Interior designer’s listed apartment in Hertford
PUBLISHED: 11:25 09 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:25 09 April 2018
COPYRIGHT 2017 GARETH GARDNER
Rapidly rising as an innovative, solutions-focussed designer, Hertford-based Stacey Hewett is creating stunning interiors, including this listed Hertford apartment
Like thousands of young couples, interior designer Stacey Hewett and her husband Paul will be moving house this year. They were first time buyers five years ago when their present place was being built in Watton-at-Stone, the village five miles north of Hertford. The excitement then was buying their first home together and getting a foot on the property ladder.
They’re both creatives. Paul is a graphic designer. His wife says, ‘We went for a new build because of the perks. The running costs are cheaper and everything is under warranty – you don’t have to worry about things like kitchen appliances going wrong.’
Five years on, they both have successful careers. Stacey set up design consultancy, Studio 28 Interiors in Castle Street, Hertford, in 2014.
Reflecting this success (Studio 28 has just been awarded Houzz Best of Design 2018), this time they’re looking to buy a family house with four bedrooms and two bathrooms – somewhere they hope to live for many years.
Hunting for an older property they could fall in love with, they drew a blank, and decided again on a new-build – again in a village. ‘The house we’re buying is part of The Village development in Buntingford being built by Fairview Homes,’ Stacey explains. ‘We’re looking to move at the end of this year.’
Her passion for interior design is something she’s had since she was a child.
‘After leaving school I took an arts foundation course and gained a diploma in design at Hertford Regional College. That gave me the qualifications to move on and take a four year degree in interior architecture and design at Middlesex University.’
Armed with a first class honours degree, she had no trouble getting a job in London with a company specialising in interior architecture.
‘I worked for them for four or five years. It was a smallish company, about 15 people. I was made a senior when I was only a couple of years into my career whereas if it had been a large company it could have taken me twice as long. I did a lot of architectural work as well as commercial stuff – hotels, offices, bigger developments.
‘I’m passionate about design,’ she adds as if you hadn’t noticed. In her gentle way she tells you straight what the score is. That’s why she thinks her clients trust her as well as for her curiosity about the new: ‘I’m driven about keeping up to date with new products and advances in technology and trends,’ she says. ‘During lunchtimes I’ve invited companies and suppliers to come in and talk to us about what’s new, even if it’s just what you can do with fabrics today – there have been amazing advances with fabrics.’
Being able to turn up on site and talk to building contractors about technical details puts the relationship on a different level from day one.
Since setting up her own company, many of her commissions have grown out of an initial request from house hunters wanting expert advice on whether a property they’ve seen is a viable proposition for them. The first project for Studio 28 Interiors started off that way. ‘Someone who knew my work was looking for a second home in the South of France where he could entertain friends and clients. Once we found what he wanted he asked me to assist on the design side. The villa was on a cliffside in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera.
‘He wanted to create a self-contained guest suite in the basement. It involved digging under the villa into the cliff face, excavating the rock and making a feature of it – very ambitious. It was nearly two years before it was finished. I was so fortunate to get a commission like that to start me off. From start to finish it took just under four years.’
More recent projects have been closer to home. Another client with global contacts asked her to produce a feasibility study on whether to buy a newly-converted three bedroom apartment on the first floor of a Grade II listed building, originally a school, not far from Stacey’s Hertford studio. He wanted the apartment (pictured) as a prestigious UK base for his enterprise – somewhere he could entertain – but also as a permanent home in England.
‘He didn’t want it to be a clone of the rooms in the other flats. The living area was a big open plan space. He was worried the layout would make it feel cold particularly as it was single glazing because of being a listed building. He loved the high ceilings and the character of the rooms – he didn’t want to hide that but there were a lot of hard surfaces. He was also concerned about noise from other flats – he didn’t want to hear shoes tapping across the flat above because of the timber floor finishes.’
Stacey came up with ideas for how to use furniture to divide up the space without detracting from the character of the building. Her client’s fears about noise have also faded. ’I thought the flat had amazing potential,’ says the designer.
For another client who was restoring a recently-acquired eight bedroom Arts and Crafts house in Surrey, the main problem was how to increase the amount of natural light.
‘They had lots of rooms that weren’t being used. We removed some of the partition and non structural walls to gain borrowed light and got rid of the heavy dark curtains and pelmets.
‘We created a kitchen that’s become the hub of the home and turned a dining room-family room that wasn’t being used into a library-cum-lounge with bookshelves and a large sofa. It’s become a wonderful place for entertaining. There’s still the old log burner in the fireplace for the winter months. The original lounge was smaller – that’s now used more as a snug. The bathrooms have also been refitted but in keeping with the period of the house.’
A project in Barbados towards the end of last year brought sunshine into the English interior designer’s working day. Guests from England had been only too pleased to accept invitations from Stacey’s client to join him at the two bedroom holiday villa he’d bought in St James, the playground of the rich and famous in what was once the Gold Coast, now the Platinum Coast. It had reached the point when he felt his stream of visitors should have their own space.
‘He instructed a local architect to get planning permission for a colonial style three bedroom/two bathroom guest villa in the grounds and asked me for advice on how to make the best use of the interior space. The answer was walls that housed sliding screens to change the dynamics of the space and to create open plan or private areas when needed. It’s an amazing place, like being in the jungle. The colours of the furnishings reflect the tropical setting. You don’t have to leave the house to see monkeys. They’re around all the time.’
The end result was so good her client is planning to remodel his main villa this year.
As for colours for their new home in Hertfordshire, Stacey and Paul and their dachshund Herman will be moving come the autumn – and it’s this time of year that is giving Stacey inspiration. It will be the soft shades of heather in the county’s woodland – dusty pinks, earthy greens and rich caramels – more muted than the vibrant shades in her client’s villa in Barbados.
The Hewetts are as excited about the latest house as they were about their first. Stacey is full of ideas for it – some stem from innovations she’s used successfully in clients’ homes.
‘Our present home is open plan, the new one has a separate lounge – that was a priority for us this time, so was the bigger dining area we’re getting in the kitchen. Since we bought our first house we’ve been able to build up our savings. I want to create a luxurious, homely interior space, give it everything I’ve always wanted in a house. It’s very exciting.’
Stacey’s tips for a home makeover
Identify your concept: Every project needs a starting point. I begin all projects with a source of inspiration to kickstart my creative flow. This could be a piece of art, a particular fabric or a client’s interest. Whatever you choose, use it as the foundation for your new interior and build your scheme around this.
Less is more: Learn to embrace the simple details and avoid cluttering or over-complicating spaces. There is an elegance in simplicity.
Don’t rush: We can all get carried away with the excitement of renovating a space but it’s important to take your time and think about what you really want. Live in and use your space and observe what you like and dislike about it. How can you add to it or change it to make the space work better for you? By taking time to research and consider the options you will achieve a more considered and professional feel to your interior.
Lighting: is often overlooked but when done correctly can add huge impact to a space as it affects the way we perceive space and colour. My advice is to layer lighting – use table and/or floor lamps to add warmth (they also look beautiful in their own right). Use small directional spotlights to create subtle features such as highlighting a piece of art. Most importantly, use ‘warm white’ lighting and avoid harsh cold white or blue light.
Art: can really add individuality to a space. It can be used to celebrate personal interests from fashion to flying. Or use it simply as a beautiful backdrop to inject colour and movement into a space. Consider the type and material of the frame – it should complement the art, and make sure you position the artwork at the right height for the viewer and the space.
For more inspiration, see Stacey’s design studio website, s28interiors.com