Edward Bulmer: eco-friendly paints and interior restoration
We meet with restoration specialist Edward Bulmer to talk historic houses and all things decoration; from trending colours to plastic-free paint
Edward Bulmer is a leading interior designer, specialising in the redecoration of historic houses.
He set up his own design practice in 1993, and has since been involved with the restoration of some of the country’s most important buildings including Chequers and the Tower of London. He then launched the eponymous paint business, Edward Bulmer Natural Paint, which produces a beautiful range of natural paints. The colours are hand-mixed in converted historic farm buildings on his organic farm in Herefordshire where, for over 20 years, he has been restoring the Queen Anne family home, Court of Noke, where he lives with his wife and daughters.
How did the creation of your range of eco-friendly paints come about?
I was working on the restoration project at Goodwood when I was asked to consider the environmental impact of my work and not to use anything toxic in my decorating schemes. I was planning to use natural materials; wood, wool, leather, and stone but then I turned my attention to the paint on the walls and realised I did not know what was in it. It did not take me long to realise that modern paint making relies on plastic binders produced as a by-product of refining crude oil and a raft of petro-chemicals – and was neither non-toxic nor environmentally friendly.
Any advice on choosing wall colours?
Always start with what you can’t change – a floor or a polished wooden door for instance. This will give you the tonality that will work best to harmoniously integrate these features into your scheme. Then simply work with what you like, reflected by what clothes you wear or fabrics you are attracted by.
Which colours do you predict as becoming more popular?
Pinks, as we increasingly realise they can be soft and serious as well as feminine. Blues are also gaining popularity as we have avoided colder tones and offer colours that look great with polished and stained wood.
Can you tell us more about the Court of Noke?
It was built around 1700 and was remodelled in the late 19th century but quite respectfully. We have restored the historic features but remodelled the rooms to make a practical modern family home. This involved quite an extensive rebuild at the back of the house, combining a warren of small rooms into a back hall and dining room. We camped for the first couple of years and then spent another two years living on a building site. I was not content just to take on the redecoration of the house, and we also restored an 18th century water garden. As my wife says, she had running water in the garden before the kitchen.
What are your most cherished pieces in your home?
Modern pictures we have bought and artwork created by my daughters. In the garden we have a large marble sculpture of Ganesh which we bought back from India, where we travelled with our children for six months back in 2007.
What was your most challenging project?
Turning an abandoned Grade I town house into a private members club, now known as Home House, with as little change of original use as possible was very demanding.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
My current projects centre around the modern use of historic buildings – from creating up-to-date homes to improving commercial usage of others. One current project will see a Boffi kitchen nestled into a Georgian double cube room with a Piranesi chimneypiece.