Lisa Greenaway Compton House Interview – Spring Cleaning
Spring Cleaning is a tradition that allows us to freshen up our homes and get a head start on the hectic seasons of spring and summer – Lisa Greenaway shares with us her story of redecorating and upgrading the beautiful Compton House and how she has created a much more calm and relaxing atmosphere after some serious de-cluttering.
I am redecorating and upgrading the 7 rooms in my B&B, Compton House. Over the years we have done them piecemeal, but this Spring we are painting the house from top to bottom. Re assessing the furniture, changing the toiletries, ordering new linen and bedcovers and upgrading the bathrooms. Once I had made a plan, organised the decorators, plumbers and electricians I sat down totally overwhelmed.
Where to start?
I don’t know about you, but I am slowly drowning under furniture; inherited, antique, second hand, borrowed, left with me and never picked up….. the list is endless but the result is the same. No space. And the busier I am, the calmer I need my surroundings.
So this project is a serious, no nonsense, unsentimental getting rid of things job. We hang on to things for our future, our children, who don’t want brown furniture (“don’t bring more STUFF Mummy”), old times’ sake and just because we don’t actually SEE it any more. It’s a dichotomy, but the more familiar a room is, the less you actually look at it.
I have a definite style, keeping the spirit of my Georgian townhouse and displaying all my finds over the years. But the house was now confused and overcrowded. What I thought was wonderfully quirky and comforting for my guests, might in fact, be too cluttered and cramped.
So I asked for help from Danish Interior Designer, Henrietta Baxi whose uncluttered interiors and eye for detail I had often admired. She is not a minimalist, but I felt she would be a good balance to my maximilism, and get my guest rooms in balance. I wanted her Scandi-eye to look over my traditional house.
“It is not what you put in a room, it is what you take out” said Henrietta, and for the next few hours she carried chairs, china ornaments, pictures, chests of drawers and tables out of the bedrooms as I watched, horrified, seeing all the things I had carefully collected biting the dust. The china that matched the curtains- gone. The cushions on the chairs – gone (but now you see the marquetry chair backs). When she ripped off the frills from the top of the 4 poster bed- and then the valance, I thought she’d gone too far.
But you know what. Now we can see the carved edges of the wood, the valance that matched the curtains was totally OTT, and I love it. She is the personification of less is more.
As Henrietta explained, “in order to make the most of the good pieces and paintings, you have to give them space, not hide them”. And on a practical level, we found plug sockets previously hidden and unuseable. Hooray!
I don’t want to get all beige and Kelly Hoppen on you, but I realise it’s so much easier to sort out the furniture BEFORE you decorate, and just put back what is absolutely necessary, because the hard decisions have already been made.
I did my research and visited Sir John Soane’s House in Lincolns Inn Fields to experience a really overcrowded Georgian house. But the inspiration I gained most was for the bright and vivid colour schemes, and I returned home yearning to cover our cream and magnolia walls in wonderful yellows and reds.
Henrietta was encouraging that we kept the decoration true to the ethos of the house, and as Newark is the antiques capital of England, we sourced some wonderful vintage silk damask curtains to match all the rooms’ new colours.
I haven’t finished yet, but the new colours and less clutter have created a calm and much more relaxing atmosphere. So much more comfortable for my guests. It has been cathartic to offload so many things which I thought were charming but in fact, added nothing. The busy interiors I formally loved have been banished. And how good it feels. Except….. in my own little sitting room I’ve put up colourful wallpaper and kept my real treasures and paintings, a little jewel box of a room. Just in case I get withdrawal symptoms – but I haven’t told Henrietta!