In Conversation with Louise Hardy & Nick Barr of Dacres

Rob – “Hey guys, how are you doing today?”

Nick – “Well, it’s a bit early in the morning (laughter), but no it’s okay, all good over here. I’d like it to be a bit sunnier for your trip, but there’s nothing I can do about that.”

Rob – “Summer just hasn’t arrived has it?” 

Nick – “Yeah exactly, but no all is well, you’re (Louise) busy aren’t you… I’ve got nothing to do today, so it’s an all round great Friday.” 

Rob – “So for our readers, tell me a little bit about yourselves. What do you both do for a living?”

Louise – “Well I wear two hats – I work as a PA to an actor, which I’ve done for 30 years and when I’m not doing that, I’m an artist in which I exhibit regularly. I have a show next month, I had one in June also. I’m also about to start an MA in painting at City and Guilds in Kennington which will last for two years, so yeah it’s all pretty busy. Exciting creative times!”

Nick – “And I’m a freelance viola player. I was in the London Symphony Orchestra and I do film and tv work, but the wheels have sort of come off there due to Covid. I also tour with St Martins, but obviously there’s been none of that. Although, fingers crossed we might be going to Bucharest & Prague early September, but again there’s all sorts of hoops to be jumped through.”

The West End has also started up again, so I’m doing bit’s with Les Mis and Phantom, which is nice – I haven’t played Phantom since the mid 80/90s, however, but it will all come back. When I’m not doing that, which has been quite a lot this past year, I spend a lot of time in the garden. That’s my department and inside is Lou’s – she’s in charge of the soft furnishings and I dig things (laughter)”

Rob – “We’ll definitely touch on that a bit later. So it’s more Orchestral stuff?” 

Nick – “Yeah mainly, but I do studio, pop stuff as well, when there’s strings on like Will Young or…” 

Rob – “Have your worked with anyone I’d know”

Nick – “Yeah I’m on ‘Nothing Breaks Like a Heart’, by Miley Cyrus. But yeah, I do loads of that kind of stuff, been doing it for about 30 years. There are some famous songs I’ve been on, but I can’t remember now. I’ve been on a lot of Will Young, he’s been very good to me over the years.” 

Rob – “A lot of love for Will Young then ahah. So you say you’re an artist, what’s your favourite medium?”

Louise – “Well I work in oils at the moment, which I hadn’t for a long time. It’s only been the past 3 or 4 years that I’ve started using that medium, before that it was anything but; my work was much more water based. So yes, the work in the last ten years has mainly been based on the River Thames, up until about a year ago, when it moved onto great rivers of the world. But it’s mainly been the River Thames because my office is in Limehouse. So I’ve been lucky enough to see Canary Wharf grow from nothing and document it through my work. But that was a long time ago. Since then it’s been aerial cityscapes.”

Rob – “Yeah I was going to say – I’ve had a look at your work and I saw the piece, Ghost City, I was blown away by it. It’s so cool”

Louise – Thank you, so I had a show in June or July and I sold that one – was the first one that went. I actually sold quite a lot at that event.” 

Rob – “So was that more experimental?”

Louise –Yes, experimental indeed! It’s a new artistic avenue and journey. It’s very new and the work I’m currently doing is similar but slightly different; I’m trying lots of new things with that theme.” 

Rob – “Yeah it’s really fascinating, mixing the photo transfer with paint. It really is an amazing way of looking at art!”

Rob – “So I was going to ask what your influences are, but I guess it would be cityscapes or the Thames?

Louise – “Well you know, people ask me that and it changes from week to week. It depends who or what I’m looking at. On this one it varied, there was Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Peter Doig, all those people. I take inspiration from everywhere, I like to take all the best bits.” 

Rob – “Speaking of influences, do you think your backgrounds in music and art have had any influence on the design of your house” 

Louise – “I think so, we do love designing our environment and we do, generally speaking, agree on everything. Even our previous house in Brixton was very designed, not overly designed, but we gave a lot of thought into everything. We’re very interested in different materials aren’t we?” 

Nick – “Yeah definitely, I’ve also got a very good friend who’s an interior designer. He’s been quite successful, so you know we’ve used him as a soundboard; he’s been very good at you know ‘if you want this slate, you have to go here, if you want these tiles…’. He’s pointed us in all the right directions.” 

Louise – “Actually, when we started on the house, I created a book, like a mood board, but a book of places we had seen and been to and wanted this house to have a feel of. So even before we did the kitchen, I gathered together images of places I liked and we just took the best bits and put them together.” 

Rob “The property seems to eb and flow from room to room, did you have a design style in mind beforehand, or did you just take inspiration from places you’ve been and loved.” 

Louise – “Well yeah, certainly with the kitchen extension! It’s such a beautiful house, even before we touched it. You know, if you asked someone to draw a house, they’d draw this wouldn’t they, with the double front and door in the middle. So we wanted to build very sensitively, rather than lumping a big box on the back.” 

Nick – “We were pretty nervous because people would come and say, you’re going to wreck this, you’ll ruin the back. It was very ‘English country house’ before, so we were very nervous about ruining it.” 

Louise – “We wanted a very light structure, so as not to ruin it, like a pavilion, a Japanese pavilion.”

Rob – “Yeah I was going to say, it’s definitely got an Asian feel to it.” 

Louise – “We actually never had a design scheme for the rest of the house to be honest, I think we’ve just let it grow organically.” 

Nick – “Yeah it works much better like this. You see, the four rooms upstairs are well sized, the proportions are really good. But down here we had to knock through the two living rooms to create the open-plan structure you see before you. The music room was small, the two living rooms were small, the kitchen was small. It didn’t flow at all, but now it all comes together.” 

Louise – “With the kitchen, it was mainly about bringing the garden into the house. Being able to see out! The only way we were able to see out previously, was if you were washing up, through a tiny window. So this was all about engaging with the garden.”

Rob – “I think a lot of people are trying to bring the outdoors in these days.” 

Rob – “One thing I wanted to touch on, is how impressive and interesting it is, the way you have successfully tied the whole house together, while implementing different styles and elements across the whole space. Was this something you thought of beforehand or something that has developed over the years?”

Nick – ”Maybe it’s the art that ties it all together. I suppose the kitchen is more industrial with the concrete and the stone.” 

Louise – “Well yeah, that was more designed, while the rest has been more free flow and organic. But it has been dictated by the art we have, for sure. Some of which is mine, I won’t tell you which (laughter). I do also buy friends’ art a lot, we have to support each other. So I think that’s actually quite key in terms of the design.”

Nick – “The look of the whole place comes from that really.”

Rob – “Yeah the place feels very eclectic and characterful, for sure.” 

Nick – “I’m amazed that some houses I go into, there’s nothing on the walls. They don’t feel lived in.”

Rob – “I’ve grown up with my mum filling every inch of our house with paintings, photographs and what-not, so it feels bare, empty and almost soulless when there’s nothing there. I completely agree with you.”

Rob – “Were there any important factors that went into the design of the kitchen?”

