Me and my home: Skye Holland - House & Home - Property - The Independent

Me and my home: Skye Holland

The Brighthouse has had as many functions as its owner has had careers, discovers Jenny Knight


Skye Holland has been an artist, author, educationalist and sign language interpreter. She and her architect husband bought a Georgian house in the village of Wickham, Hampshire.

Skye Holland has been an artist, author, educationalist and sign language interpreter. She and her architect husband bought a Georgian house in the village of Wickham, Hampshire.

After 10 years raising children and working as an artist and author in Johannesburg, I came back to Hampshire in 1999. We wanted a spacious house, somewhere to live and work. Because my husband had his own practice, it made economic sense to create the business from home.

As soon as I stepped inside this place, the house felt welcoming, light, spacious and stylish and offered us loads of flexibility with 3,000sq ft of space. It was originally called Bridge House because the River Meon runs around the property, after flowing over the waterwheel of the Chesapeake Mill next door. I recently changed the name to The Brighthouse, as it seemed more modern and it is a very bright house.

It's Grade II-listed and, like most Georgian buildings, has lovely proportions. It had been totally renovated and the previous owners' restoration work won a local historical society award.

Modern as well as antique furniture, sculptures and paintings work really well within the classic setting. The house, which has nine bedrooms, was built by a doctor for his sister. I suppose she had her social position to keep up and needed an imposing house, but it seems big for one person, although it's a wonderful place for entertaining. I have the handwritten deeds, which I shall pass on to the new owner.

We chose Wickham because we wanted somewhere that had good communications; it's 25 minutes to Southampton airport and just a stone's throw from the M27.

Emmanuelle, 16, jumps on a coach every day for Portsmouth Grammar; she wants to be a foreign correspondent. When we lived in South Africa she became very aware of politics and is full of opinions. Alongside Nelson Mandela, Kate Adie is her hero. My son Lucien, 14, has just won a sports scholarship at Clayesmore in Dorset. The fees are still hellishly high: his brief is to get into the England rugby squad so he can help us out later.

Meanwhile, I'm having to reassess my future. I'm divorced now and need to sell this house to release some equity for school fees and to set myself up again.

I imagine The Brighthouse will be bought by cosmopolitan types who also want to run a business from here, or perhaps it will be a family who just love the house and location. The Brighthouse has been an antiques showroom and café and, further back in time, the vaulted kitchen was originally used for leather curing: steel hooks still hang from the ceiling where hides, which were washed in the river, were hung up to dry. The upper floors still have the original beautiful wide floorboards and each room has an elegant fireplace. What we call the kitchen tea room has an enormous fireplace with bread ovens. This would have been the housekeeper's quarters.

The house is for sale for £750,000, but if it had a couple of acres of garden it would cost in the millions. Instead it has a courtyard, which could be landscaped into a pretty and manageable garden. This house might take a while to sell because it's like a good antique. The right person will eventually come along and fall for it just as I did.

My children know what they want to do, but I am looking for another fulfilling project. I trained in fine art at Central St Martin's in the Eighties and have worked as an artist and printmaker, but to keep the money coming in and make a living while parenting I've done many other thing. Like many other creative women, my CV reads like a madly over-embroidered quilt.

I was born into a deaf family, so I was able to do signing for television in South Africa. I also worked as a consultant for international corporations, helping them build investment art collections. One of the most exciting projects was creating a contemporary collection of South African art for a telecommunications company; this evolved into a dynamic educational outreach resource, and I co-authored three educational resource books, which are now incorporated into South Africa's national curriculum for art and culture. The project was endorsed and praised by Mandela, which of was, of course, thrilling.

I'm open-minded about where I'll move to, somewhere smaller but accessible for my work and kids.

The Brighthouse is on sale through Savills' Southampton office (023 8071 3900) for £750,000

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