Our friends thought we were mad when we moved here,” says Sally Russell as she and her husband Brad show us around their home. “Not because they didn’t like Tunbridge Wells, but simply because for eleven years we had lived in a big, rambling 17th century house in Goudhurst.

The fire blazes away in the sitting room with its magnificent marble surround and classic late Regency/early Victorian grate. An ornate gilded mirror stands on the mantelshelf along with storm lanterns and scented candles to perfume the air

The fire blazes away in the sitting room with its magnificent marble surround and classic late Regency/early Victorian grate. An ornate gilded mirror stands on the mantelshelf along with storm lanterns and scented candles to perfume the air

Brad and Sally removed the wall that previosuly separated the kitchen and dining room: “I think the space works really well,” says Sally. “It’s lovely to be able to cook and chat to our guests at the same time.”

Brad and Sally removed the wall that previosuly separated the kitchen and dining room: “I think the space works really well,” says Sally. “It’s lovely to be able to cook and chat to our guests at the same time.”

Sitting in their elegant dining room, it’s easy to see now why the couple were so smitten with the house, but as they begin to talk about the condition that it was in when they first saw it, you realise why their friends were so aghast at their decision

Sitting in their elegant dining room, it’s easy to see now why the couple were so smitten with the house, but as they begin to talk about the condition that it was in when they first saw it, you realise why their friends were so aghast at their decision

The old 1970s units in the kitchen have been replaced by beautifully finished hand-built cupboards and drawers. Brad painted them in Farrow & Ball’s London Stone

The old 1970s units in the kitchen have been replaced by beautifully finished hand-built cupboards and drawers. Brad painted them in Farrow & Ball’s London Stone

Brad and Sally’s daughter Bobby writes up the menu on a piece of glass hung in the dining room whenever they have a special dinner

Brad and Sally’s daughter Bobby writes up the menu on a piece of glass hung in the dining room whenever they have a special dinner

A shiny black Aga warms the room and behind it, the alcove has been covered with scarlet tiles. Sally loves to cook so it’s also a very practical and efficient space: “The Aga was non-negotiable,” she says flatly. “I’ve always cooked with one.”

A shiny black Aga warms the room and behind it, the alcove has been covered with scarlet tiles. Sally loves to cook so it’s also a very practical and efficient space: “The Aga was non-negotiable,” she says flatly. “I’ve always cooked with one.”

The transformation of the kitchen is remarkable, and the couple chose black granite for the work surface

The transformation of the kitchen is remarkable, and the couple chose black granite for the work surface

Housed in the former coal chute, the curved ceiling of the bathroom has been retained, so that with the huge freestanding bath and the limestone mosaic tiles, the room has more than a hint of the Roman baths about it.

Housed in the former coal chute, the curved ceiling of the bathroom has been retained, so that with the huge freestanding bath and the limestone mosaic tiles, the room has more than a hint of the Roman baths about it.

The kitchen windows look out onto a glass-covered anteroom, the wall of which has been painted in Fired Earth’s Cochineal

The kitchen windows look out onto a glass-covered anteroom, the wall of which has been painted in Fired Earth’s Cochineal

On entering through the front door, you arrive on the first floor of the house’s five levels

On entering through the front door, you arrive on the first floor of the house’s five levels

A wooden door with stained glass inserts leads to Bobby’s room on the top floor

A wooden door with stained glass inserts leads to Bobby’s room on the top floor

Up one flight of stairs, is the study. The wall between the study and drawing room was reinstated to make the drawing room next door its original, square shape. “It was a sort of wasted space,” explains Sally. “Quite nice to have a really big sitting room, but it wasn’t the original layout and it made it more difficult to sit cosily around the fire.”

Up one flight of stairs, is the study. The wall between the study and drawing room was reinstated to make the drawing room next door its original, square shape. “It was a sort of wasted space,” explains Sally. “Quite nice to have a really big sitting room, but it wasn’t the original layout and it made it more difficult to sit cosily around the fire.”

An iron bedstead holds centre stage in the master bedroom. Either side of the chimney breast and above the bed there are framed antique samplers. “When I first started work, it was in an auction house and one of the guys there used to collect old samplers. I bought one and just caught the bug,” says Brad

An iron bedstead holds centre stage in the master bedroom. Either side of the chimney breast and above the bed there are framed antique samplers. “When I first started work, it was in an auction house and one of the guys there used to collect old samplers. I bought one and just caught the bug,” says Brad

Holly’s room is simply furnished, with a Victorian brass and iron bed. A beaded silk dress lies on the linen bedcover and looks very much like a vintage find, but in fact, Sally says it’s a high street gem that Holly’s expert eye spotted

Holly’s room is simply furnished, with a Victorian brass and iron bed. A beaded silk dress lies on the linen bedcover and looks very much like a vintage find, but in fact, Sally says it’s a high street gem that Holly’s expert eye spotted

Daughter Bobby’s room is on the top floor of the house, and houses an impressive collection of work by local artists

Daughter Bobby’s room is on the top floor of the house, and houses an impressive collection of work by local artists

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether
  • styling: Lucy Fleming

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