Home makeover: 'I’ve filled our home with travel-inspired treasures'

A lifelong fan of all things colourful and eclectic, Polly Hamilton has given a lacklustre 19th-century property a new lease of life with unique finds from antiques markets and trips abroad

Polly Hamilton, Barnes
Published: July 6, 2021 at 8:05 am
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Behind the tile-clad walls of an unassuming Victorian house, just a stone’s throw from bustling Barnes, Polly Hamilton has lovingly created a carefully curated family home that’s become a punchy fusion of colour, personality and imaginative touches.

Caboche pendant above table with multicoloured Eames-style chairs
Polly has kept the pink and green running into the dining room, where she added rainbow Eames-style chairs for a playful touch. The Neptune table is extendable, and stylish pendants provide task lighting

‘It certainly has been quite the journey for my husband, Max, and me, to transform what was a bland, rather cramped, three-bedroom house into a larger, family-friendly home, full of cherished treasures and unusual artefacts that we’ve collected over the years,’ Polly reveals.

Open plan living room with vintage French style sofa
A pro at layering colours, prints and textures, Polly’s tip is to start with one piece and build the scheme around it. The Paul Smith Passionflower rug was the starting point for her living room décor

Polly’s love affair with colour, textiles and pattern began as far back as she can recall. ‘I’ve always enjoyed the buzz of shopping in places like Portobello Road and, as a teenager, I remember buying bright orange saris to give my bedroom the appearance of a Bedouin tent,’ she says. ‘The theme for my 21st birthday was ‘All the Colours of the Rainbow,’ which was, I guess, the shape of things to come.’

Knocked through and enlarged living space with vintage coffee table and French-style sofa
Excited to display her treasured finds, Polly has styled every surface with quirky ornaments. Her keen eye scored her the vintage coffee table from Phoenix on Golborne, the sofa on eBay, and the slipper chair from Sunbury Antiques Market

As Polly’s burgeoning passion for design and interiors grew, so did her desire to travel. It wasn’t long before both interests became inextricably linked.

Welcome to our home...

We are Polly Hamilton, 44, an interior styling consultant @pollyalicedesign, my husband, Max, 47, our twins, Pearl and Rafferty, ten, our daughter Kitty, eight, and our Yorkiepoo, Sidney. 

Our home is A five-bedroom Victorian property near Barnes. 

Polly Hamilton, Barnes

On every holiday, ‘my first stop would often be the local market where I’d spend many an hour in seventh heaven, seeking out a patterned rug or piece of striking fabric,’ she smiles.

Downton chandelier above reconfigured kitchen with grey fitted units in family home near Barnes
The Downton chandelier from Graham & Green and gallery wall are both talking points with guests. Linking the kitchen to the dining room, the collection is a fusion of unusual artwork and photos

Having met Max while at Trinity College, Dublin, the pair tied the knot and ventured to Belize and Guatemala for their honeymoon. ‘It was an amazing experience,’ recalls Polly. ‘I adored the country and the people, plus the myriad colours of the traditional handwoven clothing. I couldn’t resist buying reams of vibrant fabric, which I tucked away for future interiors projects.’

Downton chandelier above reconfigured kitchen with skylight window
Every inch of space has benefited from Polly’s touch. She’s added printed lampshades, plates, artwork and bar stools to make the kitchen feel homely for her family to cook and socialise in

The pair later lived abroad in Australia and Hong Kong, where they accumulated an eclectic mix of furniture. They had these pieces shipped back when they returned to a two-bedroom flat in England in 2007.

Downton chandelier above grey sofa with Juju tribal hat and framed huipil from Guetemala
Polly has created balance by using the same hot pink to draw the eye up and around the room, from the seat cushions and throws to a floor lamp and Roman blinds

Three years later, having discovered that Polly was expecting twins, the couple began searching for a family home in Barnes. ‘The location was like a little oasis, with good schools, independent shops and a village-like feel, plus close proximity to several parks and the River Thames,’ says Polly.

Sanderson’s Porcelain Garden wallpaper and Irish slipper chair
Polly chose Sanderson’s Porcelain Garden for the airy landing, which references the fabrics in the bedroom. She had the slipper chair reupholstered to complement the florals

They were drawn to one particular house. ‘It was quirky,’ Polly explains. ‘The entrance was at the side, rather than the front, which meant the layout was a bit unusual, and that appealed to us.

A bit more about our home...

Our biggest challenge was Undertaking a full renovation of every room. Renting a property nearby to live in while the work was going on definitely helped.

