Today I am excited to invite you to see another country home, this time in England. We are visiting the beautiful home of Charlotte-Anne Fidler, creative director for glossy magazines around the world and brand consultant, and who is also preparing another, exciting project that she’ll announce soon: a children’s brand….. watch this space!
I’m fascinated by the way very creative people live in their own homes: using all that creative energy all day for work, you’d be forgiven for thinking that once home, Charlotte just blanks out, but no! Her home is stunning, and I would love to see her garden in person, it looks so interesting. Kindly Charlotte shared her Christmas decoration with us and answered a few questions.
Bonjour Charlotte, thank you so much for coming over to MFCH today, and sharing pictures of your beautiful home, dressed for the holiday season. We’d love to know a little more about your house and your decorating style.
– But first of all I have to talk to you about that view! Oh my goodness, nobody lives with a view like that from their window! and I just love the way you take the same shot through the seasons! Is this a favourite spot for the cat, or do you have to sit him there for your pictures?
Yes, the view! It was definitely what sold the house to us when we first saw it five years ago. We’re on a hill which means we literally see for miles – right across to Salisbury Plain in the south. And, I’m not sure why, but being on a hill does something wonderful with the perspective and the light. It’s always changing; and always beautiful. It’s the first thing I see in the morning from my bedroom and the last thing I see at night.
I started taking pictures of the view through my bedroom window a couple of years ago. The Georgian sashes and shutters framed all that beauty so brilliantly. I take a picture most days, unless the light is completely flat and grey. I’ve recorded all the seasons and all the shifting light – the sunrises and the sunsets; the storms and the sunshine. People keep saying I should turn the pictures into a calendar which is something I should really look in to!
Poffum (one my three Maine Coon cats), loves the window, too. When the shutters are open first thing in the morning, he’s up on the window seat looking out. And he does the same all through the day. I like the way that having a cat in my view adds a bit of humour and links the pictures to all the other cat shots on my account.
– How old is your home, and how long have you lived here?
The original part of the house is about 1690. The Georgian part was added later, in about 1780. I needed the high-ceilinged Georgian bit for all the tall furniture and chandeliers I brought down from our London house! We’ve lived her for 5 years and before that we were very urban in Hackney, London.
– Your garden looks wonderful, do you spend a lot of time designing and maintaining it?
Yes, I spend a lot of time planning and maintaining the garden! My children say they are orphans at the weekends from the Spring onwards and my husband hardly sees me. The garden was very unstructured and neglected when we bought the house. I have done my best to impose some sort of order and formality, but in a way that is appropriate for what is essentially a large cottage. I’ve gardened since I was a child and having a bigger garden was one of the main reasons we moved from London.
– You still have a young family, so I can imagine how much fun it is getting the house ready for christmas. Does everyone join in or do you mastermind the decorating?
We spend about a week getting the house ready, doing a little bit each day. I’m the mastermind, but everyone gets involved in some way. The girls have their own tree which sits in the hall outside both their rooms. When they lie in bed, they can see it twinkling – I love that! They decorate that one (and I tweak a little!) and then they help me with what we call the ‘Cat Tree’ which sits at the bottom of the stairs. I know it sounds completely crazy to have a tree dedicated to your cats, but this one evolved from a pre-Christmas splurge I had at The Shaker Shop [no longer around, sadly] fifteen years ago. The Shakers – like me – obviously loved the idea of cats at Christmas! It’s very naive/rustic and fun with lots of flying cats and Shaker angels and birds.
The main tree is my area and the girls have graduated to helping with it when they are old enough not to drop the mainly glass decorations. It can take me two to three days to do because where we put each decoration is so carefully considered….okay, I’m sounding crazy again….!
Then I do the Scandinavian thing of filling the house with potted bulbs – white Hyacinths and Paperwhite Narcissus. A big box of cut Paperwhites arrives just before Christmas Eve from the Scilly Isles and I put that in little vases beside beds and in bathrooms so the whole house smells divine.
– I love your understated style, very British, and of course perfectly in keeping with the house. Right down to the cream coloured Aga. Did your interior style change when you came to this house, or have you always loved this very light colour palette?
I’ve always needed my houses to be pale and quite plain. There is so much going on in my head that I’d find living with pattern overstimulating (not that I don’t LOVE colour and a good chintz or floral wallpaper in other peoples’ houses). And I hate fussiness and any sort of frilly-ness. I like good, simple, authentic design – the sort of thing you’d have found below stairs in a grand country house. I like different tones of the colour grey – I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the best grey paints! And I mix modern with antique – it stops either taking itself too seriously. It’s a look that worked well in our London house and, luckily, it works here. I’ve just been able to apply it to more rooms in our country house – like a Boot Room and a proper larder – which has been great fun.
– You work as a creative director for prestigious magazines. How important is your home as a counterbalance to the styling for photo shoots and brand photography?
I think what I create at home and in my garden is just another side of the same creativity that I put into my work on magazines. Magazine people have a highly tuned aesthetic and often have lovely homes. And I know a lot of fashion people who are serious gardeners (hairdresser, Sam McKnight posts more pictures of Dahlias on his Instagram than he does hairstyles!). But moving to the country and this house was the tipping point for me. I wanted to be surrounded by this beauty all the time, which is why I went freelance. Interestingly, my Instagram followers are FAR more interested in seeing my home and garden and cats than they are in seeing the shoot I’ve just done for Vogue China. I think they know what really matters!
– Christmas is just around the corner, are you the sort of girl who already has everything wrapped, with lists ticked off, or do you leave stuff to the last minute?
I have never been one of those people who does all their shopping in November. Who are those people?! I can’t feel inspired to shop until it’s just a bit Christmas-y. I used to leave it till my birthday on the 22 December then do a very focused quick shop ‘on deadline’. But having children – and a younger daughter who writes her Christmas list in August – does focus the mind. And, once I start, I am quite organised – in fits and starts. I don’t wrap till just before Christmas Eve. I’m not a big fan of wrapping….
– What is your favourite part of Christmas?
The decorating – getting out all those baubles and pretty things that represent so many happy family times. And the Christmas stockings. Aren’t stockings more fun than any ‘big’ present? Our girls hang theirs at the end of their beds and then bring them in to our room on Christmas morning to open them. They are magical.
Thank you so much Charlotte, this is very charming and it’s nice to know I’m not the only who prefers the stockings!
I hope you enjoyed this peek into Charlotte’s home, if you’d like to see more of that view, or see her garden evolve through the year, then be sure to follow her on Instagram.
And if you have any questions for her then feel free to contact her here
We’ll be back in a couple of days with some Christmas decorating inspiration.
all photos by Charlotte-Anne Fidler