A romantic Regency Villa in Bath

Laura and Dan Taylor’s home is a theatre of beauty, embracing the faded grandeur of old French châteaux with a hint of rock and roll chic. Feature Alice Roberton. Photographs Tamsyn Morgans.

Regency villa in bath
Published: February 3rd, 2022 at 12:38 pm
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At first glance, The Grange looks like any other Regency villa, of which there are many in and around Bath; this is until you notice pale antique lace hung at every window and a rather cool-looking 1986 jet-black BMW parked out front. The prettiness of the delicate window treatment and the retro chic of the car signpost what lies within – together they encapsulate the style of owners Laura and Dan Taylor, who live here with their two young daughters and a pair of languid Burmese cats.

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After studying Art, Laura became a fashion buyer, which led to her working in theatrical clothing. Here she developed a passion for costume, most notably the soft pastel colour palette of ballet dresses and slippers; an influence that sits at the core of her interiors look.

Dan, a professional musician and songwriter, is a founding member and lead guitarist of English rock band The Heavy. ‘We are both very creative people; Dan’s outlet being his music, and the house being mine. Entering our home, you are stepping into my creativity – it’s a curated scrapbook of everything I love, from vintage fashion and ballet dresses to the faded grandeur of Château de Gudanes and the costume and interiors of Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette,’ explains Laura.

Entering via the heavy front door, you are greeted by an elegant white hallway and staircase, with wedding dresses hung on the wall and one of Dan’s guitars just visible on the halfway landing. Painted white throughout, bar a few bare plaster walls and a peachy-pink bathroom, the house has a palpable feeling of calm; a kind of dreamy continental beauty.

‘The house has a real stillness to it – it’s a very grounding and peaceful place, but it needed a lot doing to it to make it aesthetically pleasing,’ says Laura. ‘We moved in on 21st December 2015 and by Christmas Day we were peeling off wallpaper and ripping up carpets.’ Laura recalls the living room’s khaki wallpaper, which was removed to reveal layers of original plaster in a beautiful patchwork of muted and mottled colours; this they kept.

The house, built in the 1820s by the Royal Navy, originally had no kitchen, but a service kitchen was located in the servants’ quarters attached to the rear. To make their current kitchen, Laura and Dan took down a false ceiling to reveal cornicing and what was originally an external wall and back door. ‘We uncovered this for its beautifully carved stone door mantel. To the bewilderment of our builder I wanted to make a feature of this, along with keeping the newly plastered walls untreated!’

Rotten floorboards were replaced with reclaimed ones from Devizes Reclamation, and a simple bespoke kitchen was built by a local carpenter. ‘To our delight, we found original fireplaces boarded up in every room,’ adds Laura.

The soft tones and delicate fabrics synonymous with ballet are a key thread here; something that shows not only in the decorative use of costumes, but in the overall colour palette of the interior. ‘I worked as a dresser at the Theatre Royal, Bath, which led to assisting the costume supervisor on a production for the Royal Shakespeare Company; this is where my love for theatre and costume really began,’ says Laura.

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Collections of old ballet photos, books, dresses and pointe shoes are kept on display instead of hidden away. Adding to the femininity of the house is Laura’s collection of vintage wedding dresses, bridal crowns, veils and Globes de Mariée.

‘Wedding domes, as they are commonly known, were used by married couples in France from the 1800s for collecting items from their wedding day, along with objects symbolising various episodes to come in married life. They are such intimate time capsules and I find it hard to believe families part with them. I treasure them now that they are in my care.’

It’s also impossible to ignore the musical reference running through the house, from the second-hand white grand piano and Dan’s collection of guitars, to pictures of John Lennon and Yoko Ono tucked into an ornate mantel mirror and an old record player gently playing Van Morrison. ‘Dan has quite a collection of music posters, but the colours are much stronger than the colour palette of our interior scheme – I’m really sensitive to colour and prefer soft tones, but I’m building myself up to integrate these stronger colours into the house,’ laughs Laura.

To create a truly authentic home that embraces all things elegantly worn, you have to think outside of the high-street box and turn to antiques shops and flea markets; something Laura does well. ‘The quality of craftsmanship in old things is so much better than most new, and even if fabric is tattered and torn, the structure is usually sound. I’m happy to buy an old French sofa with its original velvet fabric hanging from its bones, or a dishevelled old wedding dress.’

To get the look they love so much, Laura and Dan search high and low for beautiful things: ‘Wherever we travel, the first thing we do is search online for local dealers, shops and markets. We also find a lot of things on Etsy, especially vintage fashion. We’re in our element sourcing for our home.’

The living room

Laura collects and uses piano shawls – originally they protected the top of the piano from nicks and scratches, but they were also popular in the 1960s as boho fashion items – to add colour and pattern. ‘They do a wonderful job of bringing music and fashion together and look divine draped over beds, backs of chairs and sofas,’ says Laura.

Regency villa in bath

The kitchen

A local carpenter built the simple bespoke kitchen units, while the builder took down a false ceiling to reveal cornicing and other architectural features.

Regency villa in bath

The vintage kitchen dresser sits elegantly against an untreated plaster wall, adding a subtly faded, timeworn quality.

Regency villa in bath

In the kitchen, assorted chairs sit around a painted farmhouse table, elegantly dressed with candles and fresh flowers. A dramatic chandelier takes centre stage.

Regency villa in bath

Laura loves to create displays such as this one with a witch’s ball on an upturned glass, Globe de Mariée and vintage books. Laura is the main collector here, with her eye often drawn to personal, ecclesiastical, magical and rare objects. The way she’s collected and displayed her finds is something of a ritual.

Regency villa in bath

The piano room

In the piano room, black lace curtains add a rock and roll element, providing a perfect backdrop for the mirror balls and kimono hanging at the window. The white piano was bought second-hand.

Regency villa in bath

The bedrooms

For Laura, the process of creating a home begins with whitewashing, followed by layering and then adding detail. The main bedroom is furnished with a French bed, a pair of matching bedside tables and boudoir lamps. Among the treasured decorative items are the piano shawl on the bed, and a feather and satin costume hanging on the wall.

Regency villa in bath

Laura’s eye for story-worthy pieces has seen her buying items such as this Romany fortune telling table, on which she has placed a collection of crystal balls: ‘It’s rare to find something like this.Traditionally, when a Romany woman dies, her wagon and all its contents are burned. I love the sense of mystery associated with such objects.’

Regency villa in bath

Costume and wedding dresses hang on an ornate French wardrobe.

Regency villa in bath

In Laura and Dan’s daughter’s bedroom, as in other rooms, muted shades of pinks and peach show themselves against white walls and elegant vintage furniture. A ballet picture on the wall and a cream piano shawl on the bed are typical of Laura’s decorating style

Regency villa in bath

Satin slippers and a black ballet costume make a feature of the original fireplace in this bedroom, while an old drum serves as a bedside table.

Regency villa in bath

The bathroom

With its salvaged bath and walls painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pink Ground, the bathroom has a real boudoir feel. The Madonna statues in the background are just a small portion of Laura’s collection and ‘bring a sense of calm into the home’.

Regency villa in bath
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In the bathroom is a pretty display of Laura’s perfume bottles and ostrich feathers on mirrored trays.

Regency villa in bath
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