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Location: South Wales
Peter Fanthorpe was not particularly looking to buy a new home when he came across The Goslings, while walking a coastal path in South Wales late one summer’s evening. Yet he could not help but notice that the house that caught his eye from across the bay was up for sale. ‘I could see it was a rare opportunity to find a gem like this,’ he recalls. ‘It was south facing with uninterrupted sea views over the bay to the distant hills.’
It was pure serendipity in fact, as having recently sold his antiques business, Peter was looking for a new challenge and the house, which he conservatively describes as ‘needing a lot of upgrading’, definitely provided this. ‘The property had been set up in the late 1970s as a guest house and every room had a bathroom built in it, which back then might have been rather chic and acceptable, but in present day would be considered extremely ugly!’ he explains. ‘I knew that it would be so much easier to dismantle the bathrooms rather than try and upgrade them, so we removed and disposed of 10 lavatories and washbasins, and 12 shower units, all in the most alarming array of colours and designs,’ he adds, laughing.
To his delight, Peter discovered that stripped bare the rooms had generous proportions and large sunlit windows framing the view he had so admired when first considering the house. All the main architectural features of the property, however, including the chimney stacks, had been removed by the previous owners, so before he could begin redecorating, Peter first arranged to have reinstated as many of the features as possible.
‘I started with the removal of fire doors and screens, then the fire proofing that had been laid over the original Victorian panelled doors. Once we had ripped out the dark, swirly carpets, we reinstated the fireplaces, skirting boards, cornicing, ceiling roses and door furniture, before removing treacly layers of dark floor varnish and sanding back the floorboards. I could almost hear the house breathing a sigh of relief,’ he remembers.
The facade of the house set on the Welsh bay
It was a substantial renovation, which included reinstating three new bathrooms and replacing electrical wiring, so Peter was fortunate enough to be living elsewhere while the house was upgraded. He stayed with a very close friend at commutable distance and found the balance of being able to drive to the site but escape the mess after a busy day helped him to ‘enjoy the transformation of the house.’
The red room is home to Peter’s vast colletion of restored jugs as well as assorted china. The chandlier is an old brass one, painted in matt white emulsion
Painting the interior off-white to begin with, Peter started to decorate by laying down antique carpets and rugs ‘so that the space did not feel homogenous’. Then came the lighting, ‘because it is so important,’ he notes, followed by colour. ‘I wanted a warm colour in the north-facing room because of its cool light, so I painted it a vibrant red, as much of the Staffordshire china in that room has that colour in it.’ Similarly, the kitchen faces north, deliberately so as that was the coolest room before modern refrigeration, ‘so a rich ochre yellow was the perfect colour for this room,’ he continues. With his obvious eye for colour, Peter used his expertise to mix the paint himself from different discarded tins.
Having owned an antiques business and in moving had downsized from a large town house, Peter had a large collection of furniture, so found it a particular challenge deciding which pieces to use in the new house. ‘I selected the furniture most suited to the house, but it seemed that all wanted to come with me,’ he laughs. ‘It was difficult to part with treasured items, as each has its own memory associated with it.’
Peter enjoys the view from the Victorian wing chair that was once his mother’s. The embroidered throw is from OKA (okadirect.com)
One key piece was the dresser in the red room, which houses Peter’s vast collection of ceramic jugs. ‘Most of the jugs were collected over a period of time, as examples of the different patterns, styles and bodies of jugs made in potteries in South Wales, such as Llanelly (1839-1921), Glamorgan (1813-1838), Cambrian (1764-1870) and of course the more famous Nantgarw (1813-1819), to name but a few. Most were damaged, so I was able to afford to acquire them. I then enjoyed learning how to restore them as best I could and they give me great pleasure,’ he says of what has become a fully-fledged hobby and an impressive and forever expanding hoard. ‘Sadly many people cannot cope with a crack or a chip in china jugs; personally I like them in every shape and size,’ he adds.
The house is bursting with antiques, rare collectables, covetable textiles and many paintings, all of which Peter has collected over the years or been given as gifts by friends and family. Some of the pieces have been projects, too. A beloved chandelier is a case in point. ‘I found it in a box of glass with lots of pieces missing, and I enjoyed the search for matching drops and reconstructed it over time,’ he says. He also enjoys adding to his collection of paintings by amassing decorative frames before creating his own abstracts with which to fill them.
The kitchen units were already in situ when Peter bought the house. Deciding they were plain enough to live with he matched them with a Falcon range he bought online from a lady called ‘Lucinda’, which he has called it since
Furthermore, Peter is not afraid to customise pieces to make them work. The impressive maple bed that adorns the master bedroom, for example, he inherited as a happy accident. Some friends of his bought it in France, but discovered upon getting it home that it was too small to fit a modern double mattress. Peter offered to take it off their hands, and literally sawed off the end of a standard double mattress to make it fit. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that his friends enjoy visiting this highly creative abode, whether it is to see how he has incorporated their gifts into his house, or to enjoy his home-cooked food.
With his furniture including budget pieces, such as a Paul Smith orange wing chair in the drawing room purchased for just £5, Peter’s home is also testament to the fact that you can furnish inexpensively with period pieces, not least if the owner is willing to renovate, restore or repair along the way. ‘It is amazing just how many antiques you can fit into a drawing room if you don’t have a huge plasma screen taking up space.’
The French maple antique bed was a gift having been rejected by friends as being too short to fit a modern matress
Considering Peter’s obvious eye for displaying the many decorative and useful items and collectables in the house, it is doubtful that this is an interior that will remain static. New pieces join the established, antiques are moved from room to room to form new displays, a different grouping or to create a fresh new feel. ‘Collections often start as things I’m attracted to,’ he reveals. ‘It could be for their colour as much as their form and as I collect for aesthetics, rather than investment, I enjoy mending or restoring them over time.’
From such serendipitous beginnings, Peter seems to have found both the perfect home in which to display his collections and to pursue his passions. He is also already stuck into his next project at the property – tackling the terraced gardens that overlook the view of the bay he first fell in love with.