‘You can’t go far wrong if you keep Tuscany in mind,’ says Sheila Wallace, arranging sweetpeas in the kitchen of her Regency seaside home near Whitstable. Around her, sunlight floods in creating haloes around the antique copper saucepans, 19th-century continental chairs and whitewashed fittings.
Sheila describes herself as a ‘serial junk buyer’ but her style is far from that. Her elegant and understated home is open and airy and shows off pieces that she has given a reviving lick of paint to – including a 1950s desk – or a restorative clean, such as the multiple glass droplet chandelier from the 1900s.
Take a tour around her home for a wealth of delicate, decorative ideas using continental antiques and vintage finds.
Inside and out
The living room leads straight out on to the garden through French windows, making it a light and breezy space. Sheila has kept the chair shabby (bought as a pair from Lawrences Auctioneers. The other is in Sheila’s bedroom) in order to lend it a mood akin to an old French chateau. The tripod table was bought from a car boot sale, while the column in the garden came from a dealer friend, Branching Out Antiques in Wingham, Kent.
White and breezy
The console table and 1890s chair next to the other French window were bought from an antiques fair and both painted and waxed by Sheila herself: ‘I’ve always been interested in antiques so I taught myself how to restore them. I’m learning and improving all the time – I learnt not to block paint, it robs antiques of their identity.’ Sheila made the cushions from vintage fabrics.
The chandelier hanging above dates to 1910 and was bought on eBay from a French dealer, while the bureau (the piece that Sheila says she would save in a fire) was bought from a Belgian dealer and has moved house with her many times.
Taking centre stage, the pine table in the kitchen is a new addition to Sheila’s collection of furniture and was made by a local carpenter. The dining chairs were bought at Ardingly antiques fair and Sheila’s antique copper saucepan collection was bought on eBay from France.
When asked what she collects, Sheila replies, ‘Everything! Kitchenware, fabrics, furniture – just anything that has charm and a story to tell.’
Sheila has picked up the Victorian storage jars on the kitchen shelves from various fairs and antiques shops over the years. Current favourites include Faversham Antiques and Vintage Market (held on the first Sunday of every month) and Tankerton Antiques near Whitstable (‘It’s only a few minutes up the road, so an easy place to peep into for lovely treasures’, says Sheila).
The cow overlooking the over-sized butter dish was bought from dealer Tina Pasco.
Time for bed
In the main bedroom Sheila has decorated with 19th-century French pieces and a spread of old rugs and tapestries, overlapped. Draped above the bedhead, the canopy came from Shepton Mallet antiques fair, as did the woven tapestries on the floor. The chandelier dates to c1900 and was a present from Sheila’s daughter.
The chest of drawers is an example of a piece that Sheila has painted, keeping it worn in order to retain the antique feel. You can find furniture of a similar style at Georgia Lacey.
A breath of fresh air
Sheila is a qualified garden designer and has transformed the outside (and inside) space since she arrived. Italianate in style, the garden is filled with columns, bird feeders and urns bought from junk shops and fairs.
In the conservatory, the Lloyd Loom chairs date from c1930s and were picked up at Shepton Mallet antiques fair and painted grey. Sheila made the cushions from some Victorian velvet she found, the pattern of which complements the trailing plants that burst from the shelves.
Images: Jan Baldwin