A Victorian home with an eclectic mix of styles
Louise Convert’s home is a masterclass in mixing pieces from diverse eras and styles. The result is a family hub full of spark and originality. Photographs Brent Darby
‘Victorian boxes, exquisite antique clothes, ostrich feather boas… I wasn’t into the sorts of things that other girls my age were,’ says Louise Convert of her childhood obsessions. Louise goes on to explain that when she was growing up, her bedroom was something of an ever-expanding museum. ‘When I was eight years old, I remember going to an auction with my mum and going bananas for an antique laundry basket. She couldn’t understand why on earth I wanted it,’ she says.
Louise’s antiquing habit clearly started young – the result of many weekends spent ‘traipsing around every antiques shop going’ in the Cotswolds with her parents. Today, her love of antique and vintage pieces – for items that ‘tell a story and have patina’ – translates into a home filled with intriguing pieces. Rather than being wedded to items from a specific era or style, Louise opts for ‘slightly unusual pieces’ – preferring a more eclectic look. ‘I try to avoid playing it safe,’ she says.
Louise’s St Leonards home, which she shares with husband Guy and their two children, Annique and Felix, provides the perfect foil for her slightly theatrical take on interiors. The mid-Victorian house, which sits on a hill and overlooks the sea, was built by Decimus Burton. A protégé of John Nash, Burton was famed for the grand proportions of his buildings.
This villa is no exception. To get a sense of its scale, a full-height wooden giraffe fits neatly on the wall of the staircase. ‘I spotted it at a local antiques shop and had to have it,’ says Louise. ‘The builders were rather puzzled when I asked if a full-sized giraffe would fit in our hallway…’
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Elsewhere, vast chandeliers are hung from the ceilings (the design in the living room is so large that the sash windows had to be removed in order to get it inside), sizeable urns hold palms and all of the baths are free-standing. ‘The space allows our collections to breathe,’ enthuses Louise.
If it all sounds rather expensive, it’s reassuring to know that Louise has a secret weapon: eBay. She uses the site to hunt for everything from Rug Company rugs and marble Metro kitchen tiles to antique French armoires. ‘I’m slightly addicted,’ she admits. ‘It’s the thrill of winning.’
Other pieces were brought from the family’s previous home (an angular 1970s build described by friends as a ‘Bond house’) or bought from local antiques shops. Favourite pieces include the 1970s rosewood sideboard in the dining room and the glass sculpture that sits on top of it, both bought from Vincenzo Caffarella at Alfies Antique Market.
Their collection of glass deserves a mention, too. ‘We do like our glass and collect it from all over. We’re drawn to the shape and colour of pieces, rather than looking for works by a certain designer or maker. Some are from Glass Etc in Rye, others from Alfies and a few were found in charity shops,’ says Louise.
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The family bought the house five years ago and its transformation into one home from various flats took 18 months. The kitchen and bathrooms were started from scratch, a 1950s shower was removed from the dining room, and the staircase was relocated. Where original features had been removed, Louise and Guy reinstated them.
‘If there were things which we could see were missing, we asked ourselves, “Would they have been there originally and how can we put them back in?”’ she explains. Ceiling roses and cornicing were reintroduced and the vast sash window in the hallway was unveiled. Most noticeably, perhaps, are the Carrara marble fireplace surrounds.
‘When we moved in, there weren’t any fireplaces in the dining room or living room and the fireplaces in the upstairs bedrooms were boarded up. We tried to find surrounds which matched those in neighbouring houses – it was a bit of a challenge but we did it,’ says Louise.
Few would be brave enough to mix 1970s accessories with antique French furniture and quirky vintage touches (think Sid the taxidermy seagull, a row of cinema chairs and, of course, that giraffe), especially in such a grand period property, but Louise has clearly nailed the look. ‘Mixing styles and eras is all about being confident and thinking, “Yes, this will work,”’ she says. ‘I’m drawn to pieces others would think “I’m not sure I’d do that”. Those are exactly the sort of pieces I want.’
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