Inside Radbourne Hall, one of the last remaining John Fowler interiors

When Lady Chichester inherited Radbourne Hall, she became the custodian of a jewel in the interior-design crown – a surviving example of an almost complete John Fowler scheme. A decade on and the house has been subtly and sensitively restored to its former glory
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Fowler’s dark red mohair velvet curtains, with a rope-trimmed swag pelmet, echo the colour of the gaufrage velvet chosen by the designer to re-cover two George II sofas. These are arranged around a bespoke ottoman by Dudgeon, in Claremont’s ‘Cunard’ velvet in rose, with a custom bullion fringe from Heritage Trimmings. The George II chairs were reupholstered by Ridge Interiors in a Claremont mohair velvet similar to the original Fortuny ‘Brioso’ velvet and gaufraged in its ‘Beaufort’ design. A 19th-century Persian carpet warms the Hoptonwood marble flagstonesChristopher Horwood

A soft terracotta pink was used by Fowler for the walls to set off a series of paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby. Interior designer Fiona Shelburne added cushions in ‘Taffeta’ in framboise and ‘Faille Lugarno’ in smoke, both by Claremont, to complement the sofa’s original silk/cotton damask upholstery. William IV torchères flank the George II giltwood and marble console table. The new chandelier is from Wilkinson.

Christopher Horwood

Beyond the hall on the garden side is the saloon, perhaps the most magnificent room in the house with its series of paintings by Joseph Wright of Derby. Here, Fowler also scratched away at the paint with a coin to reveal the pale terracotta colour we see today. It was in rooms like this, where total redecoration could be avoided, that the skills of the specialist decorators of Colchester Lister Associates were vital, patching up where rewiring and new sockets had caused damage. To the right of this room is the panelled dining room, and to the left is the drawing room. The latter – with its silk-lined walls, pale green coved ceiling and exquisitely detailed curtains – is one of the prettiest of Fowler’s schemes, derived from the Aubusson carpet that Annie’s mother had bought for the room. Fiona used the lightest of touches here, adding the pink velvet-covered ottoman. Cleaning and rehanging the multi-layered curtain pelmets was a feat in itself.

In one of Fowler’s prettiest schemes for the house, paper-backed silk on the walls and pale green paint on the coved ceiling pick up on an Aubusson carpet bought by the owner’s mother. A customised Dudgeon ottoman in Claremont’s mohair velvet in cramoisi, with George Spencer Designs’ bullion fringing, is a more recent addition. An elaborate pendant valance hangs above the green shantung curtains

Christopher Horwood

Upstairs, the same philosophy prevailed. The silk curtains in what was Annie’s mother’s bedroom (now the main spare room) had disintegrated and no silk to match the pelmets could be found. So Fiona used a Colefax and Fowler fern print for the new curtains, similar to the one chosen by Fowler for the arm-chair. She turned to Claremont’s collection for the majority of the reupholstery projects, since Fowler had sourced many of the fabrics for Radbourne from there and several of them are still available. ‘It was wonderful to be able to use these, as it enabled us to keep to his original palette,’ Fiona explains.

In many ways, the works undertaken on this house were subtle. Decoratively, it was a footstool here, a slight change of fabric there, a polish to the panelling somewhere else. Unknowing visitors to Radbourne might not appreciate the immense amount of work involved, the details of which have been barely touched upon here. But this was precisely the aim. Through carefully considered tweaks, Annie and Fiona were able to bring the house alive for 21st-century living and preserve Fowler’s colour palette and decorative schemes for many years to come. This is surely make-do-and-mend at its most grand and glorious.

Peregrine Bryant Architects: