calm sanctuary. I also wanted somewhere I could show off my dark wood furniture.”

The cushions with wildlife motifs piled on the bed are a quiet nod to the Forest location.

Charlotte says: “The bedroom was the most complicated room. It wasn’t possible to give Jo a run of wardrobes so we changed the interiors of the wardrobes, building bespoke shoe ‘boxes’ in one and creating a walk-in closet in the other.”

Throughout the house are further examples of Charlotte’s bespoke joinery and furniture created to maximise space or find solutions – such as the TV cabinet in the kitchen/family room which allows the television to be raised or lowered as required as Jo didn’t want the television to be the centre of the room. The stylish cupboard in the ‘snug’ is Charlotte’s, while in the study a bespoke desk spans the width of the far wall, maximising the space.

Jo is so pleased with the design that she has already asked Charlotte to work with her when they move. They both sound equally excited by prospect. Could Jo get even bolder?

Merry Gardens Cottage is on the market for £1,350,000 with Spencers of the New Forest, Burley, 01425 404088

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