Sue Timney's monochrome Georgian home

The dramatic displays – from Fornasetti plates to Arts and Crafts furniture – pack a punch in interior designer Sue Timney’s home. Feature Vinny Lee. Photographs James Balston

Monochrome Georgian house
Published: May 17th, 2022 at 8:30 am

Sue Timney’s home is, reassuringly, just how one would imagine. The interior designer’s signature monochrome scheme dominates every room – appearing on the walls via her own-design striped wallpaper and through the furniture (a harlequin print bomb chest is a rather amazing example). It also somewhat dictates her taste when it comes to her collections, which include 1930s-50s Constance Spry ceramics and, most predominantly, Piero Fornasetti plates.

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Sue moved here seven years ago, drawn to the house’s location, facing an open quadrangle a few hundred yards from the seafront near Deal. ‘I love its location by the sea and feel that the Georgian architecture suits my possessions,’ she says. The home is in a converted late 18th-century barracks, so seems an appropriate base for Sue, given that her father was an officer in the Royal Engineers.

The interior wasn’t so appropriate for such a grande dame of design, though. Sue describes it as ‘plainly decorated and inoffensive’. After moving in, she set to work transforming the decor into something that’s anything but plain thanks to the injection of her trademark black-and-white palette. ‘I’ve had an affinity with these colours since discovering Japanese calligraphy when studying at the Royal College of Art,’ she says. ‘It inspired my wardrobe and my work.’ To this scheme she’s added the odd splash of vivid red, supplied by a collection of 20th-century vases, textiles and furniture.

Throughout the interior, Sue has mixed pieces from different periods. Around the vintage dining table – given a dramatic update with the addition of a black glass top – are a pair of early 20th-century carved Viennese chairs and four 1930s Italian ebony-framed chairs. Elsewhere in the room is a contemporary cabinet, designed by Sue, and a limited-edition Jean Cocteau printed scarf by Zika Ascher. None of the pieces are by the same designer or even from the same era, yet all sit comfortably together.

Sue has been a collector since childhood, when she would amass postcards of all the places she’d lived. Since then, she’s developed a love for the work of Italian surrealist Piero Fornasetti, whose plates she displays on her dining room wall. ‘I first discovered the work of Fornasetti 20 years ago when Paul Smith pointed out some similarity of style between his work and certain aspects of mine,’ she says. ‘I bought my first piece, a plate that hangs above the fireplace, soon after and have loved the designs ever since.’

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Arts and Crafts and art deco vases feature heavily, too, and Sue estimates that she has around 200-300, many bought locally from the nearby towns of Deal, Whitstable and Rye. ‘I love the angular shapes and striking colours of this period of design,’ she says. ‘There are minimalists and then there are people like me who have always collected. I gain inspiration from my collections, their colours and shapes, and find knowing the history behind an object very satisfying.’

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