Nick – “One thing I remember was Lou didn’t want bi-fold doors.” 

Louise – “The glass was quite important, but fundamentally it was very much about creating a social space for us all to meet in. It’s been a revelation and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I mean we did it three years ago; we would never have gotten it done if we had left it any longer with Covid hitting.”

Rob – “I have to say it looks a lot bigger in person. Not that it looks small in pictures, but when I came through earlier I was definitely taken aback by the size of it.” 

Nick – “It could have been bigger you see, we could have squared it out, but it would have been like a football pitch. We wanted it to feel cosy, while having the space. We wanted something where we weren’t getting our 10,000 steps in while whipping up the risotto.” 

Rob – “So was this your first design?”

Nick – “No, not exactly. We did bits in our old place in Brixton. We went into the loft there, but this was definitely our first major build.”

Rob – “Do you have any advice for anyone looking to do a renovation?”

Nick – “Take the price you’ve been thinking of and double it.” 

Louise – “We actually had such a great experience! We had this amazing architect that I knew before and the most amazing builders we had used before, when we first moved in here. It was an absolute joy, but that’s certainly not everyone’s experience.

If I was to give advice however, I’d probably say go with recommended builders, rather than a company you don’t know. It wasn’t quite to budget, but that was because we kept adding things and we made a few mistakes with things like lights, but they were very happy to move them. I really enjoy choosing materials and elements. We went to this veneer factory out in Beckton, where they have different veneers from different trees from all around the world; we got to choose our oak veneers by hand. I guess for some people they just want it put in and that’s it, but that sort of thing makes me very excited.” 

Nick – “We also picked out the stone as well” 

Louise – “We went for Belgian Blue in the end. The concrete was also done locally, which we were really happy about. Love all that kind of stuff.” 

Rob – “Were you trying to get an industrial feel to it?” 

Nick – “To an extent, but not over the top. No steel piping and such. You have to be careful with concrete, you can’t go overboard with it.” 

Louise – “We do love all the industrial style materials though, stone, slate, concrete etc. I loved the idea of the wood with the stone and concrete. It was exactly how I imagined it. I had tens of photographs of different designs; I spent a lot of time looking at kitchens aha.

We had never actually put in our own kitchen before. We had put in different elements, but had never actually designed a kitchen from scratch. I came across a drawing I had done years ago, I think when we initially bought this place, dreaming of this kitchen and it wasn’t far off you know.” 

Rob – “That’s amazing! Did you guys face any setbacks or challenges when designing?” 

Louise – “Not really, it was quite seamless actually. We were actually able to move out. The guy I work for has a house on the river so we were able to camp there for the duration. 

We drove over everyday to check up on things, and obviously, because the studio is at the back of the garden, I was still working here. It allowed us to make sure everything was going okay.”

Rob – “I suppose the answer is going to be the kitchen, but what’s your favourite element or area of the house?” 

Nick – “It has to be the kitchen. I mean looking out onto the garden is amazing. I remember when it was finished, coming down, looking out and just going ‘wow’! I still do sometimes to be honest.” 

Louise – “I think we felt a bit like an intruder in our own home when it was first finished. I don’t think you could ever tire of coming down, sitting at that table and just looking out onto the garden.” 

Rob – “That actually brings me quite nicely onto my next question – can you tell me a little bit about the garden and any influences you might have had?” 

Nick – “Well the previous owners had been here 15 years I think and they certainly weren’t gardeners. They had made a little bit of a mess of it. However, the owners before them apparently had two gardeners working on it. So they were very keen and everything was very meticulous and particular. But when the previous owners bought the place, they let it go, which actually turned it into a sort of secret garden. It actually made it quite magical – all these gardens have orchards along the back you see. We have around 18 fruit trees, which is great, but now it’s coming up to September and what the hell do you do with all this fruit?”

Louise – “We actually now take our apples to a brewery in Bermondsey. Urban Orchard, they make Hawkes Cider. We take trugs and trugs to them and in return they give us cider. We’ve got apricots coming through now, we also have medlar, which is this amazing ancient fruit, goes back as far as the bible. We also have raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, loganberries, blackberries and plums.” 

Nick – “Going back to the garden specifically, there are these four lime trees, which were obviously here when we moved in and had been twisted together to make this arch. I actually bring a gardener in to work on them, he comes around once a year and goes up there with cable ties to make sure they bind together. You can actually walk across the top of it, it’s like a whale’s back, he said. It’s like basketery all weaved together, absolutely amazing. 

There’s also two ponds, the one on the right was here when we arrived, which is like a natural pond full of frogs, and we built one to the left of it with a pump and cleaner water.” 

Louise – “The back of the garden was actually like a junkyard when we arrived, so the first thing we did was build the studio. It was a must and something that probably never would have been done if we had waited. I wanted the studio to be across the whole of the back of the garden, but we kept the potting shed next to it, which actually adds a lot of character.” 

Rob – “Do you use the garden for inspiration at all?” 

Louise – “I don’t directly because my work’s not really about the garden, but I do find it very cathartic. My walk to the studio is almost meditative, which definitely has an impact on my work. You know, I am so lucky to have the studio at the back, most people have to go elsewhere for their studios. I always said that my dream would be to work from home. It’s my own little escape area that’s far enough away to disassociate from home, but close enough to put the dryer on if needed.” 

Rob – “So moving on to becoming a shoot location, how did you guys find out about us and come to the realisation that you wanted to do it?”

Nick – “Well we spent an absolute fortune on this place so wanted to recoup some money (laughter).” 

Louise – “Well no, to be honest, a friend of mine has been doing it for a while now, so she and I chatted about it. My daughter also had some friends, who were doing film up in Leeds; they shot a music video here, which was slightly chaotic, but it ended up looking really cool. So they shot through the whole house and the garden for around a week. 

Following that, through a friend, we had a short film shot here for four nights. Since they both went well and looked great on screen, we thought why not give it a go. We might have a film in November but that’s still up in the air. We are newbies to it, but hopefully once we get one shoot, it will take off.”

Rob – “Was it quite surreal seeing your house in a film?”

Nick – “So it was this film about a bunch of girls who get together the night before the funeral of one of their friends. There’s all these girls sitting around my table drinking and dancing. It was quite bizarre to see, but yeah it looked amazing. They’re shooting from outside looking in and it looked awesome all lit up. Apparently there will be a premier of sorts, which we will be invited to. All very cool aha.” 

Rob – “Just before we wrap this up  – for our clients and readers out there, what can you offer to anyone thinking of using Dacres for a shoot? Any Amenities or special features they might not be able to find elsewhere?

Nick – “I suppose there’s a lot of free parking which is key for large production crews. There’s free parking on the road and room for three cars on the drive. The open-plan nature of the house is also great for production teams. We also have a very long side return, which is perfect for crews to get their kit from the front drive through the house. Other unique features – well a massive garden, in respect to London standards, so if anyone needs a large and magical garden, come to us.”   

