After she downsized from a spacious home in the country to a long-term rented townhouse, Victoria Clive was determined to transform the tall, thin four-storey property into a stylish place to share with her two children, Roisin, 14, and Finn, 10.
‘The house was full of character but it was very basic with just two rooms on each floor,’ she explains. ‘Its vertical design meant it seemed disjointed and I needed to pull it all together. I wanted to make it my own, but I didn’t have a lot of money, so I went for lots of different fabrics, searched for bargains and set to work with a paint brush.’ Victoria brought with her a few favourite pieces of furniture and box-loads of personal treasures, but she quickly realised that it would take more than a few possessions to get the house looking like a home. ‘I plan to stay here for a long time, but living in a rented home is different to owning a house because you have to work with the building as it is,’ says Victoria. ‘However, that shouldn’t stop you from creating a personal, comfortable home with your own furniture and things that define you as an individual.’
She started by decorating every room in a neutral colour — Farrow & Ball’s Lime White — to create continuity between the floors. This became the base for her overall colour scheme of natural earth tones, creams and whites, built up in layers of painted furniture, fabrics and unique accessories.
‘I like to take risks with my furnishings and finishes in order to put my own identity on a place,’ says Victoria. ‘For example, you can change a boring light fitting for bathroom an Ian Mankin blind and dainty toiletry bottles add personality something grand, introduce bold rugs, curtains and cushions, and fill the shelves with beautiful items. I wanted to create a new start for the children, but it was essential to ensure that this place still felt like their home. I hoped to create a sense of the country, where they grew up, in an urban setting.’
The property, a former shop, still has the original window on the ground floor, which Victoria has dressed with simple Roman blinds. ‘People still look in, but now they see a lovely room,’ she says. ‘I hope it inspires them.’
Although the house is smaller than her previous one, the ceilings are much higher, so Victoria has emphasised this with large pendant lights, bold window treatments, large mirrors and pictures. ‘It’s a wonderfully bright house — I wake up in the morning and feel as though I’m in a conservatory,’ she says. ‘By using the light, you make a small space feel much bigger. The height of the rooms gives them a sense of grandeur and when I moved in they were crying out for drama in the shape of carefully chosen finishing touches.’
Victoria loves to experiment with furniture and will often come home with a bargain from an auction or a sale room, which she then reinvents with paint and fabric. ‘If you get it wrong it’s not an expensive mistake to make,’ she says.
‘It’s exciting to play around with ideas and think, “What can I get away with?”’ But Victoria still used a few basic principles to create the best look for each room: finding a focal point and working outwards, choosing furniture in keeping and in proportion with the rooms, and using the vertical, as well as the floor, space.
‘Carrying bulky furniture up three flights of stairs was a challenge, so I had to make some compromises and rethink the way we lived,’ says Victoria. ‘It’s very different to my last house, which was long and low with room to spread out. Although this place is tall with much smaller spaces, I think I’ve managed to achieve a big- house look in a compact home.’