Pared Back Perfection: Designer Wendy Nicholls' Home in Norfolk - The Gloss Magazine
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Pared Back Perfection: Designer Wendy Nicholls’ Home in Norfolk

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The head designer at Colefax and Fowler lives in a former 18th-century farmhouse which became a vicarage in 1870. Her style? Classic country house comfort …

Wendy Nicholls has a flat in London but spends every weekend in the country. When she moved in about six years ago, she decided against making any major alterations, apart from repainting and “dollying it up a bit. Every single room had a feature wall – the guest room had a terrifying wallpaper of tropical birds and flamingos.”

However, she did focus on her own bedroom. Three rooms were converted to form a bedroom, dressing room and bathroom. She also blocked up, moved, removed or added a number of doors, installed skirtings and cornices, and replaced Victorian mantelpieces with less elaborate ones, reusing the tiles in the corridor. Because it was very irregular, she “tidied up” the entrance hall by adding an archway, and also installed new bookcases. “I didn’t really want to have books in the passageway, but if I ever leave London to live in the country, I will have a library.”

As far as other aspects of the house go, she has a relaxed attitude. “I haven’t changed the carpet on the stairs. Perhaps one day, when I’m feeling rich, I will,” she says. Similarly, “I’ve got the kitchen from hell, which I’ve never altered. One day, I’ll do something about it.” As a lifelong swimmer, she did have thoughts of installing a pool, “but it was going to be too expensive. There’s a perfectly good thing called the sea for swimming in!”

There’s a sparseness to the way the house is decorated, perhaps more by circumstance than design, heightened by the alterations Nicholls has made. The double drawing room used to be a parlour and dining room, separated by double doors. Nicholls widened the opening, replacing the doors with a triple one. She then reused the double doors between her bedroom and bathroom.

Throughout, the designer has used pieces and fabrics she has acquired through Colefax and Fowler. Her interest in design dates back to her childhood – the very first house she worked on was her doll’s house. She had every intention of becoming an art historian, but “ploughed my exams” and fell into interior decoration. After working with a number of different London decorators, she joined Colefax and Fowler in 1976 knowing that it would be a good place to increase her knowledge of decorating and design history. She has been with the group ever since. Nicholls enjoys the sense of peace she finds at her country house: “For me, it really is worth the two-and a-half hour drive. Increasingly, I find it very difficult to leave each week.”

By Jenny Rose-Innes. From British Designers At Home, Hardie Grant, £30, Photography Simon Griffiths is out now.

The drawing room which overlooks the garden. The directoire chair came from Sibyl Colefax Antiques. Hanging over the fireplace is Clifford Fishwick’s “Clouds: Lundy.”

Throughout, the designer has used pieces and fabrics she has acquired through Colefax and Fowler, where she has worked since 1976.

The dining room (which was originally the keeping room) has lovely views over the graveyard, and is used every weekend when Nicholls has people over for lunch or dinner. Scottish Regency mahogany chairs, covered in brown linen, surround the dining table. Sitting against the right-hand wall is a Danish fruitwood table with tiled top.

Nicholls chose Colefax and Fowler “Caroline” chintz for the blind and ottoman in the bedroom. A 19th-century rush-seated chair in a corner of the main bedroom. Echoes of the random Delft tiles in the hearth are evident in the A La Place Clichy rug.

There is nothing utilitarian about the bathroom with its fireplace, 19th-century tile pictures and watercolours of wildflowers.

Designer Wendy Nicholls outside her Norfolk home, a former 18th-century farmhouse which became a vicarage in 1870.

In the hallway, the staircase which had rotted was rebuilt with Nicholls adding turban finials; The banner pelmet and blind in Colefax and Fowler “Convolvulus” chintz, now discontinued.

The drawing room which overlooks the garden. The directoire chair came from Sibyl Colefax Antiques. Hanging over the fireplace is Clifford Fishwick’s “Clouds: Lundy.”

Throughout, the designer has used pieces and fabrics she has acquired through Colefax and Fowler, where she has worked since 1976.

The dining room (which was originally the keeping room) has lovely views over the graveyard, and is used every weekend when Nicholls has people over for lunch or dinner. Scottish Regency mahogany chairs, covered in brown linen, surround the dining table. Sitting against the right-hand wall is a Danish fruitwood table with tiled top.

Nicholls chose Colefax and Fowler “Caroline” chintz for the blind and ottoman in the bedroom. A 19th-century rush-seated chair in a corner of the main bedroom. Echoes of the random Delft tiles in the hearth are evident in the A La Place Clichy rug.

There is nothing utilitarian about the bathroom with its fireplace, 19th-century tile pictures and watercolours of wildflowers.

Designer Wendy Nicholls outside her Norfolk home, a former 18th-century farmhouse which became a vicarage in 1870.

In the hallway, the staircase which had rotted was rebuilt with Nicholls adding turban finials; The banner pelmet and blind in Colefax and Fowler “Convolvulus” chintz, now discontinued.

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