A colourful Victorian house in London
Inspired by the heyday of Hollywood Regency, the east London home of Rose Hanson and Josh Widdicombe is eclectic to its core. Photographs James Balston
'I often have to say to myself, “is this too Trump Towers?”’ laughs Rose Hanson, when describing her attraction to antiques embellished with brass and gold. The TV-producer-turned-antiques-dealer shares her five-bedroom townhouse in east London with her husband, comedian Josh Widdicombe, and their two young children.
It’s a space that she’s filled with a diverse collection of antique and vintage finds, lending an air of comfortable opulence to the traditional Victorian property. Angular brass furniture and shapely ceramic lamps complement the original marble fireplaces and cast-iron radiators, while curved Art Deco mirrors and expressive artworks line the walls.
Rose and Josh purchased their home five years ago, completing the renovations in a hurried six weeks before the arrival of their first child. ‘It was a real baptism of fire choosing the colours for the house,’ explains Rose. ‘I went with my gut and chose shades that I liked, but it was a bit of a gamble.’ The couple’s first house, a Victorian terrace near London’s Columbia Road, was neutral in comparison, so Rose was keen to flood this space with vibrant colour.
Looking to her wardrobe for inspiration, she opted for shades of pink and green, and cloaked the hallway in a sumptuous navy blue – a Papers and Paints hue inspired by a classic Uniqlo jumper. ‘In London, lots of people paint the outside of their houses a dark colour, so I just chose to bring the colour inside,’ she says.
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Growing up in a Victorian property filled with sentimental objects gave Rose an appreciation for interiors with meaning. ‘Everything that my parents owned had a reason for being there,’ she explains. ‘There was always a memory attached to something, rather than “this matches this, and that matches that.”’ She cites her mother, an artist, and her father, a television set designer, as her influences. ‘Lots of the pieces in my childhood home came from sets – our carpet was from This Is Your Life and all our Christmas decorations came from TV specials,’ she says.
This approach to interiors is ingrained in Rose’s personal style, and only a few of the pieces that she owns were bought brand new. ‘Part of the joy of decorating is finding those antique items that bring a room together,’ she says. ‘I like things to have meaning. I’ll find a sofa, or a pair of lamps, and the room will go from there – it’s an organic process.’
Most of Rose’s collection is from years of hunting for antiques at flea markets, antiques shops and on eBay. ‘I like choosing items that wouldn’t normally sit together,’ she says. Whether it’s a petite Victorian sofa upholstered in goddess-print fabric by Beata Heuman, or a polished mid-century palm lamp side-by-side with traditional brown furniture, Rose’s home is a study in the unexpected. A self-confessed magpie, she has an eye for metallics and is drawn to decorative antiques with a glamorous edge.
‘I’ve been over to Palm Springs a few times, and I love Hollywood Regency style,’ she says. ‘I wouldn’t describe myself as a maximalist, but I’ve always been a fan of brass and bold colours.’ It’s this use of polished metals that brings a sense of laid-back grandeur to the family’s home. From the clean-lined vintage Lucite dining chairs and angular Pierre Vandel coffee table, to the elaborate antique French marriage dome displayed above the living room fireplace, the house is filled with pieces that embody the charm of Hollywood’s golden age.
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However, when it comes to antiques, Rose’s true passion is for lighting. ‘Lamps are a bit like footwear to me; they need to have character. I like them to be a talking point in a room, rather than something that blends into the background.’ She mentions a pair of mirrored 1950s lamps in the master bedroom, and the oversized rippled glass lamp bases in the kitchen (a bargain from Sunbury Antiques Market), as some of her favourites – though her collection is always growing. This love for lighting, paired with sharing pictures of her home on social media, inspired Rose to start a lockdown business selling antique and vintage lamps, sconces and other decorative pieces on Instagram.
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Rose sources items that are in-keeping with the style of her home: ‘It’s a way of being able to buy things that I really love without cluttering up my house,’ she laughs, ‘and selling on Instagram is great in so many ways, because you can reach people who you wouldn’t normally.’ She is hesitant to describe herself as an antiques dealer: ‘I wouldn’t say that I have a specialism in a particular time period, but I like curating.’
Though Rose and Josh sometimes consider moving out of London, the city views would be hard to beat. ‘You can see The Shard from my daughter’s bedroom window,’ Rose explains, ‘and on Bonfire Night we look out of the back of the house and watch all the fireworks.’ And while the necessary renovations are now complete, there’s still much pleasure to be taken in changing things around in the house – there’s always a stack of artworks to go to the framer’s, an antique chair to be reupholstered or a room to be repainted. ‘Josh always says to me, “is the house finished now?”... but it’s never finished!’
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