Through the keyhole - in Tunbridge Wells

Elegant living room

Elegant living room - Credit: Archant

The transformation of a Victorian town house into a happy and elegant family home

Just a short walk from the centre of Tunbridge Wells, cleverly secluded on all sides by native trees, the impression is of a much more rural setting when you are inside this lovely 1860’s home with its early Arts and Crafts features and a grand entrance of stately proportions.

Owner Eppie Wells recalls her first visit. She looked out of the top window and spied a noticeboard – Hamilton Estate and Parking – and felt it was a sign that this was The One, as Hamilton is her maiden name.

The house is home to her family and dog and has met all their needs from childhood to teenage years.

The old garage room in the basement was converted into a playroom and today serves as a perfect entertainment space for her two children, now aged 17 and 14.

The proportions of the rooms are what really sold the house to Trevor and Eppie. The four-bedroom house on three floors feels much bigger and the accommodation could have been on four floors, had the attic been suitable for conversion; however, crawling on all fours was not deemed a very practical option!

All the rooms are spacious and light with big sash windows looking onto a large, south-facing garden.

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The elevation gives far-reaching views over the tops of trees, an outlook which belies the popular residential area. There are no houses overlooking the large garden or the house either, which is a real bonus.

Walking into the house through the double-fronted doors there is an attractive arch in the hallway ceiling. The house has a kitchen and breakfast room in one direction, a study on the left and a large sitting room to the right.

The first impression of the sitting room is that it is so light and spacious. The grand, antique chandelier in the middle of the room demands admiration and the triple sash windows are dramatic with pewter and aubergine-bordered satin Roman blinds. Eppie explains that this room was dark red with swags and tails when they first moved in. She found it oppressive and felt that the whole house needed a refresh.

She enlisted the services of interior design specialist Caroline Pickering from Style My Home in Tunbridge Wells, who created mood boards for different rooms before transforming them.

This room is now a place for quiet retreat and family time. Eppie explains: “Caroline suggested paint colours, wall coverings, furniture, fireplace treatment, accessories and furnishings in a range of textures and finishes to re-purpose the room.

“The grey velvet sofa adds interest and the hand-made cushions, accessories and fireplace really help bring all the elements together in a very cohesive way.”

Asked why she chose an interior designer, Eppie echoes a feeling many of us probably share: “I found it hard to translate a little swatch of fabric or paper into a big room. I couldn’t face the risk of getting it wrong.

“Caroline was recommended to me on a visit to Rencraft in Tunbridge Wells, as I was considering adding to the existing kitchen. The whole family really loves the transformation. Our trust in Caroline has totally paid off.”

Eppie admits that her first choice of lounge carpet was a lighter shade but, upon reflection, the darker shade she decided on with Caroline helps to frame the room and provide the canvas for the furnishings, feature wall and fireplace.

The family wanted an open fireplace, but instead of taking the surround back to the brickwork, as can be seen in many refurbished Victorian houses, Eppie opted for an open convection fireplace which is set into the feature wall. The result is a working fireplace which is easy to light and more economical to run.

The original cupboards beside the fireplace were taken out as they were outsized for the proportion of the fireplace. What they have now is a perfectly proportioned and elegant family room.

In the hallway, a feature wall covered in Villa Nova Yoshino wallpaper is effective in reflecting light from the landing window.

At the bottom of the stairs a double stool with shaped ends upholstered in a textured Osborne and Little fabric and piled with embossed floral cushions makes a pleasing focal point.

The kitchen used to have two doorways – one from the breakfast room and one from the hall – but Caroline’s suggestion to block the hallway door has made much better use of available working space.

It was originally a Rencraft kitchen which was redesigned utilising most of the original pink-painted units, adding units and worktops and repainting.

“The redesign meant we could, at last, house a large American fridge and have a bigger breakfast bar and eating area,” says Eppie.

The colour palette is Farrow and Ball Pavilion Grey on the base units, black granite work surfaces and an attractive Fired Earth Tyrian Rose back painted wall.

A Stoves cooker gives the room a rustic feel and the two large sash windows look onto the length of the garden, making this a bright and airy family space.

The floors through the downstairs hall are original sanded solid pine with a natural coir runner with edged border in high-traffic areas, and the kitchen floor is an engineered oak floor.

Upstairs the monochrome family bathroom is a stylish and practical room which suits everyone’s needs and was a lovely update to a somewhat tired area. The fittings are from West One Bathrooms.

In the bedroom the colours are neutral with a stunning accent of autumn gold. A beautiful antique dress, framed and hanging on the wall, is a happy memory and heirloom from Eppie’s mother given to her daughter, who wore it in a nativity play.

The dress became a family favourite and has become one of the fixtures and fittings of this happy family home. n


Caroline Pickering at Style My Home, 81 Calverley Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN1 2UY, 01892 510 070 or and visit

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