In the Spotlight: Modern Country Design

Long gone are the days when country design embodied dimly lit, dark farmhouses with ubiquitous amounts of knitted tea cosies, traditional florals and checkered prints. Country design has grown immeasurably over the last few decades, now not merely resigned just for country dwellers; the design style is now commonplace everywhere around the UK. Differing from the traditional interpretations, modern country design allows for playful and nuanced elements that are creating an idyllic classic. The key is to blend the old with the new – old-fashioned comfort brought into the modern world, creating a cosy feeling that celebrates the outdoors, without looking too kitschy. A successful country design will combine the best elements of rustic and vintage interiors, with warmth, personality, character and a hint of minimalism. Stay with us as we explore these features in more detail and how you can implement them within your own home.   

Classic modern country interiors at Nuffield and Mulberry

Use of wood and natural materials

You can’t create a country home without incorporating wooden elements into your design! The idea is to introduce the organic, outdoorsy aesthetic that encompasses the entire style; think exposed beams, wooden panelling and wooden floorboards. Similarly, other natural materials that project the authentic country feel are stone, brick, slate or concrete. Nevertheless, if your property is lacking these elements, or your budget doesn’t quite stretch, you can always use wallpaper or laminate flooring to achieve the effects. Other tricks to affordably accomplish the country vibe can be implemented through installing wooden barn doors, wooden furniture and accessories like wicker and rattan baskets, as well as linen upholstery and rugs made of organic materials. The devil is in the detail, so try to decorate with intricate wood carvings where possible – mix the old with the new and keep an eye out for lattice design windows, intricate wood carving, or old farmhouse tables with new dining chairs. 

Henley Barn and Mulberry showing off exposed brick and wooden beams

Imperfection and informality 

Unlike most other design styles, scratches, scrapes, bumps and nocks are signs of age that are actually sought after and celebrated in modern country design. At the heart of the style is entertaining family and friends, therefore an informal design and layout is key; you do not want your space to feel overly constructed or laid out. In the same way that shabby chic likes its pieces on show to have had a life and tell a story, modern country design dictates that everything in your home shows its personality and character – not to look like it was made for that exact purpose. Kitchens are the hub of a country home and the soul of the kitchen is the kitchen table. A farmhouse kitchen table is a must for any home, the more character and history the better, keep reading for more detail on this later. If you can’t afford to invest in a farmhouse table, drape a checked tablecloth over the table you already have for a cute, country design style hack at minimal cost. Bench seating is perfect for a farmhouse table, it’s bang on trend and gives that informality you are after.

Brook Lodge is a great example of how imperfection is celebrated in a modern country home

Practicality

Without many of the amenities the city provides, country living has always been about practicality. Nothing should be there for the sake of it. If you are looking to achieve the look, make sure there are no superficial trinkets or accessories on show. Accessories do have a place in the country home, however, the idea is to make sure they have a purpose and bring something to the room. Think: minimal fuss, no frills and nothing is too fancy to be used day-in-day-out. Larger furniture pieces that are ideal for a country home are armoires to store your linens and clothing and sizable traditional cabinets to display your crockery, pots, pans, and cooking utensils.

Rural Retreat and Brook Lodge showing that in a country home, everything has a purpose

Warmth and cosiness

As it’s well known, the weather in the countryside of the United Kingdom is hardly to be desired at the best of times – so creating a warm, cosy and inviting atmosphere has always been a must. Adding throws, blankets and warm rugs add depth and texture, whilst achieving that desired snug aesthetic. Classic motifs that are always a win in modern country homes are checkers, tartans and chunky knits. Colour is a great way to add warmth in a space; when it comes to accessories and soft furnishings, consider greens, navies, soft pinks and oranges, as they are perfect for creating that comfortable and intimate vibe.

Poulton Farm and Rural Retreat are two country homes that create a warm and cosy atmosphere

Light and neutral colour scheme

Traditionally, country houses have been decorated with dark and moody colour schemes, with deep woods and brown palettes. However, for the modern aesthetic, you want to create a large and inviting space – achieved through light and airy hues. The aim is to create a neutral backdrop to showcase the more traditional pieces of furniture and accessories; this can be achieved through whitewashed woods, subtle shades of cream and lighter floorboards. When in the kitchen, greys and pale blues work great as they create a light, bright and friendly atmosphere to entertain your family and friends. Pastels are also a fantastic way to accent, as they give you that vibrant pop of colour, without swarming the space. Sage green, mint, dusky rose and taupe are all good choices for warming up a neutral space.

Nuffield and Bazeley House are both decorated with light and neutral colour schemes

Pattern

In spite of the previous modicum of advice, suggesting a neutral colour scheme was the way to achieve a modern country aesthetic, a key component of the look is playful patterns that bring a fresh feeling to the space. Push the boat out and shy away from traditional motifs. Instead, put a modern twist on a floral pattern; perhaps enlarge it to look more contemporary or subtract the colour altogether and go for a monochrome adaptation. Geometric prints are very popular at the moment, implement on walls, floors or even as decoration for a boho twist. Brickwork and other linear designs are also simple but effective ways of adding depth and personality to your country home.

Pattern is perfectly showcased through the use of antique tiles at Brook Lodge

Bring the outdoors in 

As mentioned earlier, the modern country look is no longer grounded in the countryside. Whether you live in the heart of the countryside or the middle of a bustling city, bringing a touch of nature into your home will always add that authentic country feel. Not only does greenery help to add texture and depth to your home, there are multiple health benefits, including reduced stress, better productivity and improved mental health. Easy ways to add a touch of biophilia are potted succulents, herbs and hanging plants. For a more traditional look, decorate with scenes from the English countryside through artwork depicting rabbits, badgers and foxes – quintessential elements of the British countryside.

Driftwood and Brook Lodge bringing the outdoors in through the use of plants

Authentic kitchens 

The kitchen is the life and soul of the country home, it’s where the family gather everyday and because of this, it is the heart of this interior style. To create an authentic space with purpose, make sure there are no decorative items, but instead functional pieces that add to your home. Nothing should be delicate or precious – open shelving shelving units and hanging pots and utensils are great ways to introduce your character and personality to the space, whilst adding practical uses. If you can implement rustic elements like a butcher’s block or chopping board, you will have the country look in no time.  

Authentic kitchens with rustic farmhouse tables on show at Crossways and Henley Barn

Top five for September

By now we’re sure you’re aware that we like to make your lives easier at the start of every month; by offering up our top five new locations to register from the previous month. This month we’ve taken on a whole host of new properties, resulting in one of the toughest top five’s we’ve ever had. Nevertheless, it had to be done! This month expect to see properties ranging from farmhouses in Wales, to penthouses in London and converted barns in Kent, to Victorian Villas in South West London. If you have been keeping up with our top five series this year, you’ll certainly want to stay with us today, as we get into the top five for September. 

