Flair for Design

PUBLISHED: 11:57 22 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:19 20 February 2013

Flair for Design

Flair for Design

Burcott Manor, the 16th-century home of Michael and Rosalie Fiennes, is an attractive mix of periods on the outside, and welcoming and stylish within. Words by Peter Booton

In 1982 Michael Fiennes, a former director of Clarks Shoes in Street, and his wife, Rosalie, founded Shoon (shoon.com) as an independent distributor of casual shoes and clothing; the main brands being Ecco shoes from Denmark, Mephisto shoes from Alsace Lorraine and Columbia Sportswear from the US. Their first shop opened in Upper Borough Walls, Bath. Now there are more than 20 shoe shops across southern England and Wales, including two flagship stores in Bath and Marylebone High Street, London, which sell womens clothing as well as shoes.

The warm, welcoming and vibrantly stylish interior of Burcott Manor speaks volumes for the special talents of this most charming lady

In 1989 Michael and Rosalie moved to Burcott Manor, near Wells. Dating from around the end of the 16th century some local historians say perhaps a century earlier the house was subsequently altered in the 18th and 20th centuries. Built mainly of Doulting stone and with a Roman-tiled roof, the house today is an attractive mix of periods, with stone-mullioned windows, brick chimney stacks and a porticoed front entrance.

Changes have been made to the house over many years. As well as restoring and, in some cases, replacing the stone-mullioned windows, the Fiennes have increased the size of the kitchen, restored original stonework, moved a staircase and created more bathrooms. They have also added a beautiful oak-framed building which houses a breathtaking swimming pool.
Whilst living at Burcott Manor, in 1994 the Fiennes purchased Dinder House, near Wells, and restored the beautiful listed property which had been the family seat of Sir James Somerville, a former Admiral of the Fleet and Lord Lieutenant of Somerset. This then served as Shoons headquarters for the next ten years. Rosalie also restored a large listed building at Old Bond Street in the centre of Bath, which is now a Shoon store, as well as the companys flagship store in Marylebone High Street, London.
Having learned much from these projects, Rosalie was well placed to restyle the interior of her own home. This she has done with commendable success. The warm, welcoming and vibrantly stylish interior of Burcott Manor speaks volumes for the special talents of this most charming lady.
Four years ago, Rosalie had a watershed moment when she decided to leave Shoon, after spending 24 years working in the business, and further her love of design by enrolling on a one-year diploma course in Architectural Interior Design at the renowned Inchbald School in London. She explains: I wanted to learn more about the technical side, the use of space and how buildings work. It was an excellent course with some amazing lecturers. I went in with an enthusiasm for colour and an interest in people and spaces, and I came out with good technical background knowledge of architecture and the structure of a building.

Rosalie now works as a freelance interior designer, with clients as far away as Norfolk and Surrey as well as locally in Somerset. The people part of design is so enjoyable and I am lucky to have clients who I really like working with. I always have an initial session with a client to make sure were on the same wavelength, and I visit them at home because ideas come as you talk. Then I write notes for them, using a lot of detail. Pictures are very good in many ways, and you can make a picture look wonderful, but sometimes it doesnt address the finer details that I would
like a client to think about. My words can trigger trains of thought for them. Its a very collaborative process, really, she adds.

The Fiennes are also fond of alpacas, and currently there are twenty-eight grazing contentedly in the grounds of Burcott Manor

While Rosalie says that she admires the work of such talented designers as Kit Kemp from Firmdale Hotels and Ilse Crawford of Studioilse, she admits that she isnt a fan of some TV home makeover programmes. I think interior design is about much more than the finishing touches. Whilst these are fun, you cant transform a home overnight. A house needs to evolve and speak for itself. Some TV programmes are too much about just the bits at the end, which dont necessarily give a home that lovely feeling of peace and tranquillity.
Steeped in character, comfortable and welcoming, Burcott Manor ticks all the right boxes as a desirable family home. Throughout its stylish and elegantly furnished interior, a harmonious mix of classic and contemporary, are those signature features and flourishes which are so characteristic of Rosalies skilful touch. Huge mirrors galore, often in heavy gilt frames, and an abundance of striped fabrics. I love stripes, she enthuses. When youve lived with five chaps Ive got a husband and four sons, its nice for them to have a home thats not too flowery. And I adore mirrors too, although theyre more for reflecting views than actually looking in!

Painting walls and doors the same colour and introducing bright contrasting colours where you wouldnt normally expect to find them inside cupboards and wardrobes are also Rosalies trademarks. She paints a lot of her furniture too, usually old tables, cupboards and bookshelves that she has picked up on her travels, or from good sources such as Wells Trading Post and local reclamation yards.
Im not really extravagant, she points out, smiling.
Many of the rooms are decorated in interesting neutral shades from Farrow & Ball and the Paint & Paper Library. But there are bold, rich colours too; frequently shades of red, which make an appearance in the stairwell, master bedroom and entrance hall. Colour is my speciality, says Rosalie. I think about colours to get to sleep at night!
Michael and Rosalie have a passion for art and are keen supporters of Somerset Art Week. Numerous paintings by local artists are displayed throughout their home, including works by Jenny Graham, Louise Waugh, David Parfitt, Susie Gradwell, Susie Walker and the former curate of Dinder, now Vicar of Hardington Vale near Bath, Nigel Done.
The Fiennes are also fond of alpacas, and currently there are 28 grazing contentedly in the grounds of Burcott Manor. Rosalie explains that after she had fallen in love with them at a Bath & West show years ago, Michael had bought her eight as a 50th birthday present. One of these, she recalls, they named Kevin, adding: Now he really was an alpaca with attitude!

For more information about Rosalie Fiennes Architectural Interior Design, call 01749 672234/07974 351373 or visit rosaliefiennes.com

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