Like her grandparents before her, Emma Deterding has an enduring love for India. Its influence on the interior designer is clear to see in the vibrant colours and richly embellished fabrics she has laid down over the more sedate framework of the 1530s Grade II-listed flint and brick priory that she shares with her husband Nicholas, a farmer.

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Emma and Nicholas bought the house in 2011, attracted by its quirky features, generous spaces and great sense of history. ‘The original part of the house is the wood-panelled hallway on the ground floor, which I believe would have led to one big open room with a massive fireplace; now our dining room,’ explains Emma. ‘The house was gradually extended over time and the sitting room and kitchen are certainly later additions.’

Several outbuildings added to the attraction: the couple had experience of rentals and the hospitality market and could see the potential. As Founder and Creative Director of Kelling Designs, Emma is well-versed in whole-house projects, having created schemes all over the world including a big project in India that ignited her passion for the country. ‘There’s no such thing as clashing colours in India,’ says Emma. ‘Anything and everything go.’

The starting point for this house was to paint all the walls grey: ‘It’s a good neutral base,’ she says. ‘Looking back, I’ve added the odd coloured wall here and there and have since painted the sitting room and one of the bedrooms, but most rooms have stayed that same grey. Any impression of colour is all coming from the furnishings.’

Emma has been fortunate to inherit some fabulous pieces of furniture and also has great antiques shops on her doorstep, along with skilled craftspeople such as upholsterers to help revive tired pieces. Mirrors are a favourite and she uses all shapes and sizes to create effect throughout the house.

‘In a dark home, it is an easy and affordable way to open up spaces and create playful reflections and light,’ she says. Walls are filled with prints she has collected on her travels, as well as works by emerging Norfolk artists.

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Of the furniture she has inherited, much dates from William and Mary and has come down through her grandparents. ‘Our bedroom furniture came from them and there is a wonderful antique chest in the hallway that came from my grandmother.’ It was full of pictures charting their lives together, she recalls. ‘None of them were labelled or dated, but it was fascinating to see their time in India before the war.’

Above it is a framed cutting from an 1851 edition of The Illustrated London News, showing a reproduction of The Reception in Full Durbar, at Wuzeerabad, of the Maharaja Goolab Sing, by the Governor-General of India. ‘Incredibly, we found that in the roof here and it was just so appropriate,’ marvels Emma.

Family is very much at the heart of this house. Having developed the barns as holiday lets, the additional accommodation comes in handy at Christmas. ‘The barns make amazing entertaining spaces when the house can’t cope,’ says Emma.

One is very much a party space: ‘If you’re a decorator, you really can’t have a normal barn, can you?’ she laughs, explaining how the dramatic stag heads were a cost-effective decorating solution. ‘They came from a friend who was paying a fortune to keep them in storage and I thought “I’ll have those thank you!” They’re perfect here.’

Back inside the main house, seasonal decorating is a riot of colour, with vivid saris used to dress the table; there is nothing staid or formal about the celebrations here. ‘We can’t pretend to be a stately home, so what are you to do?’ says Emma. ‘You just have to let it all hang out, don’t you? It’s about being fun and joyful and not too boring.’

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Things really get going after the 26th, when the couple hold a party for friends between Christmas and New Year. ‘We love having people here. A home should be warm and welcoming – it should invite people to sink in and relax,’ she says. ‘And a house becomes a home when it holds things and memories that have travelled with you through the generations; things that have a story to tell.’

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