The celebrated interior designer Penny Morrison opens the doors to her magical country house in Wales, and shares with us the special memories and comforts which have made it her home
INTERIOR DESIGNER PENNY MORRISON’S COSY AND COLOURFUL DRAWING ROOM AT HER HOME IN WALES. IMAGE: MIKE GARLICK PHOTOGRAPHY
Where do you live and why?
I live on the Welsh border because I love the peacefulness, the views, the hills and the feeling of remoteness. It is a bit like being in the Scottish Highlands without having to travel so far from London.
How would you describe your home?
Our house is a Welsh Regency house: white pebbledash exterior walls, a slate roof and wooden floors. The thing I love most is that all the ground floor rooms have French windows and double doors to the garden. My other favourite feature is that when you open the front door you can see straight through to the door at the end of the hall to the terrace where we sit outside in the summer.
(LEFT) THE DINING ROOM, WITH ITS BEAUTIFUL DOUBLE DOORS OPENING ON TO VIEWS OF THE WELSH COUNTRYSIDE. (RIGHT) PAINTED PLATES FROM PENNY’S OWN HOMEWARES COLLECTION. IMAGES: MIKE GARLICK PHOTOGRAPHY
What’s the first thing you did to your home when you moved in?
When we first moved in 30 years ago we had to gut the whole house as it was riddled with dry rot. Whilst all the works were going on I was having a challenging pregnancy so I was conducting all the refurbishments from my bed! We replaced the roof and while doing that raised the ceiling in the hall and added a large light well which has made an enormous difference.
Describe your front door…
Our front door is an old oak double door with side lights and fan light above. It is a bit rickety but it presents such a wonderful vision when it opens that everyone forgets about the door itself!
Aesthetically, what does your home need to have to make it feel like its yours?
It needs a big mix of styles, fabrics – old and new – quirky bits, lots of paintings and watercolours, and plenty of accessories such as lamps, flowers, rugs and cushions.
INTERIOR DESIGNER PENNY MORRISON. IMAGE: MIKE GARLICK PHOTOGRAPHY
What was your childhood home like?
I was brought up in South Africa so very different from here, mostly due to the climate, but my mother was very house proud and our home was always immaculate and tidy. A bit too tidy for me but it had pretty fabrics, with sunny and bright rooms, and lots of flowers.
Do you find that when you are creating a home for yourself to live in your instincts and choices are similar to what they would be for a client?
More the other way round. I work very instinctively at home and when creating a house for someone else I try to make it how I would like it to feel if I was living there.
What’s on your bedside table?
Loads of books, a huge flagon of water, hand cream and a few sweets!
(LEFT) A BEDROOM AT PENNY MORRISON’S HOME, WITH THE BEDHEAD UPHOLSTERED WITH A SUZANI. (RIGHT) A BATHROOM AT THE HOUSE IS MADE COSY WITH WALLPAPER, ART, DECORATIVE PLATES AND A RUG. IMAGES: MIKE GARLICK PHOTOGRAPHY
Do you have a domestic guilty secret or pet hate?
My guilty secret – sadly not so secret these days – is that I am an appalling hoarder. There are piles of things everywhere which I can’t bear to let go of and this drives my husband, Guy, insane. He says I am like The Lady in the Van and I find it hard to disagree!
What are some of the most memorable things that have happened in your home?
The first memorable thing was my son’s christening. We moved in when he was three months old and waited for his godfather to return from the Gulf War to have the christening so the whole occasion became a big housewarming. We’d have large house parties with friends who had similar age children and we would swim, play tennis and then spread blankets on the lawn in the walled garden and have a picnic as the sun was setting. It was all a great adventure for the children.
(LEFT) THE HALLWAY AT PENNY MORRISON’S WELSH HOME. (RIGHT) A COSY ARMCHAIR WITH A CUSHION FROM PENNY MORRISON’S HOMEWARE COLLECTION. IMAGES: MIKE GARLICK PHOTOGRAPHY
Has the global pandemic changed the way you feel about your home?
No, but it has changed the way I feel about myself. I have spent so much time at home and it has made me reflect on life, my lifestyle and my priorities. I was always like a rat on a wheel racing around the world and working flat out and I began to realise that this was in part to stop myself looking inward. Having done that, it has relaxed me – it made me realise it is ok not to be perfect and to really appreciate the small everyday things, and the friends that we are so lucky to have.
I also had a bit of a sense of guilt that we have been sitting in a beautiful part of the country with our dogs and cats, plenty of space and pretty places to walk when there are so many people who have either been homeschooling, jobless, crammed into tiny flats with too many people or abusive partners, and this makes me sad.
What makes your house a home?
I think entertaining in a relaxed and fun way is what makes it feel like home. Music, open doors, fires, flowers and good food on prettily laid tables with the pets milling around. That’s my home.
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