Kate Farnaby Case Study
Oct 20, 2023
Step inside vintage and revamped furniture expert Kate Farnaby’s stunning home transformation in Buckinghamshire…
As owner of vintage furniture and modern homeware store Edie + Po, Kate Farnaby is constantly on the lookout for standout interior pieces that could do a new lease of life – as well as contemporary items that chime with her sustainability focus. And when it came to her own home renovation, she maintained this approach – “I applied the same ethos to my shop as I did to my renovation: to reuse the old, and if you buy well, you buy for life.”
Fortunately, when it came to sourcing tiles for the project, Bert & May was able to tick both boxes. Here, Kate explains more…
Full name: Kate Farnaby
Occupation: Shop owner and TV producer
Style and location of your property:
17th Century former Inn, in Buckinghamshire
Who lives there: Me, my husband Arnold, our 12-year-old daughter Edie, our nine-year-old son Harpo, our dog Roly, two cats and a rabbit!
How would you describe your personal interior design style?
An eclectic and fun mix of vintage and traditional. I love to mix up my eras and don’t believe you should stick to one style.
Have you always had a passion for interiors? How did it start?
When I was growing up, my parents were forever changing and improving our houses and were never afraid of a project. I was born in a tiny and very old cottage in a village in North Yorkshire, similar to the house I live in now, and as our family grew, so did the house - they just kept adding bedrooms when they had more kids or a bit of money! Then we moved to a wreck of a farmhouse which they have spent 30 years lovingly renovating an extending.
My mum was also one of those people who would redecorate ALL the time, but nothing flashy. A little old man called Ernie did every single building or decorating job for us for as long as I can remember, and he pretty much lived in our house - I think my mum was his only client, and he got paid in sandwiches and biscuits! So it seemed inevitable that I would always live in old houses and I would do my own renovation one day. Sadly, Ernie was not around to do this project for me.
Tell us about your company, Edie + Po…
Edie + Po is named after my children, Edie and Harpo, because I wanted something that they could be proud of, and that had an impact on their future. I applied the same ethos to my shop as I did to my renovation: to reuse the old, and if you buy well, you buy for life. This will reduce your impact on the environment and build a better future for the next generation.
We do lots of things at the shop that tie-in with this; we revamp old furniture, giving tired and unloved pieces a new lease of life, and I buy modern homeware that’s as sustainable as possible – locally made, natural or recycled materials, and from small independent businesses who chime with my ethos. We sell the revamped furniture, but we also provide a service to customers where we can do the revamping for them and hold workshops to teach them how to do it themselves.
Where do you find the pieces you sell?
I buy all my furniture second hand and it can come from anywhere! I spend a lot of time scouring local auction houses, car boot sales and antiques fairs, but I also have a lot of very lovely local people who always tell me when someone they know wants to move a piece on. I love it when a friend’s mum will ask me round to help declutter her house, or when a customer comes in to tell me that her neighbour has an Ercol chair she wants rid of!
I choose my pieces carefully; they have to have good bones and a simple style. I like the clean lines of mid-century furniture, but also really appreciate the craftsmanship and intricacy of older pieces. They really put a lot of effort into making simple things like stools and dining chairs in the past, maybe they had more time on their hands than we do now!
My more modern homeware and gifts are carefully curated; from small designers such as Pia at Burnt Peach who does brilliant prints and happens to live in my village to larger affordable wholesalers like Sass & Belle who have a great sustainable collection that my customers love.
Where did your love of vintage come from?
I was always one of those teenagers who was dressed head to toe in vintage clothes, and when I moved from city to city throughout my uni years and early twenties, I would spend hours and hours scouring huge vintage emporiums for bargain, one-off pieces of clothing and homeware. And then, I don’t know if it was fate or if I manifested it, but my early career in television led me to working on antique shows. So while my friends were becoming high-powered lawyers, or travelling and going to festivals, I spent all my time researching antiques, going to auctions and car boot sales at the weekends and hanging out with antiques experts.
I learnt how and where to buy antiques, how to spot a bargain or a priceless piece. Then when I had children, I decided I would scale back my work in TV to pursue a more family friendly job, so I thought – what else do I know about? What else do I love? And that’s when Edie + Po was born.
Tell us about your recent renovation project…
We had been living in London for 20 years when I decided I had had enough! Not that I fell out of love with London - it’s the best city in the world - but I’m a country girl at heart and I needed more space and fresh air, for me and my family.
I found it so hard to find the right house, nothing was quite right, probably because I needed to do it myself. So I scaled back my wish-list and focused on location, and when I did that I found our house. It was in the perfect spot, but it needed a huge amount of work, and I thought, I can do this! Why not? I’d seen my parents do it loads of times, and if I can’t find what I want then I’ll just create it, using this lovely old shell as a starting point.
Please outline the project for us…
It’s on the village green in a lovely village in Buckinghamshire. Its core is a 16th-century former inn, and is Grade II listed in a conservation area, which means we were pretty tied when it came to the big structural ideas.
