The interiors stylist, presenter and journalist talks to The Home Page about her colourful home in the East Sussex countryside where she lives with her husband, her son Arthur and her mother
Why do you live where you live?
I was brought up in the countryside and spent my adult life living in London and Brighton and then, when my son turned five, we moved back to the countryside to be connected with nature and the seasons and have that space. For somebody who’s passionate about interior design and architecture, that was actually the second thing on the wish list when we were househunting. The situation of the house was the most important thing. My husband’s a builder so our biggest challenge then was to find a house that wasn’t listed so we could have fun with it. In East Sussex that’s actually quite difficult, but we eventually found our ugly duckling. It’s still quite ugly, it’s not an overnight success, but it’s our forever home and we’ll be working on it for the rest of our lives.
Did you know when you first looked at it that it was going to be your forever home?
No, I hated it! I loved the land, but you came down the drive and the first thing you saw was this carbuncle of a really ugly garage. It was in a terrible state when the vendors bought it in the ‘80s but they added a really rather nasty ‘80s garage and ‘80s extension complete with uPVC conservatory. So we saw it in the summer and my first reaction was no. Then in the following October they dropped the price quite significantly and so, financially, that opened up possibilities. And also, after six months of looking your expectations start dropping, don’t they?!
You bought the house with your mother as well, didn’t you?
We did. The ugly garage became her very beautiful timber-clad annex. My mum and dad separated and put the family home on the market. It was taking quite a long time to sell and while my mum was house-hunting we were suddenly in a position to move. So then I thought, if we put our money and her money together it would open up a lot more opportunities for us both. We didn’t want to live in a house together, we wanted separate dwellings, so it made the house-hunting much more difficult because we had quite a specific remit. But, like anything, you just keep looking and we found the perfect place.
SOPHIE’S ELECTRIC BLUE HALLWAY. IMAGE: INSTAGRAM/@SOPHIEROBINSONINTERIORS
What’s your favourite room in the house?
In terms of our budget we focused on the inside first and the only room that is completely finished is the hallway and that has made a massive difference. They are often underestimated spaces and thought of last but, for me, it was really important. I painted it in my favourite colour, a deep blue, and I walk through it all day long to the other rooms in the house so I regularly get that boost. Everyone who comes to my house, even though there might be a skip outside the front or whatever else, they walk into the hallway and they’re like, ‘Oh wow.’ So that’s unexpected, but that’s my favourite room right now.
What’s the most surprising thing in your home?
I have a beige bathroom and I absolutely hate it, so it’s on the renovation list! The whole house was beige and I’ve de-beiged most things but doing a bathroom is quite a big investment, it’s not just a quick fix. If it was avocado it would be obviously disgusting, but this is just beige and boring and everything I stand against!
Describe your front door…
Pink! It’s the original door, nothing special. It was a dark wood stain and my mum was like, “You’re going to have to replace the door, it’s horrible.” But we couldn’t justify the cost, what with everything else, so I just painted it and changed all the ironmongery. Now I love it.
Hallways are often underestimated spaces but, for me, it was really important. I painted it in a deep blue, and I walk through it all day long to the other rooms in the house so I regularly get that boost.”
What’s at the bottom of your garden?
Well, we have five acres. So we have a little meadow and a fruit tree orchard and then beyond our land is 100 acres of woodland. So putting up with a disgusting plastic conservatory and everything else is worth it for that. My mum has a little ride-on mower and she mows it and does lots of the gardening. But it is a low maintenance garden, it doesn’t have lots of flower beds as I just don’t have time to get into the upkeep, so it’s all about mowing and strimming.
What was your childhood home like?
Similar to this, and a lot of my old friends have said that, too. I grew up in Warwickshire and both houses are a similar size and layout, with a similar size of land; we have a pond, paddock, stables. Where I grew up was right in the heart of a village which I do kind of miss, as that’s where we wanted to be but we were priced out. Here, we’re just on the outskirts of a village but it’s not a problem, all our townie mates want to come to us for the weekend!
SOPHIE’S BEAUTIFUL BOTANICAL KITCHEN. IMAGE: INSTAGRAM/@SOPHIEROBINSONINTERIORS
If the objects in your home could speak, which would have the best story to tell?
I have a 1950s antique mirrored side table that I bought from a Brighton car boot sale in my first year of uni. It cost me £30 which, at the time, was a big investment. And that has been in all my houses, of which there has been a lot. When I was renting and living in London you end up moving all the time, so the number would be in double figures, easily. There it is in my living room now. Saying you’ve got a mirrored table with stories to tell sounds a bit wrong, doesn’t it?! It wasn’t that kind of table!
What’s on your bedside table?
A scented candle and a big pile of books. At the moment I’m reading Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams and The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry. After I had my son Arthur I just stopped reading, I think lots of mums do, it was just too exhausting. Over the last year I’ve got a voracious appetite for reading again, I love it. And I listen to The High Low podcast a lot for recommendations.
SON ARTHUR’S BEDROOM – COLOURS CHOSEN BY HIM. IMAGE: INSTAGRAM/@SOPHIEROBINSONINTERIORS
You’ve just launched Worcester Bosch’s new design-led Greenstar Lifestyle boiler range. What advice would you give people embarking on the not-so-sexy elements of a renovation project?
Consider heating as an element of design, not just a functional choice. I designed and my husband built my mum’s annexe and it was a really fantastic opportunity to think through the heating properly. It doesn’t have to just be a new-build, it could be an extension too, but get those bones in right from the get-go. Don’t think about it afterwards. Underfloor heating is absolutely fantastic and having a really economical, efficient heating system and really effective insulation is so important. And who knew boilers could be sexy!
Sophie Robinson was speaking at Worcester Bosch’s Greenstar Lifestyle event. To find out more about Greenstar Lifestyle see here
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