A dark Victorian home filled with vintage finds
In their Victorian home on the Kent coast, Caz and Rich Oliver have created the perfect balance of light and dark, rough and smooth, old and older still. Feature Naomi Jones. Photographs Brent Darby.
The deliciously daring interior of this vintage-filled Victorian home on the Kent coast will stop you dead in your tracks, not least because of its confident and cohesive colour scheme. ‘I love black,’ says owner Caz Oliver, a vintage homewares retailer and stylist. ‘So when my husband Rich and I moved here from our London flat four years ago, I knew the high ceilings, huge windows and abundance of light would let me run riot! As I work from home, the house also needs to be an inspirational location for me to showcase my style and photograph my stock; black walls present as elegant yet cosy, and create the perfect backdrop for our eclectic array of furniture and accessories.’
Caz explains she wants her heart to ‘sing’ whenever she steps through the front door; inspired by their shared love of the natural world, this monochrome scheme with warm honey accents, introduced through vintage finds, certainly helps with that. ‘The way this house has evolved has made me realise how much I love this time of year,’ she says, ‘and how much it has influenced the way that I’ve decorated: whenever I look around our home, I can imagine crunching along a wet shingle beach, under a blanket of dark and stormy skies.’
To create this evocative home, Caz and Rich shed blood, sweat and tears, painting, sanding and waxing almost every surface throughout the house. ‘It definitely took its toll,’ Caz explains, ‘and sometimes I wondered if we’d made the right decision taking on such a big house. It also took a while to come together design wise: we started off with quite a few industrial and Victorian pieces, but it didn’t really work, and it wasn’t until I pared back the look and restricted the colour palette that I got the effect I was after. I gradually sold the pieces I wasn’t happy with and focused on the things that I’m truly passionate about.’
Caz, who studied art and design along with a host of other interesting subjects, is talking about her collection of mid-century furniture, from the low sideboards and chests of drawers on long slender legs, to the inviting tan leather swivel chair from Denmark, and the eye-catching Tulip dining chairs designed by Maurice Burke for Arkana of Bath. ‘As Massimo Vignelli [the Italian designer] famously said: “Good design lasts longer”,’ quotes Caz. ‘The iconic shapes, clean lines, polished metals and warm woods still have a modern feel to them, despite being over 50 years old.’
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As well as appreciating their appealing aesthetics, there’s a deep-rooted reason why Caz and Rich choose pre-loved items over contemporary objects. ‘I have a background in ecology, too,’ explains Caz, ‘so I want to help save the world! Although l love modern design and respect those working with natural materials in a sustainable way, I’m not a fan of too many mass-produced goods. By buying at least some vintage items you’re recycling what already exists, and they are often so much better quality; my furniture will probably outlast me!’
Nature is an important element in this home’s decor too, and not just the way it has influenced the colour palette or the desire to keep things out of landfill. ‘I have deep-seated respect for the Earth,’ says Caz, ‘so I prefer to use natural products over synthetic ones; and I have a number of vintage skulls, antlers, insects and pieces of taxidermy, as well as modern sheepskins and cowhides, all ethically and sustainably sourced. It’s far from ghoulish – it ensures no part of an animal is wasted, as well as reducing plastic consumption. All these things tend to be incredibly popular in my online store, Beetle & Wilde too, so I know I’m not the only person out there with a fascination for these things and a desire to live and decorate in a responsible fashion.’
Caz is determined, however, to create a stylish and cosy home, not merely a house of curiosities. To that end she believes that balance is key, so taxidermy and bones coexist with luscious living plants, while soft furry skins sit alongside polished metal accents, and smooth buttery leather harmonises beautifully with an array of wood, from the sleek furniture to the enviable collection of well-used chopping boards in the kitchen and the giant stack of roughly hewn logs in the sitting room.
‘It may have taken a bit of time to get it right,’ says Caz, ‘but I think we’ve now found the right combination of colours and textures, old and new pieces. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but I firmly believe your home should reflect who you are, and you shouldn’t hold back. I feel that we’ve created the perfect home for us, full of the things we love that bring us joy every day.’
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