We were granted permission to knock down a dilapidated 20th -century extension and replace it with a new kitchen-diner with a huge glass wall into to the garden. We were also allowed to do some small internal changes to the layout as long as we only removed modern additions and we retained all of its original features, which I was more than happy to do.
A lot of our budget went on dragging the old house back kicking and screaming into the 21st century! It had to be fully rewired, replumbed, new floors, new ceilings, all plaster work had to be replaced, four new bathrooms put in and of course that meant the entire house had to be decorated. So I was starting from scratch, which I found incredibly overwhelming!
With so much interior inspiration coming at me from social media, television, magazines (hasn’t the whole world gone completely interiors mad?!), it felt like I could have gone in any direction, but I had to focus on one thing and that was the original features of the house. It’s a very old house with beams and low ceilings, but the new parts are larger open spaces with soaring high ceilings, so I had to find a way to bring them together
What were your main sources of inspiration for the project?
The house itself and the light in each room was what led me to my main decisions. The front of the house is north facing and has low ceilings with lots of beams, particularly downstairs, so those rooms are dark. can’t change that, so I went with it, deciding that these rooms would be our cosy, winter rooms. I decorated them in deep and dusky shades of greens and pinks from Farrow & Ball that embrace the dark and cosy mood.
The south-facing rooms are at the back and include a little conservatory and the new kitchen-diner extension. These rooms are flooded with light and can get pretty hot in the summer, so I went with an off-white with wooden floors to reduce the glare, and a super-dark green on the kitchen cabinets. The contrast works really well with the light in that room and felt like an easy natural decision.
The bathrooms were the easiest part for me, as I had quite a clear vision – all the vanity units were always going to be vintage. Modern vanity units are my bête noire! I couldn’t find a single one that I liked (or could afford), so I sourced some vintage units, sanded them down and painted and varnished them, then my lovely builder and his team adapted them for me with modern sinks and taps. I’m so pleased with each one, it was a really satisfying part of the project because they are unique and fit each space perfectly.
Which Bert & May products have you used and where?
I have used Bert & May tiles in every single one of my bathrooms!
With so many spaces starting from scratch, I decided to take advantage of Bert & May’s amazing free consultancy service. The lovely Annie was so good at listening to my ideas and needs, and really understood what I wanted.
The family bathroom that had been reconfigured and was a blank canvas, but I knew I wanted a fun and playful space for the kids, whilst not going too childlike as they are growing up fast! We settled on the Split Shift tile combined with the lovely Skinny White Metro tiles, and it feels like the perfect balance of fun and stylish, and the kids absolutely love it.
Our master ensuite I wanted to feel really zen and calming, with neutral natural colours. Green is a recurring theme in my house because of its connection with countryside around us and my need for calm! So Annie suggested the Raw Rectangle Zellige with the Moss Green Bejmat. I absolutely LOVE these tiles and think this is one of my favourite spaces in the house. They get so many comments from visitors as they’re so unusual, yet simple and beautiful, I couldn’t be happier.
I loved the Bejmat tile so much that I decided to use it again in our guest ensuite, this time in Ebony. It was a choice I wasn’t totally sold on at first, but Annie was absolutely right. In that room I wanted an elegant, stylish art deco feel. It has some black 1930s leaded diamond windows in there, so I took them as inspiration. We went with the black and white Cozar tile on the floors and walls, then wrapped the walk-in shower in the Ebony Bejmat and it looks amazing. Guests are very spoilt and love the luxury hotel feel of that space.
Finally, we have a tiny guest WC with no windows, an exposed brick wall and little old fireplace. The bricks in there are all a lovely old orange so I picked the Aztec Two Tile to go with them. It’s a bold pattern that reminds me of my childhood holidays in Spain, the colours and style bring me so much joy, sometimes a feeling is stronger than style, but actually this tile gives me both… Oh and it hides all the dirt too which helps!
What do you think they add to the space?
The encaustic tiles and the texture of the Zellige all help to ground these new spaces in nature and dull the newness, in a good way. They take the edge off the shine, which might sound counterintuitive, but I don’t like new things! This is an old house with old bones and I didn’t want the new bits to jar or feel weird, so I deliberately chose tiles that would be in keeping with the old bits.
What led you to use Bert & May?
Every time I saw a tile I liked in a magazine or on social media, they were by Bert & May. Something about the overall style (although the selection is large and varied) tapped into my own, so I followed my nose and got the whole lot from you!
What do you like about us?
I like the mix of old and new, it chimed exactly with my style and ethos. The fact that you reclaim your tiles, and use old patterns on new tiles, means that you can find a tile to fit with any house. My house is originally 17th century but has a mix of eras in the finished structure, some bits are 1930s, some are brand new, so I was able to find tiles to match them all whilst having a cohesive look.
Where are your go-to spots for amazing interior finds?
For vintage items I go to local auctions, such as W & H Peacocks & Claydons, both in Bucks. I also go to my local car boot in Tetsworth and travel to the antiques fairs – Kempton and Ardingly are both amazing. For more modern pieces of course I scour the internet, taking inspiration from Instagram and some of the brilliant affordable online stores like La Redoute and H&M Home. But of course, nowhere beats Edie + Po for little gems that you won’t find anywhere else!
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