Beautiful Brighton: A Lavish Renovation of a Regency Townhouse | Interiors
YesYou can tell someone’s heart and soul has gone to this beautiful but bustling family home in Brighton. “I love collecting, I love shopping, and I love clutter,” says owner and designer Kate Powell. She admits these are some of the reasons she opened a boutique, after running out of space at home. Recycled, restored, salvaged, heirlooms are all key to its distinctive style.
Kate and her husband, Toby, bought the dilapidated Regency-listed townhouse 10 years ago, with its “large, imposing square rooms, easily embellished”. The couple loved the area and the proximity to the beach, as well as the rare find of a property with a garden and driveway. However, they hadn’t realized the enormity of the project, as the house was “rather shabby and in need of a complete overhaul.” We received the survey and I almost had a nervous breakdown looking at it. A team of builders settled in for eight long months while the family stayed in their old house around the corner, “a huge financial outlay”, so that everything from floors to fireplaces could be restored. A basement apartment has been renovated and reintroduced into the main house, which now has five bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Entering the hallway, a mural of foliage and exotic birds gives a taste of what lies ahead. Kate had the Anthropologie wallpaper split in half and framed so that, with the ornate cornices, they look like original murals. Light streams in through the bay window in the kitchen, a room she describes as “a hodgepodge, with everything freestanding.” Almost all the fixtures and fittings in the house have a provenance – the wooden worktops were made from original pottery boards from Stoke-on-Trent, which would have been used to transport the ceramics to the drying room; and a pair of salvaged French cabinet doors Ardingly Antiques Fair in front of a custom closet. Kate describes how she worked with Pawel, her builder brother-in-law, on each piece. “He’s brilliant at making things, so together we could be creative, rather than buying off the shelf.”
The dining room, with its long antique table, is “perfect for receptions and long Sunday lunches when the house is full. Toby cooks and I make the table beautiful with some gold sprayed pineapples and antique lace doilies. One wall is covered with old wooden drawers which house collections of china, tiles and various family products objects, including a diary written by Kate’s parents when they traveled overland to India in the 1960s. “I have many, many trinkets on the walls and I inherited the boxes of things from my mother and my grandmother all over the house.” The mismatched flowers in patchwork style wallpaper, de Eijffingercomplete the DIY look.
Many of Kate’s finds come from India, such as the hearth tiles from Jaipur and the hand-painted blue antique sideboard from Jodphur. Having lived and worked in Bali and India, Kate and Toby met at a trade show 25 years ago. Working together in fashion and homeware allowed them to share their love of travel. “This is the perfect job for someone who loves to shop and loves beautiful things.” Besides the couple’s thriving wholesale business, Powell CraftsKate is Design Director at 5025 Lifestyle and owns a shop, Bluebelle and Co., in the North Laine of Brighton. The store serves as a showcase for the range of products she helped design, including women’s sleepwear, children’s clothing and home accessories.
The grand elegance of the living room belies its daily use by the whole family, reclining on the lounge chairs. Having loved the faded grandeur of Italian hotels, Kate received Domus: a journey through the most creative interiors in Italy by Toby, who inspired her to create the ornate plaster trompe l’oeil on one wall and a mural of cherubs with roses around the fireplace, resembling wallpaper from a bygone era. Meanwhile, floor-to-ceiling glass windows are adorned by the trellis and period ironwork on the outdoor balcony.
Another, more contemporary mural, by the beautiful artist Natasha Kissell, covers the walls of the master bedroom. This is the newest addition to the house – painted after lockdown. Natasha and Kate worked together researching images of tropical flora and fauna for inspiration. A four-poster bed with a multicolored Indian quilt from the boutique and a newly upholstered lounge chair from Bali complete the lavish boudoir look. The couple clearly enjoy the fact that they can pick up some interesting pieces on their travels as part of their wholesale business, although not everything is shipped. life! One of the lace curtains in our bedroom is from a flea market, but the one in the bathroom is a patchwork that I made with my great-grandmother’s old handkerchiefs and doilies. The bathroom has a freestanding bathtub in the center, while a marble sink sourced from the salvage yard, salvo, fell on an old iron kitchen table.
Kate’s inspiration clearly comes from her love of travel and antiques and the house is an expression of her creative tastes, “where every room has a story to tell”. So what does the rest of the family think of the maximalist setting? “My teenage daughter, Ruby, would love to live in a minimalist white box, so she’s quite embarrassed. Fortunately, Toby likes it. He also likes a Churchillian living room with dark wood furniture, so that’s the style of two of the rooms. “But when I look at the photos from this shoot,” Kate admits, “I realize that our house is very flowery.”