Sue’s house of sunshine

PUBLISHED: 17:14 13 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:19 20 February 2013

Bishops Castle

Bishops Castle

Sarah Hart visits an artist, jeweller and interiors expert who indulges her passions at home and at work. Pictures by John Snowdon

Sue's house of sunshine

Sarah Hart visits an artist, jeweller and interiors expert who indulges her passions at home and at work. Pictures by John Snowdon

Seaside colours and pretty floral fabrics make Sue Davies's Shropshire home a joy to visit.
Stepping through the door to an eyeful of fresh pastel shades warmed by streaks of morning sunlight is definitely a mood-lifting experience.
"I love colour, I love pastels. I think everybody should have them in their lives because they're so cheerful," enthuses Sue, an art school-trained artist who turned her talents to interiors many years ago.
And the happy feeling you get from walking into her Bishop's Castle home is exactly the same when you enter the enticing interiors shop, Zani Homes & Gardens, which she shares in Ludlow. Her cushion covers handmade in jolly vintage textiles, her hand-painted old furniture and mirrors sourced from French street markets and London fairs, her eye-catching patchwork lampshades homespun in antique floral fabrics and ticking. There's plenty to conjure up dreamy images of long English summers and nostalgic country interiors.
Sue and her partner, Tom Martin, bought their 300-year-old home five years ago. They were already living in Bishop's Castle, but couldn't resist a challenge when the quirky building came onto the market. Along with two next door cottages it had once formed the town's old Red Lion pub. A few decades ago the building was divided into three homes with shop frontages.
Sue and Tom's house is laid out around a rear courtyard. One part of the property is still a shop. To begin with Tom and Sue moved into one half of the building as they started the long process of refurbishment and renovation. They continued to let out the other half, on the opposite side of the courtyard, to a sitting tenant. There was plenty of hard work to be done.
"It was habitable, but extremely unmodernised and there was some damp," Sue recalls.
"We replaced windows and doors. We rewired, re-plumbed and re-plastered.
We redecorated, gradually moving through the house. We put down new flooring."
Their tenant moved out three years ago and the refurbishment continues, piece-by-piece, fitting around Sue and Tom's busy lives.
At the heart of the home is the sunny kitchen, with its captivating mix of vibrant blues.
"I got the idea for the colour scheme from a picture postcard of Monet's salon at his house in Giverny," Sue explains.
She designed the country style kitchen cupboards and shelves. Tom, a carpenter, constructed them in time-saving MDF. Sue painted them, mixing the colours herself: a light blue green for the base colour, a contrasting cobalt blue for the knobs and beading. A deep butler's sink and an antique-style gold mixer tap finish the look.
The walls are coated in a fresh pale aquamarine, while ice white and marine blue tiled splash backs, arranged in a check pattern, add to the French farmhouse feel.
"I love pastels because they are warming colours and they bounce the light," Sue muses.
One of her greatest loves is hand-painted furniture. Pieces are found in every room, from the white painted old dining room table and its jumbled assortment of antique chairs that have been in Sue's family for generations to the small lacquered Chinese cabinet in the drawing room.
"There's a truly romantic feel that you get with painted wooden furniture. The Scandinavians and French have wonderful traditions. The Georgians had a tradition of painted furniture, although they used darker colours, like lovely sludgy greens," says Sue.
So far she has resisted the temptation of daubing the decoratively carved late Victorian pine fireplace in the drawing room. She spotted it at an antiques market in Shrewsbury, took it home and stripped it of its heavy coat of varnish. But the handsome honey-hued wood looks so good she'll probably leave the fireplace to be enjoyed in its natural state.
Throughout the house gilt and painted mirrors, vintage floral fabrics, chandeliers and pretty knick-knacks inject a simple English-style elegance to the rooms. Colourful throws, plumped up cushions and Sue's novel patchwork lampshades instil a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere. Sue makes the lampshades from strips of material, alternating flowery patterns with plainer fabrics. They are unusual, eye-catching and fun.
While most of the rooms are of a pastel palette Sue has decorated the dark hallway in a dramatic oil-based red to lift the gloom. A ragging effect on the walls makes the space appear larger than it is. The room is brightened by the splash of a red and white gingham throw over a sofa and balloon-back chairs that Sue has painted white and upholstered in simple striped ticking.
"I simply love the art of wielding a brush," she says.
"Tom says I would be good in the Army because they have a slogan there: 'if it doesn't move paint it'!"
Sue's cushions and lampshades are made largely from French antique fabrics. She has built up a large collection over the years. And her eclectic eye doesn't stop there. She also has a penchant for ceramics and vintage glass beads. Shelves in the kitchen heave with dainty Victorian china tea cups, hand-painted Italian pottery and blue and white English jugs.
Her interest in beads was born when she began buying and selling Venetian glass back in the 1980s. Since then Sue has amassed a collection of thousands of glass, stone and ethnic beads, many antique, some contemporary. She now makes lovely necklaces and bracelets from these beads, marrying them with weighty, modern, handmade silverware and occasionally stringing them with pearls.
She markets her jewellery under the name of Susie Da Vinci. Pieces are stocked by The Gallery, in Bishop's Castle, but she also sells them through her increasingly popular jewellery parties. She visits the homes of clients who invite their friends along. They make for fun social evenings with the chance to try on and buy some unique pieces of jewellery.


*For information on jewellery parties contact Sue Davies on 01588 630170 or 07970 153145.
Zani Homes & Gardens, is based in Corfe Street, Ludlow. Sue Davies is available to make cushion covers and lampshades to individual commission.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Shropshire Life