Interior designers tend to be one step ahead when it comes to house-hunting, which was certainly the case with Torill Tangen. She admits to finding it easy to visualise what any house will look like with her possessions inside it, and also had a clear image of where her new home should be and what it needed to provide. ‘I wanted to live in a small village with shops and easy access to transport,’ explains Torill. ‘The house also had to be in good structural and decorative condition; I’ve done several big restoration projects in the past and this time I wanted to spend money on things other than a new roof.’ Torill was born in Norway but has travelled extensively and lived in different countries. ‘I’ve been in the UK for longer than anywhere else,’ she says, ‘and wanted to return to Kent to be near my daughter and the many friends I made when I lived here some years ago.’ After viewing a number of properties, a 10-year-old, three-bedroom semi in a picturesque village perfectly fitted the bill. ‘What I liked most about the house was that the ground-floor layout was open — or, as I call it, see-through — and the ceilings were a good height, which improved the overall feeling of space,’ says Torill.
She formed a mental picture of where all her furniture, lighting and accessories would go to create a relaxed, free-flowing feel, without having to knock down walls or even lift a paintbrush. ‘I’ve studied stage design, so I’m good at making still-life arrangements,’ says Torill. ‘Here, I’ve grouped together pieces of furniture that are pleasing to the eye and create an easy transition between the spaces. I have lots of painted items, bought in Norway, Sweden and France, as well as here in England, which give the clean, fresh look I like.’
The international mix of furnishings on the ground floor continues upstairs.
In the bedrooms, Toile de Jouy curtains are positioned next to traditional English patchwork quilts and modern pieces beside antiques. So far, Torill has been happy to live with the cream walls and neutral carpets she inherited, just adding colourful soft furnishings to link each space and bring her home to life. When she does get round to redecorating, she says it will be in the subtle grey and off-white shades of Scandinavian interiors.
Although there is no timescale for these changes, Torill’s ultimate goal is to further establish the connections between different rooms. ‘It’s important to me because, in the past, I’ve lived in very large properties where I’ve used just one room.’