Inside a colourful Georgian townhouse
Artists Clare and Des have filled their Hereford townhouse with bold paintwork and a happy mélange of art, books and treasured pieces. Feature Dominic Bradbury. Photographs Rachael Smith
Perhaps it’s not such a surprise given the nature of her work, but artist Clare Woods is definitely not afraid of colour. The rooms of her Hereford home, which she shares with sculptor Des Hughes and their two children Sid and Stripey, pay testament to her love of a rich palette, from corn gold to olive green.
The couple have worked on so many houses together over the years, they both know each other’s strengths, says Clare, and they let one another get on with it. ‘I love colour and it’s something I feel quite confident about. With a Georgian townhouse like this it was very much about choosing colours one at a time for individual rooms,’ she says, adding that it’s also important that the colours work together, creating flow.
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The house itself, which dates from the early 18th century, reminds the couple of their days in Bath, where they both studied at the Bath School of Art. Afterwards, they moved to London to continue their studies at Goldsmiths and later lived and worked in east London, with homes in Dalston and Leytonstone.
But eventually, with two young children, Sid now 16 and Stripey who is 12, they decided to step away from the pressures of daily life in London with a young family. ‘It was all about living space and head space,’ says Clare. ‘I had started going to Herefordshire to take photographs of landscapes that I would then paint and I really liked the border territory.
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I started following the Leominster Morris group and liked the fact that they were dancing in this landscape and that their work was based on handed-down stories and a layered history.’ At first they lived in a relatively remote farmhouse with a couple of acres of land before deciding they had gone a step too far. Hereford, on the other hand, offered an opportunity to connect with a very different and more peaceful urban setting. Having noted the delights of the Georgian houses near the cathedral, they bought their townhouse in 2013.
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‘It was once owned by the cathedral and was used by the cathedral school as a boarding house and then as the headmaster’s home,’ says Clare. ‘A lot of people know the house through the school and had done confirmation classes in the dining room and things like that.’ About five years before they moved in, the property had been bought and given a very basic makeover. ‘There was a new roof and the basement had been tanked,’ says Clare, ‘but it was like a rental house with magnolia walls, grey nylon carpets and a very shiny white kitchen.’
In short, the house offered a blank canvas. The key priorities were filling the house with the couple’s extensive library of books and getting some colour on the walls. ‘The gold colour in the dining room is one of my favourites,’ says Clare. ‘It’s Kitchen Gold by Craig & Rose, who I use a lot. We tend to paint everything in the room the same colour, so the skirting boards, window frames, woodwork and bookshelves all match the walls. I would say that I have an aversion to white, so there’s no white woodwork.’
Using colour in this way gives the rooms cohesion and also offers a simple backdrop for the family’s art, books and personal treasures, as well as an interesting mix of antique and mid-century furniture and lighting. The sitting room hosts two Robin Day sofas, along with a favourite Lucienne Day cushion, while a striking artwork by Ed Kluz forms a focal point over the fireplace.
The kitchen and bathrooms were left until last. Out went the shiny white kitchen and in came some colour, with Farrow & Ball’s Light Blue for the walls and the custom units followed, some time later, by an island painted pink with Ashes of Roses from Little Greene. ‘We did the kitchen about four years ago, but couldn’t afford the island so we waited and waited. When we finally got it, I just knew it had to be pink. It was totally instinctive and not overthought. The garden alongside the kitchen had become very green and so I thought we needed some pink to work with the green and the blue.’
Stripey also has pink for her bedroom, along with a painting by Des over her mantelpiece. The master bedroom is turquoise, the bathroom a dark obsidian green. With the magnolia long gone, this home is now full of life and colour. The surroundings might be calm, but this is still a house with a big personality.
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