When the television presenter and fashion stylist Louise Roe and her husband moved to their Georgian rectory in Oxfordshire after 11 years in LA, they thought they’d found their forever home. Now, as they renovate their new home in London, Louise talks to Jessica Jonzen about why they moved on, what she learnt from decorating their former home, and how she’s juggling another house project with a toddler and a newborn
LOUISE ROE IN THE SITTING ROOM AT HER FORMER HOME IN OXFORDSHIRE. THE LEATHER OTTOMAN CAME WITH HER FROM LA, AND THE WALLS ARE PAINTED IN ‘BRICK’ BY EDWARD BULMER. IMAGE: COURTESY OF LOUISE ROE
When Louise Roe first drove down the drive to her former home, she cried. “I had a huge reaction to it,” she says. After 18 months of house hunting from LA, it was a big moment to be able to see potential homes – and to envisage their future life back in the UK – in person.
“I really wanted a Georgian rectory and I remember the estate agent saying ‘if I had a pound for every time someone asked for that…’” Louise says. “In fact, it’s exactly what we found so it was meant to be. Funnily enough the one I thought would be our dream home just didn’t give me butterflies, but the one that we bought made me tear up. It’s all very well having a list of things you want but ultimately it’s about that feeling you get when you walk in.”
Louise and her husband, director Mackenzie Hunkin, made the decision to leave LA after more than a decade of living there after their daughter, Honor – now three-and-a-half, was born. “It wasn’t just because I’d had a little girl – I missed England. I missed family and friends, I missed the countryside, I missed pubs!” In the digital world, there was also no longer the requirement for Louise and Mackenzie to live in LA for the studios so the timing made sense.
(LEFT:) THE ORANGERY WHICH LOUISE AND MACKENZIE HAD BUILT FROM SCRATCH WAS FROM VALE AND IS PAINTED IN THEIR OWN COLOUR ‘CATKIN’. THE SISAL CARPETS ARE FROM ALTERNATIVE FLOORING. THE PINK SOFA IS FROM LOAF. (RIGHT:) THE OAK TABLE WAS A GUMTREE FIND AND THE WINDSOR BACK CHAIRS WERE FROM EBAY. THE RUG IS FROM A COLLABORATION BETWEEN JENNIFER MANNERS AND SALVESEN GRAHAM. THE LAMP SHADE IS FROM ALICE PALMER & CO. IMAGES: COURTESY OF LOUISE ROE
Louise, Mackenzie and Honor moved back to the UK at the end of 2019 and began renovating their new home. “I’m a real believer in doing things now or never so we rented for three months while we did a light renovation – it was more decoration,” she says. As with most old houses, however, once they started work new problems emerged meaning that the electrics and plumbing needed to be attended to. “All in all, it was in pretty good condition, it was just we wanted to make it our own. I’m obsessed with interiors so I wanted to be able to use all these fabrics I’d been saving up for!”
Louise started her popular @louiseroehome account on Instagram to document the renovation and also to share her inspirations. She fully embraced a quintessentially English style for their home – was it quite distinct from how her home in LA had been decorated? “I think your taste evolves and I also think you have to be guided by the house and its situation,” says Louise. “I think my love of English textures and layering was evident in LA but I’ve really gone to town with it now. I think you have to use colour and layering in England because of the light and you want to feel cosier. I think very stark, modern aesthetic is great in LA where it’s always sunny but here it feels a little cold for me.”
(LEFT:) THE EAVES BEDROOM WHICH LOUISE DESCRIBED AS HER ‘MARY POPPINS ROOM.’ DECORATED IN PIERRE FREY WALLPAPER AND FABRIC.(RIGHT:) THE MASTER BATHROOM. IMAGES: COURTESY OF LOUISE ROE
Determined to be faithful to the heritage of her new home, Louise enlisted the expertise of Edward Bulmer who advised on appropriate colours for the house. “His knowledge is just incredible and I learnt a lot from him. People often think of Georgian colours as being very drab but he told me that actually they used crazy pigments and their colours were really bright. They’ve faded over time but he said they were terribly toxic and not very healthy! Bright reds were popular, so I used his colour Brick in the drawing room. I was after a colour like that but it was amazing to hear him say that it would have been used 200 years ago.”
