Devon longhouse photographed by Jake Eastham Sitting in Lucy Elworthy’s lovely 16th century Wiltshire home I’m struck down by kitchen envy. It's perfect but not in that overdone bling modernism of so many of today’s kitchens - more in an understated, actually I want to copy everything kind of way. The blue of the tongue and groove, for example, is exactly the colour I’d like for the woodwork in my own kitchen.
‘I lived with a few greens and blues before deciding on that one (it’s Light Blue from Farrow & Ball),’ Lucy says. A perfectionist, with a passion for textiles and antique furniture, Lucy has just been named one of the Sunday Times’s top 30 interior designers in the UK. Since the benchmark for selection was designers who create daring living spaces that are also easy to live with, I can see why Lucy Elworthy made the cut. Her style smoothly encompasses ancient and modern, old houses with white walls, ikat textiles, beautiful antiques and cutting-edge lighting - a classic, cool yet eminently comfortable blueprint which seems to transform everything from manor houses to the tiniest country cottage. A former stylist and decorations editor for House & Garden, it was only when Lucy bought and restored an Elizabethan farmhouse in Tisbury with architect husband John Comparelli, building up an enviable black book crammed full of West Country contacts in the process, that she decided to become an interior designer. Since then she has worked on many projects including a contemporary house in Cranborne Chase, a Queen Anne house in Gloucestershire, a Jacobean manor in Oxfordshire and a pretty cottage in East Knoyle, trawling antiques fairs and auctions, sourcing fabrics, finding furniture, lighting and paint colours and always with her trademark stamp, which combines stylishness with a sort of less is more, lo-fi easy living. You wouldn't walk into a room designed by Lucy and think, 'it looks fantastic but I daren't sit down.' She says: "I love texture and soft colours, old linens, early English and French furniture with very simplistic forms.’
Most recently she oversaw the complete renovation of an exquisite Devon longhouse, a blank canvas with a backdrop of character and fine old architecture, which, she says, ' was a dream job.' She and her client sourced every stick of furniture - much of it from antique shops in Honiton and the Decorative Antiques Fair in Battersea. She filled the walls with paintings from Tom Hammick, one of Lucy's favourite contemporary artists, found beautiful rugs from Vaughan, vintage sunburst mirrors (something of an obsession, I suspect) and exquisitely simple ceramics.
Looking at photos of the end result, I am reminded of Kettle's Yard in Cambridge a wonderful arts and crafts house where the plain-ness offsets rooms full of treasures. Talking of which, Lucy seems to have that magpie ability to home in on bargains, recognising their inherent beauty and value before anyone else. A lovely painted armoire in her daughter's bedroom, bought for a hundred pounds is a case in point. it bears the name Zuzana Bartos and scribbled inside the dates 1893 and 1903. 'I like to think a Hungarian circus performer used to own it,' she says.
A project in Wardour, a very stylish brand new house, was a chance for Lucy to pull things back a little with touches of eras past. The Swedish bench, (pictured below), is painted in Light Blue (Farrow & Ball) with Zimmer & Rohde striped fabric on its cushion. The footstool is covered in hand-dyed teal linen from Polly Lyster, the footstool was made by Hossack & Gray.
Recently Luxy completely revamped a bijoux 2 bedroomed cottage in Wiltshire for a client who was downsizing but feeling hemmed in by the lack of space. She called Lucy in to turn her home into a haven. Lucy says: "Because the cottage is so small, I didn’t want to make it seem too busy with patterns and colour. I went for cool airy soft blue/greys in the dining room and hall, and found Swedish antiques in similar colours to keep it looking fresh. One statement I thought would be fun to bring in was the Roger Oates boldly striped runner up stairs from SJH Carpets, Tisbury." I really love the end result of Lucy's makeover - soothing, stylish and actually, pretty wow-factor. The tiny galley kitchen is transformed by Lucy's decision to expose the brickwork of the wall behind it, the dining room (pictured below) is very much in her style - subtle yet with big, bold, flourishes, the emphasis always on quality and good design.
Restoring her own 16th century farmhouse (see her kitchen pictured below) was a massive project, the kind that could probably only be faced by an architect married to an interior designer. John and Lucy had to strip out all the 1950s additions and reinstate lime plaster walls, replacing the 1970s bubble glass doors with oak ones commissioned at Semley Reclamation and an ugly 1960s plywood staircase with a beautiful oak one where the original staircase would have been. A labour of love which took years of sheer grind to complete.
Walking through their house I find myself coveting something on every turn - a cushion or a chair or a rug, straining to hear where it came from, mentally compiling a copycat shopping list. After all this is a woman in possession of an enviable address book of designers, cabinet makers, auction houses built up over the past decade, who also has the knack of getting it absolutely right. Find Lucy Elworthy at http://www.lucyelworthy.co.uk/