Spotlight on a dream house in Sunningdale, Ascot - Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 17:10 05 October 2010 | UPDATED: 17:56 20 February 2013
Garden designer Karen Kerr has combined the New England look with quintessentially English fabrics and furniture to produce a stunning family home...
It is 26 years since Karen Kerr left her home town in Upstate New York to move to England, and over the years her style has evolved to combine the best of New England Shaker with a classic English look. I suppose Im an Anglophile, she explains, but I also love the Nantucket look.
She and her husband Ally moved from their Fulham house into a newly built house in Sunningdale which they designed together on an existing plot. We loved the old house so we tried as near as possible to recreate what was originally here. I got involved in every aspect of it, from designing the ironwork to the colour of the bricks and the traditional sash windows. My husband and I did bandy around ideas of a modern house but it didnt seem to suit, says Karen, who talks about the excitement but difficulty of designing a house from the start with the fine details. The beauty of designing a house yourself is that you can design rooms to fit around the pieces you already have. One piece of furniture particularly taken into consideration was the large oak dresser in the kitchen on which collections of colourful ceramics, including old family china, Portuguese and South African pottery and Emma Bridgewater pieces, are displayed. On either side of it are tongue and groove larder cupboards, which were specially commissioned by John Lewis of Hungerford.
The spacious kitchen has a distinct New England feel to it, created by simple Shaker style units combined with key details such as pewter handles, a robust stone floor and subtle, but effective, lighting.
As a garden designer, Karen was not only keen to maximise the light in the kitchen but also to bring the outside aspect of the stunning terrace and garden inside, which she has successfully achieved by integrating three sets of glazed French windows set between two mirror-fronted cupboards. These cleverly disguise the air conditioning units.
The huge table adds to the Nantucket meets English country style. We wanted a big round table in the middle of a square. Its kind of an Arts & Crafts inspired theme weve got going on around the place; very geometric. These patterns are continued outside in the garden with the gazebo, table and ironwork.
The drawing room is quintessentially English. Karen inherited some antique furniture from her husbands family and wanted to incorporate it into her new home. Its an eclectic mix in here, with some new pieces and lots of old, but I think its nice to mix things up. It looks more interesting.
Motifs in the cushions echo those in paintings on the walls and ceramic ornaments on the mantelpiece. Images of exotic birds are contrasted with raspberry check cushions and the walls are painted in duck egg blue. I do like stuff thats traditional, says Karen. I think it feels more comfortable.
Again, in the dining room, antique furniture takes centre stage. The walls are painted in Light Stone by Farrow and Ball, which offsets the magnificent Colefax & Fowler curtains perfectly.
Revisiting Nantucket influences, but this time giving it a radical edge, Karen faced opposition when she revealed how she wanted to decorate the cloakroom. She chose British racing green for the walls and shutters. People said to me you cant do that. Its so dark. But the room was really dark anyway, Karen explains.
The dramatic treatment has paid off and visitors are always surprised by the room with its Edwardian style hand basin and the delightful pineapple wall sconces and chandelier that Karen found in Portugal. This is also where rustic garden tools picked up in Covent Garden are displayed; a further example of a garden designer who cannot resist her real passion.
In the games room Karens American roots come to the fore. A wonderful Star Spangled Banner hangs proudly on the wall and the patriotic theme is taken up again in the Andrew Martin flag cushions. Wooden sandpipers evoke a Nantucket beach and the American theme is rounded off by with the wonderful, sturdy shutters on the French windows.
Karen is a great fan of shutters and they feature in several rooms. They were supplied by Eden House of North Ascot. In small bedrooms and small bathrooms you dont want big curtains. Shutters are really neat. She goes on: I love the New England influence and have tongue and groove around the lower half of all the bathroom walls.
Upstairs in the dressing room, Karen has also installed shutters, but the master bedroom has more of a French ambience. Walls are jasmine white and the curtain fabric is in a delicate blue toile de Jouy pattern. The seat at the bottom of the bed is Louis X1V-style, while the chest of drawers, bedside table and lamps are from OKA.
The delightful bedside chair is covered in a bold blue and cream check. The lady who made the cover (Rhoda Nevins of Soft Impressions) provided most of the curtains for the house.
French windows in the bedroom open out onto a wrought-iron balcony that overlooks Karens beautiful garden. As a garden designer, she was extremely anxious to rescue all the established plants before the bulldozers moved in to demolish the original house. The kitchen garden became a holding garden, she explains and luckily all of the existing shrubs, and even trees, survived to be replanted due to much help from her gardener, Bart Mendez.
The paved terrace is intersected by four square planting holes planted with olives tress, and under-planted with lavender, while wisteria is being trained up the black wrought-iron balcony and roses up the gazebo. The garden has a romantic, wild flower country feel.
Looking out onto the fruits of her labours, her exceptional garden, the New England style pool hut, the greenhouse and the kitchen garden, Karen is already planning her next project: More rooms in my garden, she smiles.
Karen Kerr Garden Design
tel: 01344 620533 mob: 07733384659
Eden House Shutters
tel: 01276 470192
tel: 01483 472386
tel: 01932 860919
Sandy Brown of Solway Brown Architects
tel: 0870 7774004
Brian Novak Ironwork
tel: 01344 566949