Sheereen Villas

First up this month is a glorious double-fronted Victorian Villa that has recently undergone a complete renovation. This imposing property is a standout from the moment you enter, however, the house unquestionably comes to life in the open-plan kitchen/ dining area. Here you will find a blend of parquet flooring and Amtico black and white tiles, as well as a range of eye-catching lighting. With many renovations on Victorian properties, it is all too easy to ‘overdo’ it and leave yourself with a soulless house that resembles everything else on the market. However, Sheereen Villas has been beautifully restored to reflect its period features, while complementing the modern architecture that has been implemented. Other standout features include the spectacular Minton tiles, found in the hallway, sash windows and the 2m high Victorian walled garden. Thanks to the space afforded by the vast kitchen/ dining room and walled garden, we would advise stills and filming at Sheereen Villas; the layout of the kitchen also makes it perfect for any food-style shoots. 

The incredible kitchen/ dining room at Sheereen Villas

Faraway Farm 

From a Victorian Villa in South West London to a remote Welsh farmhouse, you can’t say we don’t give you a broad spectrum of properties to peruse. Check out Faraway Farm, a truly remarkable farmhouse located just north of the Brecon Beacons. This extraordinary shoot location offers some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding hills, however, we are here for interiors after all. Inside you will find a dark and moody colour palette with wood-panelled interiors, slate flooring and unique, bespoke kitchen units – leaving you with one of the most arresting and memorable shoot locations you’ll see. Due to having land as far as the eye can see, filming in the hills would create something truly special, however, if you want to use the farmhouse or barn, we would recommend sticking with stills. 

Arresting interiors at Faraway Farm

Alexandra 

Moving on, we take a short journey south east to the ancient city of Bath. Have a look around the outstanding Alexandra, a gorgeous, detached Bath stone Victorian home, with a garden studio where the old coach house used to be. The interiors of the property match the magnitude of the exteriors with a blend of modern and period features. These include cornices and original fireplaces, as well as a striking, modern extension to the rear. The standout areas within Alexandra are abounding, however, and are found throughout the property – they include the bespoke kitchen created using reclaimed items, the standout copper freestanding bath, located in the master bedroom and the Jotul wood burner in the kitchen. If you are looking for a truly unique period property, Alexandra has to be the one for you! Stills are certainly the ideal type of shoot at Alexandra, but due to the size of the rooms, small scale filming is also acceptable. 

Standout features at Alexandra

Mulberry 

Our penultimate property this month takes us to Kent, to another farmhouse-style location – this time in the form of a converted barn. Have a look around Mulberry, a striking barn-style shoot location, oozing with country charm and personality. There are a few elements a modern country-style property has to offer and they are oak beams, exposed brick, and a blend of wooden and tiled flooring; this hasn’t been lost on Mulberry. As well as the obvious must-haves, Mulberry also boasts double-height ceilings and a vast open-plan kitchen/ dining room, finished with a huge kitchen island and a glorious farmhouse table. Moving through the property, Mulberry doesn’t stop there – other notable features include the master bedroom finished with a free-standing copper bath, a separate barn that’s been turned into a bar and tons of land, filled with orchards and a greenhouse. Mulberry is the ultimate barn-style shoot location, so if you have a specific brief in mind, whether it be stills or filming, Mulberry may be the choice for you! 

Mulberry showcasing its double-height ceilings and rustic interiors

Kew Penthouse 

The final location we have to bring you this month is something pretty unique. Check out Kew Penthouse, a 1980’s converted Art Deco building located by Kew Bridge, in South West London. Perhaps slightly self-explanatory, Kew Penthouse is a penthouse on the 8th floor of a gorgeous Art Deco building. However, where the location really sets itself apart from the rest, is its wrap-around terrace – featuring panoramic views of The River Thames and the City. Interiors are clean and fresh and include a minimalist aesthetic, wooden flooring and floor to ceiling windows, offering those astonishing views in all directions. Due to its positioning on the 8th floor of a building, we would advise stills and only small-scale filming at Kew Penthouse. 

Kew Penthouse offers incredible views of The River Thames and The City

New Location Showcase – Brook Lodge

In the first of our new series of videos introducing our latest and favourite new locations, we take a quick look at the rustic and shabby chic Brook Lodge.

Located in the delightful Hampshire countryside, just a 15-minute drive from Winchester, Brook Lodge is easily accessible by mainline train links.

The property itself is a beautiful, large red brick country house set in an acre of lush green land. 

A large versatile hallway with rustic floorboards and furniture leads through to a modern, country-style kitchen. Here you will find a movable island, brass pots & pans, antique tiled floor and eye- catching oak beams in the ceiling. Neighbouring the kitchen are two picturesque utility rooms, one with wood panelling, the other with white painted floorboards. 

The downstairs living room has painted and plaster walls, original floorboards, a marble fireplace with wood burner, rustic furniture and French doors to the garden. 

The substantial dining room features an impressive wooden table and an exquisite old white painted welsh dresser.

Upstairs you will find painted floors and a large main bedroom with an en-suite bathroom. 

The main bathroom features an original, Victorian free-standing roll-top bath, a pedestal sink and a tiled shower with a glass door. There are brass fittings throughout, a mosaic tiled floor and brick tile walls. 

The large mature garden has gorgeous outside dining areas, beech hedges, a lawn, a tennis court, a meadow with a wild flower area and plenty of parking.

The house is equipped with Wi-Fi, a clothes rail and an ironing board, and the owner is happy to provide tea & coffee for crews. 

Decorating is allowed, along with animals, food shoots and children, and the owner is happy to host small and large-scale filming.

For dog lovers, the house also has a family pet called Hudson.

If you’d like to consider Brook Lodge for your next project, feel free to give us a call and find out more. 

Texture and how to implement it within your home

In the world of interior design, the word ‘texture’ gets thrown around a lot; design styles can’t be spoken about without using this buzzword in some way or another. There is a precise art to adding texture to a room, it encompasses a lot more than adding a frilled pillow here or some aged wood there. The key is to blend the rough with the smooth, understanding visual texture is just as important as physical texture. If done correctly, texture will tie the room together, however if done wrong or with no consideration, you will fall significantly short of the mark. Read on as the answer to what texture is and how to implement it within your home awaits. 

What is texture 

In its simplest explanation, texture is an object’s physical feeling or visual appearance. Essentially, texture is anything that adds dimension to a room. This could be anything from a fabric throw or stone feature wall, to carefully positioned lighting, which can transform a room with a soft glow or harsh spotlight. Texture is also a way of creating accents, designers refer to it as ‘visual weight’ – how an object or area draws attention to itself. Contrast these accents and that part of the room will stand out, while matching materials will make a space recede. To achieve real depth, think about contrasting smooth, more premium materials, with rougher, more tactile ones. The intricacies of texture can sometimes be easy to overlook; given that every material has a texture of some description, it can quite neatly weave its way into your decoration. However, there does need to be a level of consciousness in your decisions. You think about the paint that goes on the wall, making sure it flows, so do the same with texture. Make sure there is a balanced theme and flow to every room. 

