‘Creating pockets of chaos has always been an idea I’ve liked,’ says interior designer Jo Berryman with a mischievous glint in her eyes. In her home, a late-Victorian pile on the outskirts of Frome in Somerset, this tendency to decorative rebelliousness has led her to make decisions that she admits ‘may be a little bit too rock ’n’ roll for some people’s tastes.’
In her living room, that has meant pairing Pierre Frey’s ‘Leo’ wallpaper (like a colossal Jackson Pollock art installation) with peeling original plaster on the ceiling.
The smart juxtaposition of wabi-sabi-like imperfection and fearless modernity has been an instinctual process; Jo’s way of celebrating her home’s historic features while simultaneously subverting them.
In the dining room, when stripping back the space she discovered layers and layers of plaster dating back more than a hundred years – just one of many ‘a-ha’ moments. ‘It began to look like those incredible walls in the film The King’s Speech,’ she says, ‘but much more subdued.’
How these rooms look now is a long way from what Jo’s husband Phillip saw when he first spotted the home on a property website back in 2016. Its style then was more traditional, but they were smitten by it, and disappointed to be told that its owners had decided to take it off the market.
It felt like fate when they recognised the driveway while passing on a family trip from their then-home in London to this creative corner of the countryside, so the couple decided to knock on the door. After a chat and a pot of tea, a very amicable deal was struck. ‘They liked the fact that we loved their home,’ she recalls. ‘It was a wonderful passing of the baton really.’
Now, in the reception room at the front of the house where, says Jo, ‘one might expect to see a classic battered Chesterfield sofa, we have a design by William Andrus instead!’ It’s just one of the retro-futuristic pieces from the 1970s and 1980s that are given space to properly shine in this property’s large, interconnected living area.
‘There is a kind of unabashed arrogance to furniture from that era,’ adds Jo fondly. ‘Here, the designs have the space to scream as loudly as they want.’
This is still a country house, with muddy boots belonging to Jo’s daughters – Romy, six, and Nico, 15 – lined up in the hallway, as well as the everyday mayhem caused by two naughty dogs – Marley and Dolly – but there is an undeniable glamour here. Not many Victorian estates have an area in the hallway that is regularly converted into a DJ booth, or disco lights (Philips Hue bulbs set to flash in time to the music) ready to turn the space into a dance floor at the drop of a hat.
A lot has changed since Jo moved in, but one thing she believes has remained unchanged is this home’s welcoming quality. ‘It is,’ she says, ‘imbued with a wonderful energy. You feel that good times have been, and will be, had here.’ joberryman.com