At first glance, Claire McFadyen’s fabulous kitchen looks state of the art.
From the aged brass tap to the funky range cooker, metal pendant lights and deep wooden double drawers, this industrial-modern country look couldn’t be more on trend.
But every item in this stunning, double-height room is salvaged. The island is made up of an old French shop counter.
Wooden units are made from Victorian haberdashery drawers found in a reclamation yard. The porcelain Butler sink was a £50 junk shop find and the lights were salvaged from a factory.
Claire, husband Jamie and their two young daughters, Maisie and Molly, moved into the detached 1880s house in Chipstead, Surrey, four years ago.
It needed total renovation. Extending, wiring, plumbing and putting in new Crittall-style windows took up most of their budget.
But the couple run Louisa Grace Interiors, an antique furniture and interior design business, and knew they could refurbish their Victorian home with vintage finds.
‘We wanted to make this house as sustainable and as unique as possible — and we were also on a tight budget,’ says Claire. ‘So we filled it with preloved pieces to create the look we wanted for a fraction of the price of buying new.’
Claire and Jamie started their business sourcing French and Belgian furniture eight years ago ‘by mistake’.
Claire says: ‘Jamie was a taxi driver and I was a PA. We made some blackboards out of vintage frames and people started asking us to make them for their children. We scoured charity shops for vintage frames and realised how many beautiful items were available. We had a rule never to spend more than £20 on any piece. Then we’d sell it.
‘Next thing we were buying vintage furniture on eBay, which Jamie painted and upcycled and we had a shed that was a full-on production line. We outgrew the shed, moved to my mum’s garage… and when she got fed up we started looking for premises.’
The couple gave up their jobs and turned their hobby into a thriving business. Three barns on a farm in Banstead house their showroom, workshop and the studio, where they now also run painting, upcycling and interior design workshops.
Celebrity clients include singer Mark Owen from Take That, model Abbey Clancy and TV presenter Kelly Brook. Under Covid restrictions, the couple had to diversify.
‘Evolving falls in line with our sustainability ethos and the organic process to use what you already have,’ says Claire. ‘Jamie has started making beautiful dining tables, desks and shelves from reclaimed floorboards.’
The freestanding kitchen is the star of their home — and it’s a firm favourite on Instagram. It’s also functional. They added electric switches inside the island to house the microwave.
‘With vintage, things aren’t always going to be standard size but you can adapt them and it’s a lot more cost-effective than getting a top-end kitchen company to recreate the same look,’ says Claire.
She found the old English butcher block on Instagram, while the reconditioned, painted range cooker cost £3,000. ‘They’re more than £10,000 new. But I love the character it gets from the patina of the paint.’
Old bakers boards and terracotta olive jars dress the kitchen. The sink unit is flanked by the pair of old haberdashery cabinets with original wooden tops that Claire came across before the extension was built. They helped inspire the rest of the kitchen and, like the cabinets, the sink and ceramic drainer came from a reclamation yard.
‘The lights are old metal factory lights — we sell a lot of those. I get such a buzz from the fact all these items have had another life and might otherwise be in landfill. I love it because it adds such warmth and character.’
In the dining area there is a bank of old drawers. ‘We found it in a sorry state an at antiques fair. Jamie painted and waxed it and added new cup handles.’ It’s adorned with chemist bottles filled with flowers from the garden, and vintage tin signs.
Around the dining table — made by Jamie — are former chapel chairs. The pigeon hole, salvaged from a mechanic’s office, sits on an old factory workbench and looks stunning as a display cabinet for cookery books and glasses.
Vintage Italian caustic tiles in the downstairs loo look all the better for being chipped. Beautiful mercury glass lights reflect in the antique foxed glass mirror.
‘All the fireplaces are reclaimed Victorian slate and replaced the brick monstrosities that were there when we moved in,’ says Claire. Objets d’art, including an old fencing mask, classic birdcages and children’s wooden games dress the spaces. On the walls are on-trend original oil portraits, plus antique book pages in vintage frames.
Even the girls’ playroom is steeped in history. An old schoolroom cabinet houses their toys and they’ve a vintage doll’s house and easel, and a French doll’s pushchair.
The outhouse has been converted into beautiful guest quarters. ‘We cornered off a section for the bathroom and clad it in painted reclaimed floorboards to make it a feature. We created a kitchenette from old French shutters and a reclaimed Butler sink. The taps are made from old copper piping.’
The bed is a reupholstered vintage find, and a statement chandelier hangs from the ceiling.
‘Every piece in my home is unique and has a history,’ says Claire. ‘And when we salvage these pieces and give them a new home, we give them a new lease of life and allow them to continue their remarkable stories.’
Check out their website louisagrace.co.uk; Instagram @louisagraceinteriors
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