The weather can be wild here in the autumn and winter, but I love the ever-changing seascape and light,’ states Francine Durban about living a stone’s throw from Hove seafront in East Sussex. Despite its ideal location, the house that Francine bought 10 years ago was a far cry from the stylish home she has since created. ‘I really didn’t like the house when I first saw it, it was dark and dingy, with acid-green, orange and purple walls, but at the time there was very little around and I was keen to move out of London. Its redeeming feature was that it still maintained its pretty Victorian detailing and the street led directly down to the beach.’ Luckily, Francine could see beyond the garish decor and was able to cast her designer’s eye over it. Having studied for a degree in fashion followed by an MA in textiles, she worked in the fashion industry before moving into interior styling, hence she was well placed to turn the house around.

Determined from the start to breathe new life into the house she now shares with her two daughters, Hannah, seven, and Albertine, five, Francine immediately stripped it of all the old fitted carpets and painted over the lurid colours. ‘It felt like I was letting the house breathe again, and it didn’t cost me much money to do that. The only structural work I did was to mend a massive hole in the roof that appeared between me viewing it and moving in, so I really don’t know quite what happened there.’ Apart from the roof being fixed, Francine did all the work herself, carving the time around her busy work schedule.


Throughout the house, Francine has used clever design solutions, not only to keep the budget to a minimum, but also to create an individual look, such as in the kitchen where she has used fabric to conceal the washing machine, dishwasher and boiler. The shelves at the end of the kitchen were original, but the unit below was made by recycling and remodelling a 1950s desk. The most Francine has spent on an item for the house was Ј500 for the oak kitchen worktop, but other than that, everything has been salvaged or collected on trips abroad. ‘I am always inspired by beautiful places I have visited around the world, especially Provence, Morocco and India – so I bring back ideas with me, for my work and for my home.’

One place this is particularly evident is in the hallway, where Moroccan encaustic tiles have been laid, creating a carpet of colour that is both beautiful and practical. Elsewhere, floorboards have been either stripped or painted with gloss paint. Woodwork and walls have been painted white throughout, which enhances the architectural features, such as the cornicing and fireplaces, while maximising the light. ‘The thing about this look is that it can be changed to suit my mood,’ says Francine. ‘It can be cosy in the winter by adding furs and warm throws, or in the summer I can introduce wild flowers and floral-print cushions. As a stylist, I tend to experiment with different ideas, so the neutral backdrop suits me perfectly.’


Francine isn’t afraid to experiment with an eclectic mix of furniture and is always on the lookout at car boot sales and antique fairs for new additions. ‘I love pieces that are salvaged or inherited and don’t believe you need to spend a fortune on things,’ she says. Francine’s talent for making inexpensive pieces look stylish is apparent throughout her lovely home – for instance the cabinet in the living room was bought for Ј50 and given a lick of paint, while old cast-iron radiators were picked up from the local salvage yard. Vintage fabrics have been turned into cushions, and old black and white photographs are grouped together artistically on the walls.

A large photographic print above the fireplace in the living room not only makes a bold design statement, but adds a contemporary element to Francine’s timeless look. It echoes the monochrome touches that have been used in other rooms in the house, particularly in the master bedroom.

Here, Francine transformed the space by stripping the floorboards and adding simple wooden shutters to the window, made from floorboards that have been hinged together and painted. She found the two wardrobes at charity shops and painted them white to fit the scheme. The room is dominated by a piece of artwork made by a local florist from hydrangeas woven together behind a mesh. ‘My favourite possession has to be the white Arne Jacobsen chair in the bedroom, as it belonged to my grandmother,’ says Francine. ‘I had it covered in linen to give it a new lease of life.’ Placed in the bay window, the chair is now Francine’s favourite place to sit and relax, read a book or just look out over her sea view.

Francine introduced a splash of colour to the bathroom and the girls’ rooms by painting the floorboards a primrose yellow. She also used a mix of bold vintage and modern fabrics for the bed linen as well as the curtains, which create storage areas under the simple but effective table washstands.


‘Before I had the girls, I used to be a bit precious about the house, but now I have adopted a much more relaxed feel,’ explains Francine. ‘I like a home to feel lived-in, so the girls have a sense of freedom and can play in the garden or have friends round without worrying about the odd scratch or chip – it simply adds to the character. So I would say my style is natural, soft and relaxed. A home should be everevolving – changing with the seasons or with your mood.’ And with its vintage fabrics and eclectic mix of art and photographs, character is something that this home is definitely not short of.

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