Back in 2000, when they were juggling the twin demands of a baby son, Noah, now 13, and a fledgling business, Jane Chapman and her husband Tim Warnes were eager to find a modern yet charming property that would make a practical family home. ‘We struck lucky and found this brand-new thatched house, which offered us just that, and it had a studio over the garage,’ recalls Jane.
Their house was the first to be finished in a small courtyard development, so for a year the couple were surrounded by builders. ‘The developer seemed reluctant to sell quickly,’ says Jane. ‘I think he was worried that we’d complain about the noise of the work, but we convinced him to let us move in.’
As illustrators, Jane and Tim were used to starting with a blank canvas — which is exactly what this house was. ‘We began by painting everything in neutral tones and collecting artwork to put on the walls,’ says Tim. Jane’s passion for designing and making cushions in vibrant hues injected further bursts of brightness throughout the house.
Over the years, with a second son, Levi, now seven, to complete their family, Tim and Jane continued to make changes to the house. ‘Tim had the idea for the wall of shelving in the sitting room years before we had it built,’ says Jane. ‘It took a long time to work through the problems of measuring around the French windows. Hopefully, at a glance, all the boxes look a similar size, even though they vary hugely.’ The couple also added a family room at the back of the house. ‘I was forever interrupting one of the boys’ creative projects at the kitchen table with a meal,’ says Jane. ‘Now everyone is happy.’ Most recently, the kitchen has been refitted by Mark Butterfield. ‘The units are beautiful, with every drawer and cupboard lined with a brilliant colour,’ says Jane. ‘We knew we’d found the right cabinet maker when he loved our idea. Mark also sourced the wall-mounted letter ‘m’, which sits over the cooker. It doesn’t stand for anything; it’s just a beautiful shape.’ The couple’s love of decorating using letters and shapes is evident all over the house, especially in Jane’s stunning cushions. She loves sewing and many of the fabrics used on quilts and cushions are recycled, with patches of appliqué cut from unwanted items.
Anything but homogenous, the house has a blend of oak, sisal and stone flooring, topped with a mix of bespoke and junk shop furniture. ‘Ifyou look closely, it’s all a bit beaten up,’ says Tim. ‘Jane jokes that for her, form wins out over function, but in reality, all our pieces are practical because we entertain a lot of families with children. Any major purchases, such as sofas, have to last a long time. We don’t replace anything on a whim.’
Tim and Jane adore being at home. ‘We hear skylarks in the garden, and I watch a family of buzzards from my desk in the studio,’ says Jane. ‘Now that the children are older, the playroom is to become a printmaking workshop, and Tim is planning a wildlife pond, so there’s plenty more for us to do.’