How to add it to your home

Layering with different textures

Layering is potentially the simplest way of adding texture to a space, but it is also vital for adding depth to a room. The key is to mix things up and not rely too heavily on one element or source of texture – blend multiple sources to add multiple dimensions. Think: fabric throws and silk cushions upon your sofa, juxtapose a smooth granite fireplace with a tasselled rug and play around with multi-dimensional artwork on your walls. The whole room has a part to play; as you form layers, the result becomes immersive and arresting. 

Use contrasting fabrics  

Contrasting fabrics and materials also add balance to a space. Rooms can often be one tone, by adding contrasting textures you are able to interrupt this. You may be thinking “what if my room already has multiple shades of colour?”. Well not to fear, even if there are different shades of colour in a space, adding different fabrics and textures proves that colour isn’t the only way to achieve variation. Make sure you are going beyond the normal avenues of texture; curtains, blinds and lampshades are out-of-the-box ways of adding texture and depth. What is great with this is you can change the contrast to fit the season – in summer you could use cotton/ silk throws and cushions, in winter, faux fur and velvet. 

Play with accessories 

Accessories are great additions to any room; vases, mirrors, ornaments and sculptures are perfect for adding texture. They all come in a multitude of styles, looks and feels, creating the ideal run of visual and physical textures. Nevertheless, don’t go overboard, as there needs to be direction in what you are trying to achieve. The idea isn’t to add every texture known to man, but to welcome an assortment of styles and feels that are sympathetic to each other, adding variation and intrigue while bringing the whole room together. 

Lighting 

Light is actually the only form of texture that has a dual aspect to it. Firstly, there is the obvious look and feel of a lamp providing physical and visual texture, however, it is the rays of light themselves where texture actually takes on a more visual character. When warm light is used, it has the ability to give a room a soft and inviting glow; white light on the other hand is a lot sharper and therefore can make a room’s atmosphere feel a lot harsher. Furthermore, the position of the light can be key to adding value to a space. For example, a carefully positioned soft light in the corner of the room can create a beckoning reading nook, whilst angling your light to shimmer through your plants or a water feature, helps cast shadows upon your wall creating more visual texture. By mixing different sources, areas and levels of light, you can create wave upon wave of texture.

Top five for July

As always at the start of a new month, we like to give you a rundown of our latest and greatest properties. As we enter the second half of the year, the quality of locations coming through our doors has been immense! Throughout June, the influx of brilliant residential properties has been immense, with locations ranging from country houses to vast Neo-Georgian family homes. Read on to check out the full range of our top five new locations for July. 

Brook Lodge

First up is Brook Lodge, a fabulous red-brick country house, set within 1 acre of glorious land. The property benefits from a breathtaking rustic aesthetic that is perfectly complemented by the sum of its parts – aged wooden floorboards, eye-catching wooden beams and subtle touches like the wooden table, dresser or log burner. Some of the other notable features come from the striking antique tiled floor in the kitchen and the distressed plaster wall found downstairs; two touches that give Brook Lodge its overarching country chic feel. We can’t talk about this property without mentioning the eye-catching tennis court, a staple for any country house, giving you endless eccentric shooting opportunities. Thanks to its size and range of areas to shoot within, we believe Brook Lodge to be perfect for filming as well as large scale editorial shoots. 

Country chic interiors at Brook Lodge

Daytona 

From the countryside to the city. Our second location to feature this month might not be exactly what you’d expect from a city house, but it will certainly make you stand up and take note of it. Welcome to Daytona, an immense Neo-Georgian family home, situated in the heart of North West London. Contemporary-luxe is the underlying aesthetic, with features ranging from a vast marble kitchen island, to parquet flooring found on almost every inch of the house. However, what sets this extraordinary house apart from other large family homes in London, are the one-of-a-kind details you’re not going to find elsewhere. These include the 4m wide marine reef tank that travels between two rooms, museum-quality fossils and a steam room. If this wasn’t enough to win you over, the curated South West facing garden is award winning and overlooks the 10m pool; thanks to its sliding glass doors, it has the ability to turn an indoor pool into a fabulous outdoor version. Similarly to Brook Lodge, Daytona would be perfect for small-scale filming and editorial campaigns. 

Daytona and its luxe decor

Kombu

If country chic and contemporary luxe are the overarching aesthetics found at Brook Lodge and Daytona, colour would certainly be the main talking point at Kombu. This fabulous double-fronted Victorian family home, located in South West London is seeping with stylish and tropical details. However, the standout area comes from the open-plan kitchen/ living room; here you will find parquet flooring, a green palette including eye-catching pine green tiles and tons of beautiful flora. Nevertheless, as stated above, it is the abundance of colour that makes Kombu such an exceptional shoot location. The dining room is finished in a luscious pink tone, the pantry is vibrant orange and each bathroom has a different tropical wallpaper – ranging from lemurs and jaguars to pretty flowers. We would recommend editorial shoots at Kombu thanks to its versatility and striking shooting opportunities. 

Colour is the overarching theme at Kombu

Pooky

What would you love more than a townhouse? A Notting Hill townhouse! Meet Pooky, a classic Notting Hill townhouse located in a colourful crescent, not far from Paddington Station. The exterior of the location is finished in a striking aqua blue, that is offset against a whole host of alluring plants and bushes, making for a truly unique townhouse. Inside, the interiors blend modern touches with period features, including cornices, wooden floorboards and a stone fireplace. On the upper ground floor, you will find a drawing room/ study that bears a distinct 70’s feel – with natural hessian walls, modern art and a great deal of mid-century modern furniture. With its range of design styles and assets, we would recommend using Pooky for off-the-wall editorial shoots. 

Pooky, the Notting Hill townhouse

Hyde 

Period properties are certainly dominating our top five this month, continuing with this theme is our next location: an Edwardian family home that has recently undergone a sumptuous renovation and subsequent rear extension. Check out Hyde, the last location in our top five for July. The standout areas within this glorious property come from the open-plan kitchen, the garden and the master suite – despite the rest of the location rounding up a beautiful house. Within the kitchen you will find exposed steel beams, a large central island and an eye-catching gable doorway that looks out onto the 70ft garden with patio and lawn area. Before you go, take a look at the sublime master suite, found on the top floor, with an office space and adjoining ensuite. Thanks to its ample space and premium feel, Hyde would be perfect for large-scale editorial shoots. 

Sumptuous rear renovation at Hyde

Top 5 locations for a fashion shoot

When choosing a location for a photoshoot, (whether that be portrait, product or lifestyle) there will always be tons of complexities that go into the choice. When clients get in touch with us, some of the elements to consider are lighting, space, sound, as well as specific styles and elements that are hard to come by. When it comes to choosing a location for a fashion shoot, it gets a whole lot harder – you have to think about how this will translate to a magazine, if the style of the location matches the concept behind the shoot, the ethics of the brand, the colours of that specific shoot, the season of the collection and much more. If sourcing a location in line with all of those values doesn’t make life hard enough, you also have to think about the location itself. The point of a lookbook is to make the buyer want the items before they go live in shops and on sites. The key therefore, is to make the shoot look aspirational; the location has to be trendy and cool. Read on to check out our diverse range of locations that are ideal for fashion shoots. 

