A living room that’s a lesson in how to restore lost character in a historic space

Nicola Harding used rich colours and textures to enhance the historic character of a Jacobean house in Berkshire.

Although this 17th-century house had been very well looked after by its previous owners, it had lost much of its character. ‘My job was to reconnect the house with its past and create a sense of place,’ says Nicola Harding.

The project began with the 17th-century rooms at the front of the house, where the ceilings were lower and the natural light restricted through smaller windows. This is the front hall, which opens into a double-height inner hall. ‘I call it a decompression chamber. We covered it in a strong green paint on the walls and ceiling, enveloping the space with colour, which helps to blur the lines of where the walls stop and the ceilings start.’

The paint is Pesto by Pure & Original and its deep, soothing tones provide a cocooning environment before you move into the lighter, brighter inner hall.

When lighting a room with low ceilings, the best approach is to have as little as possible coming off the ceiling; too many sources of overhead lighting will accentuate the lack of height, she explains.

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A pendant from US lighting brand Obsolete is deliberately hung asymmetrically to allow the owners to position tall vases and play with the scale of the central table.

The furniture was bought through auction houses and house sales, and Miss Harding was asked by her clients to take a common-sense approach to the project and avoid removing elements in the house that were in good working order, including the floorboards.

She used antique fabrics and rugs to bring pops of contrasting reds into the spaces; the central rug was sourced through specialist dealer Gallery Yacou.

Nicola Harding & Co — 020–8743 6690; www.nicolaharding.com