Case Study: Sarah Southwell
By Victoria Smith
Oct 14, 2022
“English country-house style that embraces the authentic and imperfect,” is how Interior Designer Sarah Southwell sums up the look she had in mind when she embarked on her latest project - the total transformation of a 16th-century manor house in Somerset.
The stunning property - where she lives with her husband, and their two children - is a stellar example of its kind, standing proud in its charming rural location with a handsome, historical facade that’s beautifully preserved. Step inside, however, and things get a little less traditional…
Sarah has totally reimagined the space, adding thoughtful design details, attention-grabbing bursts of colour and interesting, one-off pieces throughout, while simultaneously maintaining a timeless aesthetic.
In one bathroom, a bright turquoise antique wooden door slides back to reveal the cool calmness of white marble, while in another the rich lustre of zellige is counterpointed by the softness of lime wash. Clever contrasts are found around every corner, combining to create a home that’s welcoming, inspiring, and - ultimately - a fantastic place to be.
Here, Sarah shares her design story….
Full name: Sarah Southwell
Occupation: Interior Designer
Style and location of your property: A 16th-century manor house in Somerset
Who lives there: My husband and I and our three little boys
What was the property like when you bought it? Was there a lot of work to do?
Yes, it was in need of total renovation including installing a heating system and re-wiring. It’s been a very big job!
What was your overall vision for the home?
English country-house style that embraces the authentic and imperfect. I love ‘generational layering’ – the clever mixing and matching of old and new materials and objects.
You’ve used our zellige and marble in two bathrooms in your home. What was your original vision for these spaces and why were these tiles a great fit?
I wanted to create an English-style interior with a Mediterranean vibe. The zellige adds so much texture and colour, so was a great choice. And the colour palette and texture of marble is beautiful, especially against lime wash paint. There is nothing like real natural stone to make a room sing.
Where did you source the key pieces for these rooms?
The door I found at an antiques market - it was originally an Indian door. And the bath is from Witt & Berg, I love their baths and have used them in a few projects now.
What led you to choose Bert & May?
I have always loved the design and quality of your tiles and have used them in many past projects and will continue to in the future!
Your previous career was as an accessories designer - are there any similarities between what you did then, and what you're doing now?
Yes, there are many similarities as it’s all about colour, space, form and textures.
Have you always had a passion for interiors?
Ever since I was a little girl, I loved to change my bedroom around and around until I was completely satisfied that everything was in the right place and worked! My mum also has a flair for interiors and my dad loves antiques, so I grew up surrounded by beautiful interiors and pieces of furniture.
How would you sum up your personal interior style?
Considered, courageous design.
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere, from National Trust houses to books, magazines, hotels, travelling, and Instagram - there is a fantastic interiors community on Instagram.
Where are your go-to places for fantastic interior finds?
I love finding one-off antiques, one of my favourite places is the antiques market at Kempton which is held every month on Tuesday mornings. You have to get there first thing to get the best pieces - I used to arrive at 6am!
What’s next - any more exciting projects in the pipeline?
Yes, I’m doing some more exciting residential projects in London and I’m hopefully just about to start on a period country house in Devon.
See more of Sarah’s home on Channel 4’s Renovation Nation on Tuesday 25th, Thursday 27th and Friday 28th October at 4pm.
Follow Sarah on Instagram - @sarahsouthwelldesign