Interior designer Cassie Williams’ family home is a masterclass in clutter-free accessorising – mixing new and upcycled seamlessly and stylishly
You can tell a lot about a home – and its owner, from the front garden and as we approach this house it’s not difficult to spot that someone with style is living here. An elegant, and very healthy looking multi-stemmed olive tree – worthy of a role at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show – fills most of the space, the rest given over to tasteful and tidy grey slate.
Owner Cassie Williams greets us and we enter straight into what was once the front room of the property. This is one of the few clues to the fact that this was once a humble two up, two down late Victorian/early Edwardian end of terrace. Beyond this entrance room, now a study, the interior has become one large open plan space. Gone is the gloom and the cramped separate rooms often associated with a small period property. We are now standing in a spacious kitchen diner that extends outwards and into the garden.
The kitchen stretches out through smart, black Crittall inspired glass doors onto a paved outdoor cooking and eating area, framed by a striking black pergola, which links the outdoor space to the interior. ‘L’ shaped seating fits neatly on one edge of the patio, constructed by Cassie’s husband, unbelievably from old pallets and pieces of leftover wood.
“I like making spaces functional as well as good looking,” Cassie explains. “We do lots of entertaining and the space has proven to be extremely practical for families and lots of kids running around. The sofa from Graham & Green just seems to repel the dirt.”
Cassie explains how they have unified the space without losing its character: “There was a little galley kitchen and it was quite enclosed and small. We did a loft conversion and then completed the kitchen extension last year. We wanted a kitchen diner and we wanted it to feel cosy, but not cluttered. We’ve come out into the garden, but it’s still a good size.”
Keeping a room clutter-free when you want to use accessories (and I get the feeling that Cassie enjoys this aspect of interior design) can be hard, but she says, “One way is to pare down the colours and to stick to a theme, using harmonising neutrals with accents in contrasting colours and materials.” This helps to unify and streamline the space.
Texture is key with a limited colour palette and Cassie has chosen to use natural materials to bring a Scandi-boho vibe to the living area. Fur, recycled wood and rattan, together with plants – real and faux – and hard to tell the difference; she has some amazingly life-like faux pot plants from Abigail Ahern. These all contribute to the stylishly relaxed look. The background colour scheme is neutral and the kitchen itself is a very pale beige – so beige that the kitchen supplier (Collins Bespoke in Bethersden) was worried it was all too much of the same colour. “But he trusted me,” laughs Cassie. “Flatter tones of cream and grey need layers of texture. Accents in wood and antique brass contrast with the beige.” Her vision has certainly paid off.
Practicality is another important factor, as this is very much a family home. “I like making spaces functional as well as good looking,” Cassie explains. “We do lots of entertaining and the space has proven to be extremely practical for families and lots of kids running around. The sofa from Graham & Green just seems to repel the dirt,” she adds with a smile. The sides of the island unit in the kitchen are clad in recycled wood, so that their son, aged four, can sit at it and happily kick his feet on the wood with no ill effects.
“I am a big fan of hidden storage too,” she says, pointing to corners and under pieces of furniture, where hitherto unnoticed baskets and bamboo boxes of all shapes and sizes emerge into view. The bench by the stable-style back door is not just a useful spot for sitting on to remove or put on your boots, but also conceals large storage baskets underneath. “We were going to have a utility room here, but the back door lets in lot of light, and the space works as it is, really.” Natural light is often hard to come by in period properties, and the split door is a good way to bring in a feeling of light and space.
This is where the old part of the house meets the new extension and Cassie has cleverly zoned the kitchen, dining and sitting areas within a larger unified space, combining features from the original rooms so that they work seamlessly with the new part. “We wanted the old to look old, and wanted the new to look rustic, but with a slightly industrial feel.” She has used black as an accent colour to link elements of the space together, so the unit around the fireplace has been designed to echo the framed glass doors at the end of the kitchen. They have exposed the original brick fireplace and installed a wood burner. The rustic, but cosy feel in this end of the space is further enhanced by subtle screening and the sitting area is separated from the dining table by a unifying black and bamboo screen.
The kitchen itself is a very pale beige – so beige that the kitchen supplier (Collins Bespoke in Bethersden) was worried it was all too much of the same colour. “But he trusted me,” laughs Cassie. “Flatter tones of cream and grey need layers of texture. Accents in wood and antique brass contrast with the beige.” Her vision has certainly paid off
Upcycling is a key theme in this house; it can be difficult to achieve successfully, but Cassie has been able to use her experience as an interior designer – she owns and runs Truffle Interiors – and this has helped her to develop an expert eye for the details that bring a look together and how furniture that at first appears dull and ordinary can become key parts of a scheme. Cassie insists that it’s an easy thing to transform ordinary off-the-shelf or second hand pieces. She gestures towards the black and rattan sideboard in the kitchen, which she bought from JN Rusticus. “You could create something similar by buying an IKEA unit, adding some webbing, and painting the cabinet black and – boom – a bespoke item.” Easy when you know how. She has also become very adept at combining bespoke pieces with furnishings from the high street. “It works for clients in terms of budget as it makes things more accessible and achievable.”
