Case study: Kristine Hall, Restoring Lansdowne
By Victoria Smith
Nov 14, 2022
When Interior Design Consultant Kristine Hall and her family swapped their beautifully refurbished Victorian terrace home in East London for a Georgian country house in “desperate need of an overhaul”, they knew there was work to be done. With plenty of period features providing bags of character, the bones of the property were impressive, but an extensive update was required to ensure interiors would both suit the family’s lifestyle and reflect their personal tastes.
Before work started inside, however, number one project on the to-do list was actually outdoors, specifically a derelict swimming pool that, in addition to being a potential hazard, was a total eyesore. Kristine’s aim was to turn it into a large sunken patio area that would transform not just views from the main house but also the way the space was used.
Through a combination of thoughtful design and a clever colour palette that references the rusty-red brick garden walls, Kristine has created a spectacular outdoor area that both complements the home and makes a design statement in its own right. It’s a fantastic exterior focal point that will evolve and grow with the family - and a stellar example of how our plain encaustic tiles can help create spaces that are truly timeless.
Here, Kristine shares the story so far, and reveals what’s next…
Full name: Kristine Hall
Occupation: Interior design consultant and accidental fruit farmer
Style and location of your property:
It’s a timber-framed farmhouse in Suffolk. The oldest parts date from about 1550 but it was extended by the Georgians, the Victorians and with later additions too. It’s a mixed bag architecturally which is quite fun as I don’t feel bound by historical accuracy.
The front garden was once part of a medieval village green and over the centuries the property has been owned by grain and poultry farmers and millers. In the 1950s a Royal Navy commander and his wife planted a huge organic orchard behind the house. Many of the trees remain and I’m upskilling myself on how to care for them and make use of the truckloads of apples, pears, plums, and damsons they produce!
Who lives there:
I live here with my husband Dan , our two-year-old daughter, Juniper, and our two cats.
What are your plans for the property?
Apart from painting a couple of rooms we haven’t actually started work on the house itself yet. We have big plans in the pipeline though and have been busy tackling the garden in the meantime.
The first project will be renovating the old carriage house so we can move in there when we renovate the main house. It’s uninhabitable so we’ll essentially need to knock it down and rebuild, but it has the potential to be a really magical spot for friends and family to stay. It sits at the edge of the property overlooking a large pond with weeping willows and killer sunset views.
There’s also a stable block, which used to house Suffolk Punch horses. We’ll convert that into office/studio spaces and a small gym.
The main house has some beautiful period features but it’s in desperate need of an overhaul. We’ll only be making minor changes to the layout – knocking through a modern partition wall to create a larger kitchen and reconfiguring the family bathroom upstairs to remove a dark and pokey, windowless shower room.
There’s a large, rotten timber orangery too that needs rebuilding and then all the usual renovation suspects throughout the house – a new kitchen, utility room and bathrooms, plumbing and heating system upgrades, flooring, windows etc. The lot.
What’s your overall vision for the home?
Reviving a very tired but really charming period property to create our perfect family home…and what I hope will be an idyllic place for our daughter to grow up.
My designs will be sympathetic to the age of the house and of course I’ll retain/restore original or interesting features. But beyond that I’ll be guided by the countryside views and our lifestyle to create warm, welcoming spaces full of the beautiful things, new and old, I’ve collected over the years.
We’re also determined to make the place as energy efficient and wildlife friendly as possible, starting with reforesting the field next to the house with 500 native trees this winter. This would have been oak woodland originally but sadly not a single oak tree remains.
How far have you got so far?
Our first priority was to make the derelict swimming pool safe for an inquisitive toddler. With no steps or railings and full of algae and sludge, it was a major concern. Twice I had to rescue stranded ducklings who had fallen in. If you’ve never tried to catch a duckling with a fishing net, let me just tell you now…not possible!
You’ve created a stunning set of outdoor steps using Bert & May tiles - which ones did you use, what was your original vision and why were our tiles a great fit?