Louise embraced colour and pattern in the fabrics she chose the house, too, opting for Lisa Fine, Penny Morrison, Pierre Frey and Colefax & Fowler among many others. Carpets were taken up and original floorboards were restored. A ceiling rose which they discovered had fallen down during a flood was replaced.
(LEFT:) LOUISE HAD A SLIM ISLAND MADE FROM THE SAME RECLAIMED FLOORBOARDS USED ON THE FLOOR. THE STOOLS ARE ANTIQUES FROM LA WHICH SHE HAD REUPHOLSTERED IN OUTDOOR FABRIC BY PETER DUNHAM. (RIGHT:) THE KITCHEN CABINETS ARE FROM BRITISH STANDARD AND ARE PAINTED IN SAGE GREEN BY LITTLE GREENE. IMAGES: COURTESY OF LOUISE ROE
When it came to choosing a new kitchen, Louise knew she wanted it to feel like a welcoming farmhouse kitchen. “British Standard made the cupboards and did a great job of advising where we could put the appliances which helped make it feel more traditional.” Louise chose Sage Green by Little Greene for the cabinets and British Standard matched the drawer pulls which Louise had had saved on a mood board for years. “They’re quite old school – almost like from an old library or office so they don’t feel that kitchen-y, for want of a better adjective!”
Although the kitchen is rather narrow, Louise wanted an island: “I needed to be able to sit and have my wine somewhere! And guests need to have somewhere to perch when you’re cooking,” she says. They ended up having one made from the same reclaimed wood they had used on the kitchen floor and the stools were brought over from LA and reupholstered in a Peter Dunham outdoor fabric to protect them from jammy toddler fingers.
Louise also had a pot filler installed above the AGA, which was inspired by her time in the US. “I didn’t realise it was such an American thing and so many people here were like ‘what is it?’ It’s so handy so you’re not going back and forth to the sink with a heavy pot.” She also hung antique plates on the walls, which she admits “Mackenzie kind of hates but I put them up when he’s not looking!”
(LEFT:) LOUISE IN HER FORMER KITCHEN. (RIGHT:) THE DOWNSTAIRS LOO DECORATED WITH WALLPAPER AND MATCHING BLINDS BY NINA CAMPBELL. THE CHAIR IS BY PLAIN ENGLISH, AND THE ARTWORK CAME WITH THEM FROM LA AND IS A MIX OF NATALIE OBRADOVICH AND GRAY MALLIN. THE WALL LIGHTS AND SHADES ARE BY POOKY. IMAGES: COURTESY OF LOUISE ROE
It was, she says, “a very happy home,” which made her feel “calm and inspired, safe and comforted.” So it was a surprise to Louise’s followers when she announced in April that they were moving to London. “We realised we missed the hustle and bustle, having close friends nearby and also the culture. London is the best city ever and we’re incredibly excited to be back,” she says.
They’ve embarked on another renovation project, which has also coincided with the arrival of their second daughter, Inès, at the end of May. “We truly prepared for it as much as possible,” Louise says. “I planned the décor, which I love doing, well in advance and I ordered everything from wallpaper to radiators so it was all here in time.” She and Mackenzie interviewed five builders when she was eight months pregnant. “Having a team that has a great reputation is very important so we know they will stick to deadline.”
Louise has also learned a lot from the experience of renovating her last home. “I learned to really plan the practical side of a room. Where will we need plug sockets? Will we want all the lamps to turn on from one switch? Where does the light come in during the day?” But it’s also a lesson in remembering that we are allowed to change our minds. “I think everything in life is a chapter, I’m realising that more as I get older,” says Louise. We can’t wait to follow along as she begins a new one.
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