Friendly Place 

Friendly Place is a warehouse studio, located in South East London. It not only has a dedicated hair and makeup area, but is also set over several floors, with each room offering a different set of quirky furnishings and backdrops. Thanks to its versatility, the shots you are after are provided in abundance. Some of the unusual props that can be found on the first floor include a bed, a green wall divider and a photo of the Queen. Following the distressed/ run down aesthetic of the first floor, other areas include vintage and retro furniture, a Vespa and a pommel horse. It is this versatility and array of fascinating furniture and accents that make Friendly Place ideal for fashion shoots, ranging from streetwear all the way to high end. 

Different settings found at Friendly Place

Henry VIII Boathouse 

Looking for something slightly more grand? Then check out Henry VIII Boathouse, set on the banks of the River Thames. This Greenwich-based shoot location offers a beautiful blend of faded grandeur, with tons of distressed elements and wooden flooring throughout. Some of the standout features include the array of mid-century modern furniture, a grand piano and the large open-plan kitchen/ dining area. In recent times, higher end fashion brands, houses and online publications have looked towards grittier and more raw locations, as they tend to allow the pieces to stand out amidst the rundown elements – something Henry VIII Boathouse would be perfect for. 

Faded grandeur at Henry VIII Boathouse

Kempshott Road 

The next property could not be further from Henry VIII Boathouse; Kempshott Road is a five-bedroom Victorian family home, located in South West London. However it is not the type of property or where it’s located that sets it apart from the boathouse – Kempshott Road has been recently restored to an impeccable standard and being set over four floors, there are tons of breathtaking features that make it perfect for fashion shoots. The kitchen is more contemporary in style, with crittal style windows, a polished concrete floor and central kitchen island. It is, however, the other rooms within this outstanding property that really give it its edge for fashion shoots. Neighbouring the kitchen is a large pink living room that has a gorgeous antique feel to it, similarly the front living space, while finished in a royal blue, also has antique features. One room has been transformed into a unique purpose-made bathroom, with a green finish and a free-standing copper bath, while other parts of the house have a real ravaged industrial vibe. Compile all these elements together and the result is an extremely diverse shoot location that can turn its hand to any style of shoot. 

Kempshott Road showing its versatility off

Palm Springs 

For a location more specific with its style, check out Palm Springs in West Sussex. This unique shoot location offers a stark 60s/ 70s vibe within a modern build – thanks to its one-of-a-kind furniture it is perfect for a retro style shoot. The extraordinary mid-century modern furniture, the striking artwork and the open-plan flow of the space really emphasise the feel. If this wasn’t enough, there are also two swimming pools and a beautiful garden, allowing for summer shooting as well. If you are looking for a retro or quirky location with a specific concept behind the shoot, look no further than Palm Springs. 

Tetro vibes at Palm Springs

Spratts Factory 

To round off our top five, we could hardly leave out Spratts Factory – an outstanding warehouse conversion, with a premium industrial feel. Exposed brick, crittal and polished wooden flooring are ever present features; thanks to its size, you will never be short of astonishing shooting opportunities. Industrial style locations are incredibly popular for streetwear campaigns at the moment, however thanks to its premium finish, Spratts Factory wouldn’t be out of place from an M&S campaign to a Calvin Klein shoot.

Spratts Factory and its incredible industrial-chic aesthetic

In the Spotlight: Coastal Design

To many, coastal design encompasses blue and white everything – with seashells, glass bottles and anchors galore. If this is you, we can totally relate. Based on the name, it makes sense that coastal design incorporates these elements, however these elements are actually more typical of nautical décor. While there are a few features that crossover between the two distinct styles, coastal is another expression completely. Coastal is decidedly less kitschy than nautical design. In its simplest definition, coastal design is beachy. Soft tones, a clean aesthetic and tons of natural light prevail, to evoke the airiness associated with the beach. The idea is to take cues from the natural environment – this includes everything from the atmosphere at the coast, to the natural materials and the colour palette found there. Read on as we dig a little deeper into coastal design and its core principles. 

Texture 

Texture and layering are vital in creating that perfect coastal look; get rid of that tendency to over-decorate with blue stripes and ships in glass bottles, instead think about how to texturise with different fabrics and materials. Through the use of rugs, cushions, throws, baskets and wall hangings, you can easily create the comfort that is provided at the beach, whilst keeping the area incredibly stylish. 

Concord showing how texture can tie a coastal room together

Colour 

While many are inclined to picture bold blues upon a white base, a singular, crisp-white interior is actually far more accurate when it comes to coastal design. Train your mind’s eye to think of a minimalist aesthetic – as coastal design favours a far more neutral colour palette. Complement the area with tons of natural light, and you will be left with the airy beach look in no time. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean accents of colour can’t be implemented; soft hues are perfect (there is nothing bold about coastal design). Think: tones such as pastel blues, beige, khaki and light greys. 

White is the prevailing colour tones at Angmering and Concord

Tons of light 

If there is one imperative in a coastal home, it is an abundance of natural light; light brings all other elements together. Interiors should never feel cramped or dim, as we mentioned earlier, the key to this design style is to be open, airy and light. When in a beach house, the indoors and outdoors often will seamlessly blend into one space, therefore large windows, skylights and glass walls are fundamental. If you can’t implement all these features, try supplementing with soft interior lighting that isn’t too harsh on the eyes. 

Let the light in at Concord and Sea Gem

Natural and coastal elements

As touched on previously, the aim of this design style is to create a comfortable and relaxed environment, so the use of natural materials is the way to go. Furniture can achieve this look when incorporating wicker, rattan and light woods. Materials such as straw, seagrass and jute work well for rugs and smaller pieces. Though wood is a big part of the overall design style, it should generally be white-washed or at the very least, an earthy, pale tone. Steer clear of anything glossy, metallic or flashy and you should be fine! 

While coastal and nautical are separate design styles, they aren’t as night and day as say, country chic and minimalism – it is okay to add a few seaside touches. Shells, woven baskets and glass bottles can be great additions, really tying the room together, just don’t overdo it. Clutter is a definite no-no, oversaturating with these touches creates a kitschy space, which is completely the wrong vibe. Stay away from anchor prints, rope and tacky signs pointing out where the beach is. Keep it simple and you can’t go wrong. A few glass bottles atop the fireplace is perfect, a striped feature wall adds great visual interest and woven baskets make the space feel a whole lot cosier.  

Natural elements at Wood View and Coastal elements at Sea Gem

Casual and comfortable design 

Materials mentioned previously, such as rattan and wicker are great for giving off that natural, yet comfy and casual feel. However, too much can overwhelm and make the space feel very matchy-matchy. To avoid the place feeling too busy, add dimensions with cottons and linens, draped over chairs and sofas – they aren’t going to suffocate the space and they stop the room from feeling too samey. Slip-covered furniture is also another way to add your individual character, as the colour and fabric can always be changed as and when you see fit. 

