Vacation home renovation in Normandy

DesignerPhoebus Interiors by Toby Alleyne-Gee, Honorable Mention, Renovation Competition, International Design Awards 2013
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

This 19th-century, redbrick "longère" house on the coast of Normandy was entirely renovated as a family holiday home. Inspired by the landscape, both the ground-floor interiors – traditionally decorated in fresh hues of sky blue, sand and brown – and the pretty, wallpapered upstairs bedrooms are intended to look collected, as if they had evolved over time rather than been designed. The house required complete redecoration, including repainting all interior and exterior woodwork, the smoky blue colour of which is typical of Normandy houses. A few pieces of existing furniture were retained, painted, restored or cleaned, although most pieces - all French antiques - were acquired to fit the rustic elegance of the building. The repetition and variation of a similar palette throughout the ground floor enhances the sense of space and height in this modestly sized house, while the upstairs bedrooms - a twin room for the daughters of the house and a light-filled guest room - are decorated with pretty floral wallpaper for a lighthearted, playful feel. The project was completed in September 2013, although there are plans for continued improvements. The house now combines comfort and practicality with a gentle aesthetic appeal, and my client tells me he is "very comfortable" there. I am therefore pleased to say that I have accomplished what I set out to do.

About Designer

An Englishman based in Switzerland since 1988, I have acquired a profound knowledge of European cultural references. I hold a degree in modern languages and art history from the University of Zurich and speak fluent German, French and Italian. My passion for interior decoration was cultivated from a very early age by visits to great houses in England and France. Nonetheless, for many years I pursued a career as a writer, editor and translator, specialising in fine art, classical music and interiors. However, I soon realised that I preferred designing interiors myself to writing about other people's work. Restoring an 18th-century chateau near Paris inspired my career change, and I have since also designed a property near Toulouse as well as the house in Normandy shown here. I particularly enjoy working internationally, and this is facilitated by my cosmopolitan outlook and language skills. Phoebus Interiors was established in 2009. As the company name suggests, my designs are classically inspired, but I believe that the classical principles of scale, proportion, and symmetry can also be applied to contemporary interiors. In my opinion, an interior designer's true skill lies in creating schemes that not only reflect their occupants' lifestyle and tastes, but will also remain fresh and continue to evolve for years to come. I strive to devise interiors that do not appear designed, but collected. My combination of a thorough knowledge of historical styles and antique furniture, the use of beautiful textiles, and a refined colour sensibility all contribute towards achieving an atmosphere of timeless comfort and a sense of place.