Having taken over part of the building next door to their Notting Hill villa, the owners reworked the layout of their house and commissioned interior designer Amanda Hornby to create bright rooms filled with statement patterns
The first time the interior designer Amanda Hornby saw Hodges Barn was when she was invited there to meet her then boyfriend Nick's family. 'I was quite petrified, of course,' she says. 'It was Christmas and the staircase was woven with holly and ivy - a tradition we keep up today. I can't remember if I stayed, or if we had a family meal, but I do remember the William Morris wallpaper and red Formica worktops in the kitchen.' Spoken like a true designer. Nick is now her husband, and Hodges Barn is their home. These days, the touches of scarlet in the kitchen come from a row of metal Tolix stools and some glass lights hanging above a huge central island, which is topped with cabbage-green Brazilian marble.
The house, in a rolling part of the Cotswolds, has been in Nick's family since 1945. Hodges Piece, as the original building was called, was a giant dovecote built in 1499. It housed pigeons to provide winter meat for a big house, which stood 500 yards away. When that house burnt down in 1556, the dovecote was abandoned and used only occasionally to house farm carts. An attempt to convert it into a house in 1938 had to be abandoned because of the Second World War until Nick's great-grandmother bought the property seven years later.
The sturdy ancient walls and cruciform structure of the dovecote made it an ideal base to create a family home full of character and charm. 'In my mother-in-law's day, the house was always full of beautiful things, with lots of people staying,' says Amanda.
When she and Nick bought the house from the family seven years ago, they were determined to keep that easy-going atmosphere, but a modern update was much needed. For two years, they lived in a rented house nearby, while dealing with the builders. The roof came off and many ofthe upstairs rooms were recon-figured. But the biggest change was the addition of an extra wing, concealed behind what looks like a garden wall when seen from the drive.
The couple and their three children mostly use an entrance in this new wing, the large and welcoming garden hall, with its boots and benches and sporting paraphernalia. Beside it on the left is Amanda's office, which looks over the stables on one side and across to the lovely water garden and woods beyond. Also off this garden hall is a flower room, with pantry-style cupboards built around a Belfast sink.
Below this area is a spacious basement, with a ping-pong table and a snooker room, its table re-covered in blue baize. Leading off the main space is a larder, laundry room, second kitchen and sauna. The mechanics of a house - providing enough storage, getting rid of awkward corners - are important to Amanda. 'Anyone can pick a paint colour, but getting the structure right is what makes a house,' she says.
Back at ground level, you turn right out of the garden hall into the kitchen, which was itself carved from a maze of larders and boiler rooms. Now, it's a majestic size, with a wall of pale grey painted cupboards designed by Amanda, a French limestone chimneypiece and a sturdy conker-bright oak dining table. There is also a long, comfortable sofa at one end, where the children - Cecily, 17, Verity, 15, and 12-year-old Hal - can sometimes be found, stretched out reading a book. Many of the couple's more modern artworks, which came from their London house, are hanging in the kitchen.
Walk through the kitchen to the main hall and you look right towards the front door under its fanlight and see the yew topiary and formal garden, or look left and see through the dining room to an identical door framing views of the beautiful countryside beyond. This hall, where farm carts would once have trundled into the dark space of the abandoned dovecote, is flooded with light from a double-glazed skylight that has recently been renewed.
There are large, early-nineteenth-century Dutch pastoral scenes hanging in the hall and stairway, which are a legacy of Nick's Dutch great-grandmother. She also brought with her from Holland the dining room's elegant chairs, which stand around a figured-mahogany table. Amanda reused her mother-in-law's Colefax and Fowler curtains here, adding a small repeat wallpaper from Nicholas Herbert. A pair of sombre Dutch poultry paintings hangs above two Forties French parcel-gilt and iron console tables. It is a calm and beautiful room.
Calm is Amanda's watchword in the drawing room, too. Here, the pink panels of a Portuguese needlepoint rug designed by Nick's grandmother, Nicole Hornby, have been calmed by a Farrow & Ball wallpaper in green. There are two sofas covered in a 'tough, hard-wearing and kid-proof' Fermoie strié fabric and a table, piled with books or set ready for a game, in front of each window.
The Hornbys have mixed family pieces with finds from auctions at Christie's in this room and throughout the house. Amanda has designed super-modern houses for some of her clients, and I wondered if she felt the weight of family history when designing this house. 'No, I didn't feel I was fighting anything. But I did want to get back to the roots of the house, to think about its history and to use some quite classic fabrics and wallpapers,' she says.
A floral Schumacher wallpaper in a pale blue, with matching curtains, lends a cool tone to the bedroom at the top of the house, with its four-poster bed. Amanda has a bit of a marble fixation and has used a different one in every bathroom. In the adjoining bathroom, she has designed a marble splashback in a swooping curved shape, sourced from a quarry that was reopened 20 years ago when the marble in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles was being restored. 'I love its funky psychedelic orange and red veins,' says Amanda. 'Perhaps Louis XIV was a bit of marble freak, too.'
The jolliest of the bedrooms is a children's dorm under the eaves, papered in a pink and green Manuel Canovas toile de Jouy pattern, and lined with beds. Hal has strung up some patriotic bunting for a summer sleepover.
In summer, the garden, which surrounds the house on every side, is at its most beautiful. Yew enclosures provide structure for an old-fashioned rose border and hide the swimming pool; a serpentine pond in the lowest part of the garden is fringed with angelica and iris; and glorious roses clothe the walls of the herbaceous border, which stands between the house and the shimmering hay meadows beyond. Amanda has achieved her aim. It is a friendly and happy house filled with and surrounded by beautiful things.
Amanda Hornby: 07769-687167;
Gooseberry Design: 020-7792 8042
Taken from the March 2016 issue of House & Garden.