Me And My Home: Bathing beauty

Mary Wilson talks to Susan Beumée about bringing hotel-level luxury into her home
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The Independent Online

Susan Beumée has been an interior designer for 10 years and works with her mother for their company, Margaret Interiors, in London and the Home Counties

Susan Beumée has been an interior designer for 10 years and works with her mother for their company, Margaret Interiors, in London and the Home Counties

When I bought The Homestead in 2000, it was only a small cottage, but it had fantastic potential. It was in the most desired private estate - the Wilderness Estate - in Sevenoaks, Kent and had a wonderful setting. I had been living in London with my husband, Johan, and son James, but knew the area because I went to school there. I bought the house at a sealed auction and Johan didn't see it until we completed. My stomach was turning somersaults when we walked down the drive and while I walked him round, he kept on saying, 'I can't visualise what it could be like, but I trust you.' I am quite artsy, he is quite academic, so he usually leaves that side of things to me.

"The area around the house was flat, which was important because I wanted to extend it and there were no trees near it, so I knew I shouldn't have any problem with planning. The house is Grade II-listed and although the main part is 200 years old, it has a gorgeous entrance which is Jacobean with wonderful wood panelling, wood floor and beautiful stone fireplace. I realised the house was a gift to someone like myself - it was interior designer's paradise.

"If you are very careful, you can bring in lots of different favourite themes - Tudor, Georgian mixed with modern - but you have to be careful with the flow for it to work and watch where you bring in a new design, as it can spoil the effect. For example, the kitchen is modern, but the doors into it are more traditional, so it marries up with the hallway. All the doors have been made bespoke in a very traditional design and that is important too, so when you come up the stairs you have a continuity of design.

"We rented nearby because we completely gutted the house, apart from the Jacobean hallway, and I worked all the way through my pregnancy. Francina was born just before we moved in. The house was lathe and plaster, so all the ceilings had to come down and we completely re-wired and re-plumbed. What is now the dining room used to be the kitchen, where there was a huge stone larder, but when we peeled back the lino, we discovered wonderful original wooden floors which we were thrilled about.

"Both the dining room and drawing room are designed in Georgian style with bevelled glass doors separating them. The rooms were very dark and the dining room had a large black beam, which I encased and painted white. I painted the walls of this room in a bluey-green, and the drawing room is in a creamy yellow. Both colours create a wonderful feeling of brightness, warmth and light, without being too invasive. And because in those days they used a lot of gilt, I introduced touches of it in the mirrors, chandeliers and wall lights.

"My favourite room is our bedroom, which is heavenly. This is in the new extension with the new kitchen below. I wanted the kitchen to have high ceilings with large fan arches over the doors, so I put in a pitched roof in the bedroom to give that room space. I created the bedroom with a colonial look in mind, because I discovered in the old master bedroom (which I have turned into two bathrooms) little beams in the corners of the room that had been painted over and wanted to continue that look into the bedroom. I painted the wall behind the bed a crimson red, which is not too dark, but not too true red.

"In our bathroom, I wanted to do a 'stage' bath - one raised up on a platform - and I knew I wanted something behind the bath to give the room an impact as soon as you walked in. I found some fascinating hand-carved and fret-worked wooden pictures. I asked if I could have 36 of these - the man looked at me as if I was bonkers - but he did order them and I got joiners to make a screen to which they all clip on with fluorescent bulbs behind. These are behind the bath on two walls and also on the inside of the bathroom door.

"All the lights in the bathroom can dip and, with underfloor heating, it is a very relaxing room. I am a great believer that every room in a home should be enjoyed, especially the bathroom, where you spend quite a lot of time. So many people go on holiday, stay in luxurious hotels and say how lovely it was. So, why shouldn't your own home be like that, too?

"The children's bathroom is modern and fun. One wall is painted with a mural of waves in different blues with glitter and the floor leading up to the bath, which is designed in the shape of a boat in Perspex with portholes in the side, looks like a beach with shells and sand. The sink was clear glass, but I had it sandblasted to make it green and there is a mosaic of waves as the splashback.

"Although I created this house for us to live in for ever, sadly we are having to move because of the children's schooling. It has been filmed for the BBC's Distinctive Homes Around Britain, and has just been on Channel 4's Other People's Homes. The nicest thing was that it was used as an example of how you should do things, when designing a home."

Margaret Interiors: 01959 526838

The Homestead with guest cottage, four bedrooms, and one acre is for sale at £895,000 through Harrods Estates (020-7225 6863) and Jackson-Stops & Staff (01732 740600)

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