A Georgian home in Lincolnshire
In her 19th-century home, fashion designer Gayle Wailes has countered rustic, upcycled pieces and quirky details with a grown-up colour palette and an eye for symmetry. Feature Amander Meade. Styling Mark Thomas. Photographs Rachael Smith
As an art student, I was interested in shape and form and often found that older pieces of furniture have a more thoughtful design aesthetic,’ says Gayle Wailes of her enthusiasm for upcycled and vintage furniture. ‘Since then, I’ve always enjoyed collecting unusual items for the homes that I’ve lived in. When I moved here with my husband Richard and our two children, I transported just a few of our most treasured items and shopped for furnishings that would suit the Georgian proportions of the house.’
The overall look is elegant and polished but, look closely and, throughout the interior you can spot Gayle’s quirky upcycled touches. The French sofa in the family room is actually a single bed, bought for £20 from eBay, while a smart Fortnum & Mason hamper has been ingeniously turned into a coffee table, with the addition of an antique pine door resting on top.
Elsewhere, a kitchen table with its legs trimmed becomes a coffee table and a reclaimed door has been treated, bleached and waxed and is now a striking headboard. ‘I’m a huge fan of Newark Antiques & Collectors Fair and always return to the same few traders. A couple of them are Dutch and seem to specialise in the reclaimed, distressed look that I love. I also scour auction sites and keep my eyes peeled for local bargains too,’ says Gayle.
It was the elegant proportions of the rooms, arranged over four floors, that drew Gayle to the house in Stamford, Lincolnshire, four years ago. ‘I loved the flexibility of the space. With two teenagers and lots of visitors, rooms on several different floors seemed like a great opportunity,’ she says.
As well as the potential that the house suggested, the couple fell for the views over the surrounding countryside and the fact that the property wasn’t overlooked. On the downside, it had been rented out for the best part of a decade, meaning there were considerable – and not very exciting – renovations to carry out. Once these were out of the way, Gayle – who works as a fashion designer – could begin to flex her design muscles.
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Her work has undoubtedly been a key influence for both her approach and her style when it comes to decorating. To collate her initial ideas she creates mood boards containing fabric swatches, paint samples, images of furnishings and accessories, all carefully annotated, like mini works of art in themselves.
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Balance is a key part of Gayle’s look, too. ‘It was only recently that a visitor pointed out that I use a lot of items in pairs. I hadn’t realised how important a sense of symmetry is to me, but it’s definitely something that comes from my background designing clothes,’ she says.
Rather than diving straight into the fun task of redecorating, she waited several months: ‘I didn’t want to rush into decisions about the interior until I had developed a sense of how we might use the space,’ she says. Eventually, she decided on a room-by-room approach, beginning with the sitting room.
‘I thought a darker shade on the walls would work in here as the room is south-facing with plenty of light,’ she says. A pair of smart velvet sofas, stripped oak floorboards and the beautifully restored fireplace draw upon the grand Georgian tradition of a sitting room on the first floor with an updated, less formal and more contemporary style.
The sitting room set the tone for the rest of the house, where walls have been painted in an understated natural palette – the perfect backdrop for Gayle’s upcycled vintage furniture. ‘I’m drawn to neutral and grey colour schemes – especially for an older house like this. I feel that these shades look more elegant and also work better with the light and the older furnishings,’ she says.
Gayle’s patient and thought-through process has clearly paid off. Her rustic, upcycled pieces are balanced by graceful chandeliers, muted colours and the generous proportions of the house. Working on the interior was a project that she relished, and it shows. ‘We always have lots of guests of all ages and everyone says that they feel comfortable here, which is the best compliment that I could receive.’
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