Beata Heuman ttage Sussex | House & Garden

Paul Massey

Like many House & Garden readers, the owner of this charming cottage saw an article on Beata Heuman’s London flat in the magazine (in the September 2014 issue), loved what she saw and decided: ‘That’s the person who I’d like to design my house.’ Unlike some of us, though, she followed through: she contacted Beata and commissioned her – and she now considers herself the happiest homeowner in Sussex.

Together with her husband and their two sons, she had downsized from a large, but inconveniently located barn conversion to this smaller house in a village. The late David Myers of Adam Architecture – ‘Big hitters for our small project,’ she explains – had designed an elegant extension, and he and Beata worked amicably together from the start.

Though the mid seventeenth-century cottage has a front door on to the village street, many visitors prefer to use the back door, which is painted a strong raspberry red. This opens into the boot and laundry room, with its cleverly concealed storage, including twin blue cupboards with seagrass façades, which flank a central sink with a tall, scallop-edged marble splashback. ‘Curves bring movement and make things more dynamic and less rigid,’ enthuses Beata.

There is a pair of curved wall brackets in the teal blue dining room next door, though here it is the mix of eras and colours that is most striking: a set of early nineteenth-century Biedermeier chairs surrounds an antique walnut table; there is a bespoke rattan sideboard by Soane painted bright orange; and the central light fitting was designed by Beata in the style of Victorian billiard-room lights. A narrow painted frieze along the top of each bookcase was inspired by patterns the owners had seen at Charleston, the Bloomsbury Group’s Sussex house. They also collect works by Duncan Grant – one of its residents.

The owner had stressed that she did not want the house to be too ‘of the moment’, so it wouldn’t feel dated in years to come. Beata agreed and they both rejected a conventional cottage-kitchen look. ‘I wanted the kitchen to be fresh – kind of Forties and Fifties in feel, as though the house had evolved over time,’ Beata says. The cupboard fronts are plain and she has used a subtle ribbed wooden finish, painted a strong green, for the central island, which has a copper work surface. The lights, too, are copper, while the Swedish cupboard handles, in several different shapes, are brass. ‘People become obsessed about every metal finish in a kitchen being identical. It’s much less rigid to mix it up a bit.’ The looseness of this approach is balanced by Beata’s meticulous approach to planning, which included photographing and measuring the owners’ favourite possessions before designing clever ways to display them.

There are still plenty of opportunities for fun: in the sitting room a Matisse-like throw, on the wall above the sofa, provides an unexpected centrepiece for the room. ‘It’s fresh and makes the feel of the room younger,’ Beata says. A gloomy inglenook fireplace opposite was cheered up with patterned handmade tiles, which reflect light back into the room. Hand-painted versions from Balineum feature in the pretty cloakroom across the hall while, in the snug next door, hand-painted tiles from Norton Tile Company are used to create a flat, modern take on a Delft chimneypiece. Here, vintage finds including a pair of cheap and cheerful pine chests of drawers and botanical prints in extravagant Eighties-style frames bought at auction create an inviting space for the owners’ sons to relax in.

Things are grander in the double-height main bedroom, part of the new extension, with grasscloth wallpaper on the walls and ceiling, and a sophisticated Elsie de Wolfe-style headboard in a bold chintz, which makes a bright focus in this calm room. The bathroom next door mixes rustic and sophisticated elements, its ceiling of rough painted planks and beams providing a contrast with the smooth marble used to create a surround for the bath and splashbacks for the two basins. His is pared-back on nickel legs, while hers rests on a curved vanity unit, creating a corner of Forties chic.

Storage with added glamour is the key to the dressing room, with cupboards curtained in Beata’s orange and inky blue ‘Palm Drop’ fabric, its deep blue motif picked up in the built in-drawers with their mirrored fronts. In here, as elsewhere in the house where many of the windows are small and low, Beata has taken the roman blinds up to the ceiling to make the room appear taller.

The bold originality of Beata’s designs earned her the title of House & Garden Interior Designer of the Year in 2018. This characterful house proves, once again, what a worthy winner she was.