Sea Gem showing comfort is key by the beach

10 Design Ideas to Utilise a Large Space

Following our last article exploring the best ways to maximise a small space, we are now delivering our top design ideas to utilise larger spaces. While larger spaces have many advantages, including space for more furniture and entertaining, they come with their own set of challenges and issues. So how to make the most of a large space? Read on to get your design cues for large rooms of all shapes and sizes and you’ll be a master designer in no time. 

Designate zones 

The difficulty you can find with larger rooms is that the space isn’t utilised. Large spaces have the ability to function as so much more than merely one room. Get creative and designate different zones – creating separate rooms within one space. One way you can achieve this is through adding different textures to different areas. For example, fill the living quarters with throws, pillows, rugs and a pastel colour palette; while the kitchen area could be finished in hardwoods and rich tones. Alternatively, get smart with furnishings, creating room partitions with L shaped sofas or wall partitions.  

Nash using large pieces of furniture to create room partitions & Aldersbrook showcasing how texture can separate space

Colour is key

Colour is a great way to break up large expanses of space that would otherwise feel empty. Similarly, if you have high ceilings, colour and pattern can subtly bring the wall down to a more comfortable height. Paint your ceiling a shade or two darker than the rest of the space and you’ll be left with a far more snug room. Panelling also draws eyes away from the expanse and is a simple way of achieving the feel of an intimate environment. Other ways of using colour to maximise your room include partitioning zones, signifying a change of purpose with a splash of colour and creating a feature wall, drawing the rest of the space together. 

Colour is used effortlessly at Benson and Minton House to signify a change in purpose creating two separate areas

Scale is vital 

One of the easiest ways to make a large room feel out of balance and vacant is to ignore scale – make sure your furniture matches the shape and size of the room. If tall ceilings are present, the furniture must match; small furniture will make the ceiling feel miles away. Taller pieces of furniture that can bring the ceilings closer include bookcases, tall cabinets and high-backed chairs. Similarly, with wider spaces, opt for larger units that cover more ground – think L shaped sofas, large coffee tables and long dining tables. 

Scale is understood at Valentine and The Manor with wide and tall furnishings

Find an anchor 

When it comes to dressing a large room, it is incredibly easy to oversaturate with too many pieces of furniture – resulting in clutter. Rather than overcompensating with tons of smaller pieces, find a few standout items and anchor the rest of the room around them. Furniture that works perfectly as anchors includes large sofas, which section off parts of the room, imposing coffee tables that grab your attention, pianos or perhaps a fireplace with built-in bookshelves on either side. 

Ashington House and Balham House both anchor the room with a central tables and fireplaces

Double Up

On the other hand, if you can’t find a coffee table big enough to anchor your room, perhaps look for two pieces that can bring a room together; place them side by side and that empty space is no more. Two Ottomans facing your sofa between a smaller coffee table could be an example of this. Rugs can also be used to create separate conversation areas, splitting up the enormity of a space. Chairs can be a less intrusive option than sofas – four chairs around an Ottoman or small table will give you the desired conversation area without swamping the space. Similarly, play around with the idea of doubling up on footstools, lamps and sets of chairs for greater impact and symmetry. 

Purley uses two chairs either side of a small coffee table to bring the room together

Avoid wall-hugging

One of the worst decisions you can make when dressing a large room is to push the furniture up against the walls. By doing so, a chasm is created in the middle of an already large space and the room you are left with is soulless and cold. Don’t be afraid of bringing the furniture in and creating separate areas within the larger space. The idea is to create an intimate and cosy room, with character and charm. Once the furniture is off the wall, artwork, consoles, bookshelves and benches can fill the outer areas giving that desired character and life.

Half Acres brilliantly brings the larger furniture units off the wall to make the space feel more cosy

Bolder the better 

The bigger the room the bolder you must go! Artwork is a great way to make a room standout without cluttering or oversaturating your space. Creating a feature wall from artwork is an awesome way to draw attention away from the middle of the room, producing a really standout area. Spreading decorative items around a room heightens the chance of them going unnoticed, whereas a feature wall will keep the focus in one area. Consider unorthodox pieces such as sculptures, antiques and art installations. 

Carlo uses Artwork to draw your attention while Marilyn opts for bold colour

Repetition 

Due to larger spaces needing more furniture, you run the risk of creating a haphazard feel, without any flow or rhythm. Implementing repetition in the space projects your unified style and as such, creates a welcoming and thought-provoking space. Repeating fabric patterns or colours upon chairs or throw pillows helps carry the eye around the room, making it more visually appealing. There is always the potential of creating a cold environment in a large room, so the key is to do whatever possible to make sure it feels as cosy as possible. 

Koi and Collingham use throws and pillows for repetition to create a welcoming space

Texture, Texture, Texture 

You can fill a room with as much furniture as you desire, but it still has the capacity to feel cold and devoid of personality. By adding texture throughout the space, you start to tie the room together, making it feel less empty and spiritless. Add area rugs, hang curtains and supplement with throws and pillows for more texture. Softer spaces feel much cosier and inviting, so be sure to have plenty of upholstered pieces too! As mentioned previously, texture is also a great way to create distinctive room partitions.

Texture is everything at Flora

Let the light in 

Think about your natural light sources, to keep the room light and airy – a large room can still feel cramped and claustrophobic if it is dark and dingy. Interestingly enough, by keeping the space light and vibrant, you have the ability to actually make the room feel even larger. See if you can implement bi-fold doors, glass walls or skylights to bring in as much light as possible.

Millbrae has a glass wall and Capri takes it one step further with a glass ceiling allowing for as much light as possible

In Conversation with Mark Dolan of Honeycomb

Rob – “Today we are here with Mark Dolan talking about his amazing property Honeycomb, what his experiences were designing it, any positives and negatives from the experience and his favourite features within the home.” 

Rob“Hi Mark, how are you doing today? Do you want to give us a little insight into your incredible home?” 

Mark – “Hi yeah, really good thanks! So, diving straight in, what’s so unusual about our home is, lots of people in London have cybertone extensions that generally involve holding up old bits of the house and building out. However, we decided to demolish the whole rear and put in an entire three storey cross-laminated timber extension – which I do believe is only one of two in the whole of London. This for me makes it an incredibly unique building and the timber construction has some great environmental properties, as well as being the future of building in many countries.” 

“Also building in timber allowed us to do some funky things. So for example, we have an internal void that runs up between the kitchen and the first floor. This would have been slightly harder to do in concrete…”

“What we now have is a non-traditional build, with a non-traditional look, but at the same time, it doubles up perfectly as a family home.”  

Rob“Yeah for sure, that’s amazing, it’s such an interesting and unforgettable property. Would you say you had a particular design style in mind before you started?” 

Mark – “Yes, yes we did, I hesitate to use the word minimalism, as that’s slightly discredited. I’ll also try to avoid all the usual cliches, like clean and uncluttered, but I think broadly speaking it is modernist with a bit of alpine chalet thrown in (wink, wink). To be honest, it all came back to the construction method. In terms of our template, that was the starting point and then you begin researching what’s going to look good with this and what’s going to look good with that. It was then that we settled on a palette of timber, steel, concrete and black really aha.” 

Rob“So would you say you had any inspiration behind the build?” 

Mark – “Well that came from our architects in a way! When we first went to see them, they sort of just suggested this build method and the rest is history as they say. We wanted to be adventurous and as good a client as we possibly could be, so without too much forethought said yes and ran with it.”

“You know, I’m a filmmaker, so if a film is a record of the relationship between the filmmaker and subject, your building is a record of the relationship between the architect and the client. For us that relationship was key, it definitely was a collaborative relationship! Right throughout the process, we took care of the interior spec because of the budget and our eye for what we wanted and let them come up with architectural elements.” 

Rob“Would you say that relationship was the most important factor that went into the design then?” 

Mark – “Yeah, I think so. Without that harmony, you don’t have anything, but as a client it does depend on what your priorities are. I like to think we were open minded, with a strong idea of the way we wanted the building to go. Once we had settled on the construction method, we had a clear idea of what we wanted the end result to look like.”

Rob“Was this your first design project?”

Mark – “Certainly on this scale yes! I mean our previous property was a bog-standard two bedroom, ground floor flat, with a fairly standard makeover. So no, we had certainly never done anything with an architect before – nothing on this scale or with this budget, so we were definitely first timers.” 

“My family also comes from a construction background; I’ve grown up around construction and building my whole life, so that old maxim ‘a builders house is never finished’ applied to us with bells on. It took around 5 five years, from first meeting the architect to shutting the door on it, it was certainly a long process.”

Rob“Do you think you would take something of that magnitude on again?” 

Mark – “With trepidation ahah. Possibly not.” 

Rob“That takes me smoothly onto the next question – were there any negatives or setbacks you faced during the process and if so, how did you deal with them?” 

Mark – “There were a couple, I wouldn’t necessarily call them setbacks, but mentally they were challenging. When we demolished a third of the old house, suddenly we lost our third bedroom, bathroom and kitchen; we were left with a big hole in the ground. Until recently, if you went on google earth, where the rear of our house is, there was just an expanse of nothing. So that was exhilarating and challenging to know we had to start from the ground up (well actually, under the ground up).”

“And I guess the other big challenge was financial. Like most of these things, you know the rule of thumb, double the time, double the budget and add 20% and you won’t be far off.”

“We now want to share the design with whoever wants to use it for artistic and commercial reasons.” 

“The other thing is that when we set out on the project, part of our challenge – to ourselves, to the architects, to the builders – was to make a house that was worthy of being photographed, filmed and talked about. Not that I care about those things so much per se, but to use another film analogy: if you set out to make a Bafta-winning documentary, you’ve set the bar for yourself right at the start. Your aim has to be to meet that bar, the Bafta means less, it’s about achieving what you set out to do at the start.” 

“We set the goals high, so in a way having people come to the house to film and photograph and hearing all the comments about the house is actually hugely rewarding in of itself. It really is so nice to hear people say how amazing your house is. It’s the fruits of our labour and if we’ve had a long week being in the house, tidying up after the children and largely getting used to living in it, having people see it with a fresh pair of eyes reminds us that we’ve done a good job and were lucky to live in a nice house.”

Rob“What would you say is your favourite element within the house?” 

Mark – “Definitely! I love my black kitchen, particularly the island; I always imagined it as this Anish Kapoor style black void, just a big black blob aha. We did the whole Pinterest thing, looking at a lot of similar kitchens and to be honest most of them were just renders. I had an image of exactly what we wanted in my head, but real kitchens often don’t look like they do in those renders. Nevertheless, it came out pretty much exactly how we wanted it to look.” 

“The Kitchen was very much our design, we worked with a local cabinet maker, who was incredible – he built it and tweaked it all for us, exactly to our design. Obviously kitchens are the biggest areas that production teams look at, so having that island with decent camera angles and runs on the other side makes it particularly suitable for kitchen demos.”

Rob“That brings me nicely to my next point – as a TV producer yourself, did you design the property with filming and photoshoots in mind?” 

Mark – “I don’t think so, I mean ultimately you have to design it as a family home. But at the same time, because I have a photographic mind (in a way), I’m aware of the way things will look from different angles. If they are aesthetically pleasing from many different angles as a homeowner, they will look great on camera as well. We didn’t design it as a shoot location, or as a home that will look good on camera or Instagram, but essentially as something that would be aesthetically pleasing – and they go hand in hand really.”

Rob“Digging into your job a bit more, have you found any difference between being on the production and the hosting side of things?” 

Mark – “My top tip for homeowners would be: don’t be in the house when the crew are there. Without meaning to, you are going to take on some of the worries of the crew – where are they going to put this, how are they going to cope with that etc. As a host, you don’t need to deal with any of that, leave it to the crew and get out the house, or at least take yourself away to a designated room. Don’t worry about what they are doing, they have a whole team for that.” 

“The crew are paying to inhabit and disrupt your space, so let them do that and they will put it all back. You don’t want to stress yourself out and you certainly don’t want to get on top of them.” 

“Another tip, be as welcoming and helpful as possible; welcome the client if they want to come along and recce and be as co-operative as possible. Explain everything to the client and try to accommodate any of their requests. Ultimately good feedback from the client is key, as this means you will get recommended for future shoots. If this means leaving out tea and biscuits, so be it. The key is to be as nice and hospitable as possible.”

Rob“You mentioned that you didn’t design the property purely to become a shoot location – what was your reason for registering with 1st Option?” 

Mark – “Well as I probably alluded to, after a long period of sustained investment into the house, it was time for the house to pay us back. I had also previously used 1st Option myself, so you guys were always going to be my 1st choice. I’ve found the communication has always been amazing and you’ve been so friendly and keen to promote the house – which can’t be said enough, how great that is. Genuinely, out of all the agencies, you guys have been the most proactive, communicative and the most enthusiastic. 1st Option is one of the biggest names in the industry after all.”

Rob“So you had your first big shoot the other week, what was your experience with it?” 

Mark – “We had a crew of forty, so a large crew for a house our size, but they were great – super friendly and enthusiastic about the house. They left the house how they found it, despite having to cope with awful weather conditions. Genuinely it was really enjoyable, the neighbours were curious, but again the crew were great with them. We were very happy and it certainly didn’t put us off. If anything it was the opposite; to be honest that’s probably about as big as it gets. Luckily it was the day the pubs opened, so we were able to take the kids for some pub tea. It was definitely a positive experience and we can’t wait to see the results!

Rob“Finally, if anyone was thinking of using Honeycomb, what would you want to tell them about the space, any special features or amenities?” 

Mark – “Well the house is completely unique in terms of its look and its construction; we have the double-height space in the kitchen and that could be used in a dramatic and fun way. The garden is also coming into full bloom now, so we have outdoor space for shooting. We also live in a low traffic neighbourhood (so it’s very good for sound, friendly neighbours, lots of space and welcoming home owners) what more could you ask for!”

“The crew we recently had round were also looking for some spillover space as a second unit base and they found a hostel down the road who were more than happy to let them use the space.”