I love shopping at Vintage and antiques shops, and markets and shops on holidays abroad.

I’m inspired by The places I’ve visited around the world, including Madrid, Guatemala and China.

Decorative Victorian corner house near Barnes, London

‘We immediately put in an offer, thinking that it wouldn’t be too long before we’d inject the neutral interior with a riot of colour.’

Carnival fabric from Christopher Farr with Design Vintage bedside table and wall light from Graham & Green.
Guest bedrooms offer a chance to experiment with braver styles. Polly has gone even bolder with her décor choices here with a headboard in Carnival fabric from Christopher Farr and a Graham & Green flower wall light

However, after moving in during July 2010, plans came to an abrupt halt when the twins arrived that September. ‘We hadn’t anticipated how busy life with two little babies would become! Our home had to take a back seat,’ Polly explains. In 2012, Max was offered an amazing job opportunity in Dublin, so the family upped sticks and relocated to Ireland.

Vintage fabrics and upcycled chair in bedroom of Richmond home
A throw from India has given Polly plenty of colours to play with – the ochre tones are picked out in the spotty wallpaper, the rich magenta matched by the chair and blind, and the coral echoed by the table lamp

Three years later, with their third child, Kitty, in tow, the family returned to the Barnes house to find they’d outgrown the property. ‘Apart from looking rather scruffy after being rented out, we could see that it just wasn’t big enough for the five of us,’ says Polly. ‘We quickly hired an architect and began drawing up plans for a major renovation project.’

Curtains and Roman blind made up in Helene in fuchsia from the Fleurons d’Helene collection
For the bedroom scheme, Polly took colour cues from her existing headboard and went for a delicate combination of soothing pinks and soft greens, layering up prints in these hues so it feels cosy and co-ordinated

Ideas included a host of changes, such as extending the ground floor to create a spacious, open-plan kitchen-diner, plus converting the loft and lowering the ceilings on the first floor to gain two new bedrooms and a bathroom for the children. With planning permission granted, work began while the Hamiltons oversaw the project from a rental home nearby.

Twin beds and laundry baskets with floral roman blinds
Polly’s liberal use of pink continues into her daughters’ room. She painted the walls in Middleton Pink by Farrow & Ball and livened it up with florals, chevrons and stripes

‘We decided it made sense to go the whole hog, installing underfloor heating, and updating the electrics and plumbing throughout. The project snowballed and, in the end, every single room was altered in some shape or form,’ Polly adds.

Brown bathroom tiles are from Tiles and Beyond.
Polly has made her bathroom feel bigger by tiling a feature wall and floor, and the walls either side with blush pink – all with tiles from Tiles and Beyond. This draws the eye to the furthest wall for an elongating effect

With Polly having such a natural flair for interior design, she relished the chance to inject the new-look home with carefully considered paint colours and a plethora of soft furnishings, plus numerous home accessories she’d been collecting ‘magpie-style’ for decades. ‘All the objects that I had bought finally had their moment to shine,’ she reveals.

Christian Lacroix Alcazar Milticolore wallpaper sourced from the designers Guilding in small cloakroom with wasbasin
Polly has squeezed all the essentials into the downstairs cloakroom, with a slimline sink unit and built-in cupboards. She’s added a designer touch with Christian Lacroix Alcazar Multicolore wallpaper from Designers Guild

Starting with one particular item, such as a painting or rug, Polly introduced the colours to layer the schemes in each room with stimulating hues and patterns. ‘Fortunately, Max knows that colour makes me happy and trusts my judgement,’ says Polly. ‘During the project, we only had one discussion about the ground floor tiles and in hindsight, I’m very glad that we went with Max’s choice since they look fantastic and are very practical.’

Polly Hamilton, Barnes
Despite choosing a darker paint shade, Polly’s love of brights is still apparent. Inspired by the Misia fabric from Manuel Canovas on the upholstered wingback chair, Polly dressed the room with a Pooky lampshade and side table from IKEA

There’s no doubt that hours spent masterminding every inch of this transformation have culminated in a home that the Hamiltons are justifiably proud of. ‘We’ve had so many compliments, and I have been inundated with requests from friends who are keen for me to help them create a more cohesive look in their own homes, with layers of soft furnishings and interesting accessories,’ reveals Polly. ‘Not only are we finally living in a home we all adore, our project has also paved the way for the next chapter in my life with the launch of my own business Polly Alice Design, which I’m extremely excited about.’


Feature Janet McMeekin. Photos Andreas von Einsiedel. 

This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?

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