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Victorian townhouse transformed with an eye for storytelling

William Morris wallpaper and generous helpings of colour give this Bruton home a maximalist charm

living room of victorian townhouse in bruton with william morris wallpaper
Claire Worthy/Newton + Worthy

‘I like to have a narrative for everything I do, so I imagined this property as a wealthy merchant’s home,’ says Ed Workman, CEO of country house hotel The Newt in Somerset.

‘We are all storytellers,’ he adds. His four-storey Victorian townhouse, located close to The Newt in the small-but-significant village of Bruton, certainly has a past worthy of a tall tale. Once a butcher’s shop, it has also served as a vet’s surgery and a school. All these incarnations may have given the place history, but, sadly, by the time Ed and his wife Alice moved in, all of its original features had long since been ripped out.

Fortunately, the building still had good bones. From the street it may look rather humble, but step through the wide front door and you’re greeted by a light-filled hallway hung with paintings by Alice’s grandfather, the notable 20th-century British artist Cavendish Morton.

dining room of victorian townhouse in bruton
Claire Worthy/Newton + Worthy

Continuing the artistic thread in her family, Alice works for Hauser & Wirth as its senior director of cultural centres Europe. She and Ed both confess that their jobs infiltrate home life. The couple regularly host dinner parties, cooking for the international artists and art-world friends who come to Bruton to exhibit and buy.

‘If you are brave enough to keep adding (up to a point), a room becomes more and more comfortable’

Devoted to entertaining, their ground-floor living room was conceived to feel, ‘rich and lively,’ says Ed. New cornicing was installed, as well as a chimney breast and fireplace, to link the property to its roots. The Victorian-style features contrast beautifully with the couple’s passion for contemporary art.

bathroom in victorian townhouse bruton
Claire Worthy/Newton + Worthy

It is the handmade William Morris wallpaper, though, that was the starting point for the look of this room, influencing everything from the choice of jewel-like shades of upholstery to the cushions and lampshades.

‘We wanted the space to feel soft and luxurious,’ adds Ed. ‘What I learnt at The Fife Arms [the Scottish hotel he oversaw in his previous job, handling the international expansion of Hauser & Wirth] is that if you are brave enough to just keep adding (up to a point), a room just becomes more and more comfortable.’

bedroom in victorian townhouse bruton
Claire Worthy/Newton + Worthy

Downstairs in the basement, things are more family oriented, but no less stylish. This is where Ed, Alice and their son Arthur, four, spend the majority of their time, so Ed designed it to be ‘clean, modern and calm’. A bespoke Devol kitchen leads into a dining room and, beyond that, a cosy snug.

It’s entirely open-plan, perfect for keeping an eye on the latest addition to their family – Alice has recently given birth to their second child, Pippin. Another chapter in the story of this decorative and detailed home. hauserwirth.com; thenewtinsomerset.com

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration December 2020

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