When Minnie and Peter Craske moved to the historic town of Tunbridge Wells, they were determined to realise their dream of living in an elegant Victorian townhouse. After setting up home in rented accommodation they began the search for their ideal home.
Then one morning, after eight long months of house¬hunting, a For Sale sign appeared outside a place the couple had been admiring. ‘It was incredible,’ says Minnie. When we viewed it, it surpassed all expectations. It was as if it had been tailor-made for us.’ The couple have four children, Emily, 20, Beth, 17, Harriet, 12, and James, 11, so close proximity to schools and the town centre made the four-storey house a sound practical choice. And with its spacious layout, secluded garden and off-street parking it had the makings of a good family home.
Minnie was particularly won over by the abundance of original features in the house and the generous proportions of the rooms. ‘The industrial-style kitchen with its exposed brick walls and French-oak floorboards really appealed,’ she says, ‘while the upstairs rooms had an overwhelming sense of space and light.’ The Craskes made an offer there and then, and luckily it was quickly accepted.
Although the house was just a stone’s throw from their rented accommodation, moving in proved more of a challenge than expected. ‘I’ve always had a passion for anything vintage and love being surrounded by beautiful items,’ says Minnie. ‘Over the years, Peter and I have amassed a huge collection of things and on the day of the move there were hundreds of boxes to unload.’
Luckily there was no structural work to carry out and the Craskes immediately set about making the place their own. Mindful of preserving its period integrity, they went to great lengths to source finishing touches such as the antique brass door furniture and authentic bell pull. ‘I loved the chequered tiles on the steps leading up to the house but felt the front aspect could do with an extra wow factor,’ says Minnie, ‘so I opted for white plantation shutters as a stylish choice that would give us more privacy.’ ‘Although the previous owner had lovely taste, we wanted to stamp our own personalities on the house by repainting throughout,’ recalls Minnie, who went for a sophisticated mix of pale hues on the ground and upper floors. This has resulted in a beautifully relaxed French-cum-Swedish look that incorporates stunning statement pieces and is a calm background for her treasure trove of vintage finds. In the basement, deeper shades complement the more rustic elements of the kitchen.
Minnie’s impeccable eye for colour and design hasn’t gone unnoticed and it has resulted in a spin-off enterprise. ‘I’ve recently opened a shop selling vintage furniture and accessories,’ she reveals. ‘After getting compliments on our home and requests to emulate my style in other people’s houses, launching my own interiors business seemed to make perfect sense.
‘Transforming this house into a home, has been such an amazing experience,’ says Minnie. ‘From the outset, Peter and I knew exactly how we wanted it to evolve and, although it’s been extremely hard work, it has also been incredibly rewarding. ‘At one stage, when our house¬hunting was getting a little desperate, we toyed with the idea of buying another Edwardian property but we knew in our hearts that it wasn’t quite right. Now, we’re so glad we didn’t settle for second best as we all adore this house and feel extremely happy here.