28th Mar 2018
Fiona Parke, talented and industrious, is living proof that if you want to get something done ask a busy person. In fact, tracking her down for an informal chat was something of a feat in itself. Having spent a week trying to catch up with each other, an email pops up “Do you want to call me now? In car for an hour. Fiona x”. As it happens she is about to dive onto the M4’s Friday evening rush hour – so we have plenty of time to chat - thank goodness for hands-free!
Having worked for Todhunter Earle Interiors for several years, Fiona was well armed to go it alone, setting up her own interior design consultancy in 2008. 10 years on Johnston Parke Interiors is thriving and Fiona is busier than ever. A handful of interesting projects have brought Fiona into contact with the Barr Group. Shared work for Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, an organisation which always demands the highest attention to detail, as well as some pretty stringent working parameters, was a great introduction.
The most recent joint project for Fiona and the Barr Group was the large scale refurbishment and reconfiguration of a period property situated in the Berkshire countryside. The client was introduced to Fiona on the school run - having heard great things about her work. It turned out that Johnston Parke Interiors aligned perfectly with what the couple were looking for.
The main house and adjacent cottage required a complete strip out, structural overhaul and refit. An orangery was added to the south side of the building and a glass walkway positioned to join the two buildings. Structural work to the roofline of the main house allowed for a stunning galleried entrance hall and a carefully orchestrated knock through achieved a dual opening around a 15th Century double chimney breast, bridging the kitchen and family living room. Windows and doors were by BarrJoinery, along with whole house made to measure cabinetry. With structural design and planning by Cornelius Kavanagh of Hives Architects, our clients were in safe hands.
We ask Fiona a few questions about the project:
What were the influences behind your vision for the interior at Russet House?
"The clients had a very good idea of what they liked and didn’t like. Their brief was quite loose. Key factors were to keep in character with the period property. It had a chequered heritage with the oldest part built in 16thC and further additions in the early 20thC Arts and Crafts era. This gave us a license to be quite eclectic and adventurous – with different stories for different parts of the house. I started by showing the clients imagery to help me to understand their aesthetic leanings. They were actually the first clients I have brought to my own home. They were very taken with the rough sawn timber finish and Crittal screen elements of my kitchen and were keen for that style to be used in the back hall and adjoining loggia. It became clear that although the clients were looking for a classical interior they weren’t afraid to be brave with feature elements, art work and furnishings – again very much like my own home. The meeting of visual preferences made my work on this project very easy".
There are some really unusual and fabulous rooms - which is your favourite?
"I love all of the cottage. It needed serious work and reconfiguration. The first time I saw it the ground floor was like a dark damp cellar. Now it is a music room and library, with double internal French doors joining the two and made to measure shelving throughout. I also love the home cinema, particularly because it is a total luxury. The tiered sofa idea evolved organically – it just seemed like the natural thing to do in a cinema room. The ready-made enclave, previously water tank storage, lent itself perfectly to becoming a statement popcorn/beer station. Clever lighting and lux fabrics were a great mood setter."
There was a heavy lighting and audio-visual element to this project - how do you pull the technical aspect into your creative plans? Do you out source these elements?
"I used a great lighting designer – Alex Fry from Northcote Lighting. She has a fantastic eye for detail. Lighting is an expert field in itself and a good lighting designer is a must on a large scale residential project like this one. The Audio-visual elements were organised by StuartBarr CDR it was a case of designing cabinetry and hidden casing to make these elements blend into the schemes. BarrJoinery were great at translating my vision into reality."
You are very good at retaining original features - old walls, beams, fire place etc. and working this into your schemes. Is this an important aspect of your work?
"Celebrating the history and heritage of the house was very important to the client, in this particular case. Exposing old brick and beam features became a theme through the oldest central part of the house – even stripping and showcasing a section of the old wattle and daub in the main hall way – which became a really striking and unusual feature. Most of my Johnston Parke Interiors projects, as well as my own homes, have meant working with period properties. In this case the Client, Hives Architects, the Barr Group and myself were all thinking along the same lines – it was a complete team effort."
There is so much more of this project to see – for a closer look at some of the Russet House ‘zones’ look out for future Barr Group news stories – or click here for the project page.