Furnishing Flair

PUBLISHED: 11:00 26 May 2009 | UPDATED: 16:02 20 February 2013

English sofas and a large French-style dresser grace the sitting room

English sofas and a large French-style dresser grace the sitting room

Quirky, bold, stylish... all qualities Peter Booton found in this house, where French rustic meets English elegance

David and Anne Phipp have run their specialist furnishing business in Dorset for more than 35 years, so, when the opportunity arose to acquire a large mid-19th-century house in a waterside location, with spectacular views over Christchurch Harbour, they were able to use their considerable experience to design and plan every aspect of the interior themselves.

However, the house had been converted into two separate apartments and was in need of total modernisation as well as some repair work to the Grade II Listed building. David and Anne were already familiar with the property as they had previously lived in the first-floor apartment for a year while work was under way on the cottage they owned next door.

To return the house to a single dwelling, though, required a considerable amount of work, including the installation of a new staircase, kitchen, bathrooms and heating system. And, on one side of the property, a single-storey bay extension had been built on to create a dining area alongside the sitting room, but its bay windows needed replacing. New wooden double-glazed sash windows had to be specially made and fitted to match the existing windows. Fortunately, the Phipps knew a very good builder, RF Falla Ltd of Christchurch, whom they'd worked with before.

When it came to furnishing their new home, the Phipps naturally chose everything from their showrooms in Ferndown, including the furniture, lighting, pictures, mirrors, soft furnishings and even outdoor furniture for the terrace. David explains: "Anne and I particularly like the painted and distressed style of furniture we source from Provence and so we visited our supplier to choose exactly which pieces we wanted. Anne worked with Jimmy, our excellent decorator, to blend colours and finishes to enhance the distressed style of furniture."

It took a year to complete all the building work, redecoration and furnishing once the necessary permissions had been obtained, and at Christmas 2008 the Phipps moved into their splendid new home.

Entering the hall, with its beautifully tiled floor, glass chandelier and curved arch (an original feature), is rather like stepping into another world where French rustic meets English elegance. The two different styles certainly work well together and set the scene for the rest of the house. David and Anne say they wanted the sitting room to look quirky. It does. The original parquet block floor has been bleached, which helps lighten the room and emphasises the three large, dark and strongly patterned sofas. "The floor was brown before, rather reminiscent of a schoolroom," recalls David. "We've gone for quite a modern suite - it's from an English manufacturer, and contrasted it with the washed-out big dresser, which is very French."

The adjoining dining area in the previously extended section of the house also has a bleached wooden floor and a newly added window seat beneath bay windows which provide commanding views of Christchurch Harbour beyond the long, mainly lawned garden that ends at the water's edge.

Two pairs of glazed double doors in the kitchen, complete with wooden shutters, also overlook the harbour and open onto an elegant Victorian veranda with a white-painted balustrade and colourfully patterned floor tiles. All are original features. David designed the layout for the rustic-style kitchen, which was made to his measurements in France and then assembled and fitted in situ by craftsmen from the factory, who took just two days to complete it.

A number of unusual features set the kitchen apart from anything that could be considered typically English. Instead of wall cupboards, full-width shelves are fitted to upstands with marble splashbacks mounted on marble-topped base units. A decidedly large, black-painted wooden cooker hood is complemented by an iron splashback with a realistic painted 'rust'-effect finish which purposely matches the iron-framed kitchen table from the same factory. Eight chairs in three different styles provide seating for diners. Not surprisingly, given their origin, the taps over the inset marble sink are labelled chaud and froid.

In the principal rooms and on the first-floor landing, ornate cast-iron radiators supplement the under-floor heating. These new items were chosen in preference to old radiators from a reclamation yard which, although less expensive initially, would incur the extra cost of cleaning, re-painting and fitting new valves.

The four first-floor bedrooms and family bathroom are every bit as stylish and elegantly furnished as the ground-floor rooms. As well as a luxuriously appointed en-suite shower room with dual wash-basins, bidet and spacious shower cubicle, the master bedroom boasts a private balcony to make the most of those far-reaching sea views. You could be forgiven for thinking that the freestanding bath with claw feet in the family bathroom is a cast-iron original, but it isn't. Jimmy has painted it so skilfully that it certainly looks like the real thing!

This attention to detail and quality typifies everything the Phipps have successfully achieved in their superb new home. But then, as David admits, with a broad smile, "A house furnisher is the fussiest person in the world!"


Location: Overlooking Christchurch Harbour

Accommodation: Lower ground floor: basement/cellar. Ground floor: hall, sitting room and dining area, kitchen, office/study, utility room and cloakroom. First floor: three guest bedrooms, family bathroom and master bedroom with en-suite shower room and balcony


Furniture and home accessories

David Phipp House Furnisher, Ringwood Road, Ferndown BH22 9AL. (01202 897474/893377. www.davidphipp.co.uk

Soft furnishings

Wren Furnishings (in store at David Phipp House Furnisher). (01202 893070


RF Falla Ltd, Stony Lane, Christchurch.

(01202 499399


Jimmy Drinkwater - Cougar Dcor, 12a Harcourt Road, Bournemouth BH5 2JG. (01202 432484 or 07773 635320

Tiles (bathrooms, hall floor and balcony)

A & C Dunkley Ltd., 4-10 Kemp Road, Winton, Bournemouth BH9 2PW. (01202 526206. www.dunkleytiles.co.uk

Bathroom fittings (first-floor family bathroom and master bedroom en-suite)

Comfort Bathrooms, 147 New Road, Parley Cross, Bournemouth BH22 8EB.

(01202 280495. www.comfortbathrooms.co.uk

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