When you work with pattern and colour all day, it’s nice to come home to a gentle, calm space. CHRISSY HARRIS visits a designer home on Dartmoor…

The cushions are such a giveaway. If you didn’t know Paul Hervey was an interior designer with more than 40 years’ experience, the plumpness of his cushions tells you all you need to know.

‘I know, I’m obsessed!’ he says. ‘My dad comes into the living room and says, shall I sit down or not?’

Great British Life: Plump cushions add to the stylish look. Plump cushions add to the stylish look. (Image: M J Heritage)

Only if you plump afterwards, is the general rule of soft furnishings for those in the know. Paul has been in the interiors industry long enough to know what makes a cosy looking room look and feel fabulous. After spending his early career working as a visual merchandiser for Habitat in 1980s (a golden era for the brand, we agree) he ran a interiors shop then a wholesale garden accessories business before eventually starting his own interior design firm in 2002.

His job has taken him all over the country where he has worked on everything from high-end holiday lets to country cottages and city loft apartments.

But, as we know, there’s no place like home. Paul has used all of his expert knowledge and contacts to transform a ‘tired’ old building into a beautiful contemporary space for him and his dad, Tony.

Great British Life: Interior designer Paul Hervey. Interior designer Paul Hervey. (Image: Chrissy Harris)

The Stables on north Dartmoor, near Okehampton, is a haven of comforting textures and neutral tones.

‘It’s just white on white for me,’ says Paul, happy to get his colour fix when he’s working for clients. ‘I remember one client wanted a pop art style house and I’ve never used so many clashing, strong colours. There was velvet on the walls and all sorts. It was insane, but it looked so good.

‘Me though, I like to be really neutral and gentle. It’s good for my thinking.’

Paul has taken his time to get the right look in the right place. He and dad Tony, 80, first began their search for a new home more than three years ago after selling their house in Chagford, during what was a buoyant, post-pandemic market.

Great British Life: The Stables is a gorgeous granite home on Dartmoor. The Stables is a gorgeous granite home on Dartmoor. (Image: M J Heritage)

‘We’d been looking at stacks of houses, but nothing was quite right,’ says Paul. ‘Dad said we should go and look at one and I just knew I wouldn’t like it. We got there and he said to me, you hate it, don’t you?’ adds Paul. ‘I did hate it and the estate agent – who was a really nice guy - asked me what I was actually looking for. I told him I just want a nice house and I want to live on or near Dartmoor.’

As it happened, a 19th century, 1970s converted stable building in the village near Okehampton was just about to come on the market.

‘I asked the agent where it was and we drew up outside to have a look,’ says Paul. ‘I said, it’s perfect, I love it, I’ll buy it.’


Despite the speedy decision and Paul’s strong cash buyer position, it took another six months for the sale to go through, such is the business of houses.

Paul and his elderly dad spent all that time living out of suitcases as they bounced between holiday lets and hotels while they waited for the deal to be done.

It would be another three months before The Stables was refurbished and ready to be lived in.

‘Dad was brilliant,’ says Paul. ‘I know he found it quite difficult at times and it got to the stage where he was really just wanting to get in here.


‘We got about 90 per cent of the work done and I thought, right, let’s move in. We still had tradesmen whizzing around a bit while we were in, but that was ok.’

This is all second nature stuff to Paul, well used to the renovation process. But what about when it’s your own home?

‘I don’t mind it, to be honest,’ says Paul. ‘I find I’m quite blinkered when it’s mine. I know where I’m going with it and I don’t need to go backwards and forwards all the time. If I see something I like, I know instantly that it’s going to go in.’

The Stables was a solid granite structure but in need of a professional touch inside. Paul has worked with trusted traders and suppliers to install a new bathroom, plus an ensuite, as well as new kitchen and downstairs cloakroom.

Great British Life: Neutral tones allow the details to stand out. Neutral tones allow the details to stand out. (Image: M J Heritage)

Because it’s all such a stylish blank canvas inside, the details have been allowed to stand out, such as the rustic handmade pantry cupboard doors, the cabinet handles in the kitchen and the wooden towel hook in the downstairs loo.

‘A guy in Ukraine makes them from little birch pieces,’ says Paul. ‘I still buy them from him even though the war’s still going on there.’

It’s who and what you know in this business. The fixtures, fittings and furniture in The Stables are tried and tested after decades spent kitting out other people’s places.

For instance, the hardwearing carpets are made from recycled plastic from The Unnatural Flooring Company in Kingsbridge.

Great British Life: Shutters diffuse the light. Shutters diffuse the light. (Image: M J Heritage)

‘We use it all the time in holiday properties because it’s so easy to keep clean and you don’t have to worry about staining,’ says Paul, as I jot this down in my notebook. My pale living room carpet has not fared well after a combination of red Devon mud, two kids and a Labrador. (The thought of any of them being in this house makes me shudder).

‘Shutters are great, too because they’re so nice for diffusing light and when it’s hot in summer, they keep the house cool,’ continues Paul. I quickly add shutters to my list.

‘Layering up is good, too, and adding texture,’ he says, now talking about the picture-perfect bedrooms. Paul’s dad Tony has the best one, overlooking the three-quarter acre of beautifully landscaped garden and newly planted orchard. ‘Yes, dad gets the best view,’ says Paul. ‘We’ve just put in a new low pond down there, which just needs landscaping in.’

Great British Life: Layering adds texture in the bedrooms. Layering adds texture in the bedrooms. (Image: M J Heritage)

Sigh. What a place. It's no surprise that both Paul and his dad are loving it, and not just because they have a stunning home and garden. Tony is currently out doing one of his regular four or five-mile walks on the moor. Paul says the location is amazing.

‘We’ve got the loveliest neighbours and everyone is so helpful and kind – I’ve never known friendship like it,’ says Paul. ‘I feel a real connection with it here and I’ve never had that with a house before.’

Father and son plan to stay put and make the most of their quietly inspiring house and its surroundings.

Great British Life: Paul has created a beautiful contemporary space in a 19th century building. Paul has created a beautiful contemporary space in a 19th century building. (Image: M J Heritage)

‘I still pinch myself when I come down that lane and see the moors ahead,’ says Paul. ‘I like being here. I like being in this place.’

Time to sit down and relax (and then re-plump, of course).

For more information on Paul's projects go to phiconcepts.co.uk

Great British Life: This is a quietly inspiring home. This is a quietly inspiring home. (Image: M J Heritage)