Repurposing and upcycling continues in the front room, which is now useful office space. Cassie’s husband has made his ’n’ hers desks from reclaimed wood on either side of fireplace. “It’s a cosy place to work in the winter,” she says, “the open fire is always on in here.” This room is also home to their latest acquisition – her childhood piano.” I started playing when I was six, so it won’t be long before our son can start.” Despite being right by the front door, the piano looks perfectly at home and fits into the scheme as if chosen from the start.
The stairs here are narrow and perilously steep and, unusually, in the centre of the house. This has allowed them to reconfigure the upstairs rooms and to continue the stairs up through the middle of the building to the loft conversion, which has been converted into a master bedroom and en suite. The bathroom has been relocated to the centre of the house, which has enabled two bedrooms to be created where the bathroom once was.
“I had fun with the bathroom,” Cassie says. “I’ve gone for an Edwardian feel, to be in keeping with the house.” The original floorboards have been retained, but to make them more bathroom friendly, they were filled with mastic, then painted almost black – using Farrow & Ball’s Railings
What used to be the main bedroom has now become a sumptuous guest bedroom, with a single wallpapered wall opposite the bed. “Feature walls have gone out of fashion,” says Cassie, “but it works really well in here. I love putting patterns together but you have to do it delicately.” The original fireplace has been refurbished and the walls papered with an oriental wallpaper in a dusky teal from Rockett St George. A large oval mirror above the fireplace brings a distinctly Edwardian and traditional feel, but Cassie has been careful to add in contemporary elements and layers of texture to bring the look up to date. The original floorboards have been painted white, the other three walls are also pale, painted in Cox & Cox’s Flaxen. These elements, together with the window treatment – sound blocking Venetian blinds flanked by translucent linen curtains from Zara Home – all help to create a soft and natural backdrop to the scheme.
The colours in this room were determined by a cushion cover. “It often happens like that,” Cassie smiles, “it started with a cushion in here, but all sort of things can trigger a colour palette.” She has used accents of black in this scheme too, painting the iron bedstead and adding in accessories. “I really like black, but only as an accent. Neutral colours are great as a background with pops of colour.” This also means that the look can be changed without the upheaval of redecorating a whole room. “I do miss this room,” she sighs, “the loft room doesn’t have the high ceilings and sash windows. It does have a lovely en suite though, so that’s the trade off.”
Outside on the landing, the floorboards have been sanded down and lightened, using layers of Bona wood finish. “The more you put on the lighter it gets, but in a subtle way.” This space – which could have been just a dull corridor – is bright and airy, and filled with natural light, thanks to the large sash window that, in the original configuration, was in a bedroom.
During construction the builders also uncovered another fireplace on the outside wall. They have exposed the brick surrounding it, and now it ties in with the one below and brings a touch of contemporary rustic chic to the landing.
The repositioned bathroom has no windows, but this creates privacy and seems to add to the moody elegance. “I had fun with the bathroom,” Cassie says. “I’ve gone for an Edwardian feel, to be in keeping with the house.” The original floorboards have been retained, but to make them more bathroom friendly, they were filled with mastic, then painted almost black – using Farrow & Ball’s Railings.
The couple’s son helped to design his bedroom and Cassie solved the problem of storage for little people: “You don’t want a huge wardrobe in a child’s room, so we found these metal lockers at Mustard Made, which work really well.” More useful storage has been created using Cassie’s favourite bamboo baskets, here tucked tidily into a cubby-holed shelving unit.
Upcycling is a key theme in this house; it can be difficult to achieve successfully, but Cassie has been able to use her experience as an interior designer – she owns and runs Truffle Interiors – and this has helped her to develop an expert eye for the details that bring a look together
As we take our leave, it’s clear to see that Cassie and her husband have carefully pushed at the boundaries of this house, extending outwards and upwards considerably – and all without compromising the integrity of the building. They have stayed sympathetic to its spirit, retaining and enhancing all the original features, and juxtaposing them with contemporary elements. Now boasting four bedrooms instead of two, an en suite and a family bathroom, the couple have doubled the usable space, ingeniously creating a spacious, light filled, family home.
Find out more about Cassie’s company, Truffle Interiors, at truffleinteriors.co.uk
Abigail Ahern abigailahern.com
Bosa Candles (Cassie’s favourite place to get candles) bosacandles.com
Collins Bespoke collinsbespoke.com
Design Vintage (for furniture) designvintage.co.uk
Echo Designs echodesigns.co.uk
Graham & Green grahamandgreen.co.uk
H3 Carpentry Instagram @h3_carpentry
JN Rusticus jnrusticus.com
Kent’s Best Landscapers kentbestlandscapers.co.uk
MSB Contractors Ltd 07743 831832
Mustard Made uk.mustardmade.com
N Ledner Carpentry & Joinery facebook.com/NLednerCarpentryLtd
Rockett St. George rockettstgeorge.co.uk
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