The old swimming pool was just outside the kitchen door inside a red brick walled garden. Since the day I first saw it, I’d been dreaming of creating a lush and leafy entertaining space with the swimming pool, converted into a sunken patio, at the centre.
The garden walls are rustic – full of cracks, lichen, moss and even the carved initials of previous owners. I didn’t want the new sunken patio space to compete with them, so I designed the retaining walls in contrasting, crisp white brickwork topped with curvy bullnose bricks in dark grey to complement the surrounding slate roofs. But the real feature is the epic 4.5m wide set of steps, tiled in Bert & May Grid Line and plain encaustic tiles in Garnet, Marigold, and Pearl. The steps are deep and perfect for perching or dressing up with lanterns and terracotta pots full of flowers. I absolutely love them.
In designing them I wanted to reference the colours of the old brick and create something playful but classic that won’t quickly date. The delicious colour range and hand-made qualities of Bert & May’s encaustic tiles are a match made in period-house heaven. They have so much character and I’m looking forward to watching them weather.
What led you to choose Bert & May/what do you like about our brand and products?
I’ve admired Bert & May for years. As I designer I rarely use bold patterns and prints, but I love using colour to create a statement. Bert & May’s huge range of incredible colours in multiple shape and size options provides endless possibilities for creative tiling. And the raw finish of the encaustic tiles is so earthy and beautiful.
How and why did you make the move to a career in interiors? Has it always been a passion of yours?
Interior design has always been in my bones. I think most designers say this, but even when I was little, I would constantly rearrange and redesign my bedroom, and I could spend hours staring at the walls of colour cards in a paint shop.
I went on to study fine art but took a major career detour into banking in my twenties. The creative brain wants what it wants though and after a pretty tumultuous period in my life eventually I found my way back. I wrote a blog post about that journey here.
This is your second home refurb - what did you learn first time round that you’ve been able to apply to this project too?
This time we knew going into it that the pre-renovation process takes ages, but it’s so important to give it plenty of time and attention. Planning permissions, architects, structural engineers – it often feels like the actual building work will never get going. But getting the drawings right and finding a builder you can trust spares so much pain later on.
And I think we’ll be better prepared to expect the unexpected this time around too. Some of my favourite design elements in our last house were creative solutions to problems we didn’t know existed at the start. Happy accidents.
How would you sum up your personal interior style?
Conflicted!? I love old houses and antiques but I’m a total sucker for contemporary art and design too. I’m always trying to find the right balance between the two.
A home should feel warm, genuine and lived-in. Everything starts with the building – its features, history, the light, and the setting. The style I’m going for here will be very different from what I designed for our last place (a Victorian mid-terrace in East London) but with plenty of common threads. Soft, natural materials, texture, muted colours, wood, and stone…and always a touch of black.
Where do you find inspiration?
A lot of my inspiration for this project has come from its rural setting. Big Suffolk sunsets, the changing colours of the countryside through the seasons and all the visitors we see in the garden. There’s a solitary green woodpecker who lives in the orchard and he’s definitely the house’s spirit animal. Earthy olive greens, taupes and rusty reds with a dash of black for good measure. Plus he hoovers up all the ants which we like.
Where are your go-to places for fantastic interior finds?
I love to browse our local auction house’s catalogues. Recently I snapped up a great little cast iron Victorian bed frame with chippy ochre paint for £20. I’m going to fix it up for our little girl to use when she’s ready for a grown-up bed.
And East Anglia is bursting with incredible artists and craftspeople - potters, painters, furniture makers quietly working away in their rural retreats. At the moment I’m dreaming of a house full of Sophia McEvoy ceramics, Kirsten Hecktermann hand-dyed cushions and some dreamy Alice-Andrea Wing bronze botanicals cast from our orchard fruit.
What’s next - any more exciting projects in the pipeline?
In terms of personal projects, this one will keep me more than busy enough for a good few years I think! But now my daughter is a little older, I have capacity to take on client projects again which is very exciting.
All photos by Kristine Hall
Follow Kristine’s progress on Instagram - @restoringlansdowne or visit restoringlansdowne.com