At Home With… Henry Bickerton
Interior designer Henry Bickerton has transformed a Victorian terraced house in Parsons Green into a welcoming family home, suffused with his signature English country house style and antique touches.
At Home With Henry Bickerton
What’s the story behind your home?
My wife Sophie and I bought our home in Parsons Green ten years ago. It was a bog standard west London Victorian terraced house that had been split into six bedsits – the classic story of the worst house in a good street. The renovation took a year of moving walls, extending into the kitchen, and going up into the loft space, and we did a lot of work restoring original period features.
What was your inspiration for the design?
When we moved in we were both 30 with our first child on the way – being in the interiors world you have a million ideas about all the wonderful things you can do with a space, but we were young and on a budget so we had to be practical and get the bones of the house right first, then let the rest fall into place naturally. I always felt it would be a forever house, so I designed it both with a growing family in mind, and an eye to what the market would want and expect when we eventually decide to sell.
Do you have any interior brands that you love and always go back to?
One of the exciting things about being an interior designer is that there’s always someone, somewhere, producing something brilliant that’s just waiting to be discovered. I’m currently working with Max Rollitt and Ensemblier for beds and sofas, Bennison, Soane and Rapture & Wright for fabrics, and Jamb for fireplaces and lighting.
What’s your favourite room in your house and why?
I love the sitting room, especially in the winter with its dark walls and the fires lit. When friends come to dinner they walk in and immediately say ‘It’s like being in the country’, and that’s why I love it.
How will you be decorating for Christmas?
We’re one of those families who put everything up right at the beginning of December, so by Christmas day we’re sitting around a near-dead tree with three needles on it. I go down the natural route, bringing lots of fir, ivy, holly and mistletoe up from the country and draping it everywhere. Usually by the 2nd of January it all gets taken down – by then I’m bored of Christmas and have mentally moved on to spring.
Does your house in any way reflect your business?
Totally; whether in London or the country, my projects reflect my passion for the English country house aesthetic, which comes through in our house. Above all, it’s comfortable and has a friendly feel which is what I create for clients. I’ve furnished it with inherited pieces, good quality but not always expensive antique furniture, lots of pictures, rugs, bold colours and a blend of modern and antique textiles.
What’s your best view?
My studio is on the top floor of the house, and has an enormous amount of light. From my desk I can see over the neighbouring roof tops and gardens to the Grade II-listed Victorian Fulham Fire Station and its tower, which was designed by the architect Robert Pearsall and built in 1895.
What’s your signature dish – can you share the recipe with us?
My wife Sophie is the talented cook in the house, if I was in charge of cooking for a dinner party it would be a bowl of cereal for the starter, a baked potato for the main course, and a Terry’s chocolate orange for pudding (though I would take the wrapper off and put it nicely in a bowl – I’m not an animal).
Share your top five books with us if you were to start a book club:
Though I love the idea of reading, sadly I never seem to find the time for it. This year I’ve read From a Clear Blue Sky, by Timothy Knatchbull, Lady in Waiting, by Anne Glenconner and I’m currently reading The Mountbattens, by Andrew Lownie. If I started a book club it might be in existence for a very short time. If it was a TV club however…
Share your must-see TV and movie list:
This is where I wish I could sound very brainy and say I don’t watch television and prefer reading, but quite honestly I love TV and can watch anything. I love news programs, documentaries, dramas, and anything historical. My Kryptonite is daytime property programs, especially ones based abroad or in the country – A Place in the Sun and Escape to the Country. And my guilty pleasure is Coronation Street – it’s brilliant.
Describe your office space?
My office is very much like the inside of my head – messy. I’m in awe of people whose working space consists of a desk, laptop and one pen in a pot. Being an interior designer and having stuff goes hand in hand, so spread out permanently across my office are swatches of fabric, wallpaper and carpet samples, floorplans, pieces of paper and tins of paint. The most practical thing is my pin board, which contains the important things that I can’t lose and reminders for things I need to do. The best working environment should be comfortable with plenty of light, storage and enough desk space to work on.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
As a family we’re not morning people – so the mornings are usually a mad dash of desperately trying to get kids dressed, fed and out of the door by 8am. Once they’re gone I feed the dogs, have some breakfast and look at my emails. Unless I have an early site meeting, in which case the mad dash to be out of the house and on my way continues.
And how do you love to spend your evenings?
Before lockdown we would go out or host dinner parties, but over the last few months evenings have consisted of a quiet dinner followed by TV. At the moment I’m working with a client based in California, so I spend quite a few evenings on Zoom due to the time difference.
If you were to throw a party at home, what are the key ingredients to make it go with a swing?
Fun people make a fun party – and wine, lots of wine. I like to decorate with flowers and candles to set the mood and lots of food, of course, is necessary (though obviously not cooked by me). Did I mention wine?
What gadget could you not live without in your home?
I couldn’t live without my phone, it’s integral to both my work and home life. I have everything on it, and without it I really would be lost.
Whose home would you like to be a fly on the wall in and why?
I think about this often, as I’m always saying ‘I’d love to be a fly on the wall in that house.’ At the moment I think it would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall in the Trump White House and hear all the conversations about leaving or not leaving.
Has lockdown made your reassess your work and home life balance?
As I already work from home and walk the dogs and spend time with my family during the day, luckily lockdown wasn’t too much of a strange adjustment. It has, however, made me very grateful for the space and home I have. When you hear of families with four kids confined to flat with no outdoor space, or people living in solitude it really makes you appreciate what you have.
What makes a house a home?
When I walk around our house not only do I see a combination of pieces I’ve inherited and things we’ve bought together, but also pieces which have been given to us, and that the kids have scuffed and torn or the dog has chewed. It sounds corny – but the people and things you love really do make a house a home.
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