When stuck in London traffic on a dreary weekday afternoon, my mind sometimes wanders to what it might be like to cash-in my city property chips and escape to a dream house in the country. In my wildest imaginings that dream house would look a lot like Apsley House.
The lucky lady for whom it is a reality is businesswoman and mum Georgia Metcalfe, who lives in the stunning Grade II listed Victorian pile with her husband Ben, a management consultant, their 16-month old daughter Layla and Charlie the house rabbit.
We chatted to Georgia to see how she got there:
Georgia, please tell us when you bought Apsley House, what state it was in and about the work you've done to it.
Well, when we bought the place the boiler was about to burst and there was a 'delightful' greeny coppery residue all over the floors. There were also lots of smashed windows (we were only weeks away from having pigeons living in here) and the previous owners literally hadn't even changed a light bulb for over ten years. When we started work on the house we had all these light switches all over the place and not a clue which one operated which light. It was in a pretty dilapidated state, but just waiting to be loved. From the outside, even though it was completely overgrown, it was dripping with the most amazing lilac wisteria and I knew it was the house for us.
Was this house your first major project?
The first major project yes, we'd done bits and bobs before. But as my dad is an architect and my mum is an interior designer, my childhood was spent living in one dilapidated house after another: we'd move in, there'd be no heating and it would be all about making hot water bottles to keep warm, then they'd do it up, there would finally be heating and then we'd move! So I was kind of used to living through projects from then on really.
Any major disasters along the way with this house?
No, there weren't actually. All the work was done totally on time and totally on budget – well, not totally, but we were only £2,000 over, which bearing in mind the scale of the work wasn't bad. There was a lot of organisation involved: we had everything we needed all lined-up and ready to go in the garage – 30 radiators, everything we needed for the three bathrooms – everything, so there were no delays while we were waiting for things to arrive.
The whole thing took three months – we started when I was four months pregnant and finished when I was six months – the best part of the pregnancy to have done it!
How would you describe the feel/style of the house?
Cosy, but luxurious.
What's the best thing about living here?
I love the green space and how friendly the local people are. It's a fantastic location because we're only 45 minutes from London, but we're also near Brighton and the beach. We really feel as though we have the best of both worlds – we can be eating ice-cream on the beach in the morning and going up to London for dinner in the evening. If we can get a babysitter that is...
Does your husband have a say in matters of décor?
Definitely. I'd say it's 55 him. He has to be happy with whatever we end up with. The way it works with us is that I do the first round and give him all the options and then he has final say. It works well, because I only present him with options that I'd be happy to go with, so I know that whatever he chooses will be fine with me.
Do you have a favourite room in the house?
Yes, the kitchen/family room. It's just a perfect family space and it's a lovely area to be in when we have friends here, when it's all sparkly with candles in the evening.
Will you let Layla decorate her own room when the time comes?
Yes, 100%. That's how I got into design in the first place. When I was about 12 my mum took me to Laura Ashley in Oxford, where I grew up, and explained to the lady that I was being allowed to plan and decorate my room and she helped me. Then mum went off and came back to pick me up later – it was great! I remember I chose a pattern called Emma – it was all very 1980s – very Miami Vice pastels – I chose matching everything – curtains, duvet cover, everything - hideous really, but I loved it so much at the time! I really want to do the same for Layla – to give her an appreciation for design at as early an age as possible.
You're on the books of locations agency 1st Option. Has the house been used a lot as a shoot location?
Yes, GMTV have done some filming here, there have been lots of underwear shoots and a wedding dress shoot, so yes – quite a lot.
Is Apsley House your 'forever house'?
I hope so. When we were doing the work we were thinking "make the finish a really hi -spec so it lasts a good twenty years!" I sometimes dream of moving down to Brighton and living by the sea but all that's pretty close anyway, so hopefully it is our forever home, yes.
If you love what you see in the picture gallery below, you may want to take a look at Georgia's online shop, The French Bedroom Company.