Moving into a period property in the Hertfordshire countryside after living in London was a big change for Sabrina Hannan and her husband, David Giles, and they were determined to do the house justice.
‘We’d been in a 1920s place before, with a much more modern feel, but that just wouldn’t have been right for this house as it’s 400 years old with beamed ceilings.’ Sabrina, a medical rep, and David, a photographer, moved into the house in the summer of 2019, but took their time getting the décor just right.
‘There’d been some renovating done in recent years, but it was all very plain and beige and not really our taste. We decided to go dark and dramatic in most of the rooms, and the hallway was no exception.’
The walls had already been boarded halfway round, which the couple decided to keep, but everything else in there was earmarked for change. ‘There was too much wood on show. It’s a square space with four doors off it including the front door, so we had to think carefully about how we could give it personality and make it our own.’
Investing in some special wallpaper was high on the list. Sabrina had seen the stunning House of Hackney floral wallpaper on a black background ages ago and had been itching to use it somewhere.
Before they put the wallpaper up, the couple sugar-soaped the boarding and painted it a plain white to make the wallpaper stand out even more. ‘It’s the star of the show, you wouldn’t want anything to compete with it.’
‘It has such gorgeous colours in it, and there are plenty to use when it comes to accessorising, so it was the inspiration for the scheme. Plus, it has a period feel to it that suits the house.’
A favourite hobby for the couple is attending vintage fairs and pottering around antiques shops at the weekends, so they had high hopes of picking up key pieces of furniture for the scheme on a trip.
‘We wanted some sort of cabinet where we could store things and display our treasures, and we found one at the Newark fair. We both loved the shape and style of it, and we colour-matched an egg yolk yellow from the wallpaper and painted it.’
The couple also picked up various accessories on trips to Lancashire and the Peak District. Somewhere to sit was next on the list. ‘We measured the space between two of the doors and chose a small seat in orange velvet to provide somewhere to rest and put your shoes on.’
With two big bursts of colour in the space, they wanted all the doors leading off the hallway to be painted in the same shade for a co-ordinated look, so opted for a soothing dark grey on all four doors. The floor was the other major feature to decide on, keeping both style and practicality in mind.
‘The black tiles in there were too modern. While we wanted to stick with tiles as they are more practical and easier to clean, they were the wrong ones. We’re both keen cyclists and walkers and we often come through the door in muddy footwear.’
So, they searched online and ruled out anything too new and shiny-looking or with a pattern that would detract from the wallpaper. The answer came with some black-and-white distressed tiles, which David laid himself. ‘They’re great because they have rough edges and look like they’ve been there for ages.’
Attention to detail is a big part of the couple’s approach to decorating, and they spent time searching for appropriate light switches in an old-fashioned style instead of contemporary chrome, as well as key boxes with paintings on the outside and a vintage mirror to hang over the cabinet.
With all their treasures on display, the couple turned their attention to the porch for the finishing touches. ‘We painted the front door a light orange, which features in the wallpaper, so it all flows through when you open the door.
‘Now we love stepping into the hallway as it instantly feels like our home.’
Shop the look…
Moiety floor tiles, £25.95 per sq m, Walls & Floors. Cabinet, £80, Newark Collectors Fair. Cabinet painted in Autumn Beech satinwood, £24.99 per 2.5L, Valspar. Bench, £65, Screwfix. Bench painted in Green Orchid, £20 per 2.5L, Cuprinol at B&Q. Sofa, £139.97, Furniture 123. Artemis Black wallpaper, £125 per roll, House of Hackney. Front door painted in Smoked Lox exterior wood and metal, £15.99 per litre, Valspar. Interior doors painted in Down Pipe estate eggshell, £64 per 2.5L, Farrow & Ball. Boarding painted in Pure Brilliant White satinwood, £24 per 2.5L, Dulux. Wall lights, £90 for two; lace curtain, £30 for 2m; small key box, £14, all eBay. Curtain pole, £60; Nellie hook, £18, both Anthropologie. Art Nouveau round dolly light switch, £109, Broughtons. Stool, £22, antiques market. Flowered key box, £7; glass domes, £90 and £60, all Maltings Antiques. Pheasant cushions, £48 each, Orchid Furniture. Yellow velvet cushion, £45; duck feet frames, £39 each, both Graham and Green. Oval mirror, £14, Matlock Antiques. Purple throw, £28, Dunelm.