History Rewritten

Victoria Guthrie had the pleasure of meeting with the owners of a stunning home that’s been revamped by Julia Nelson-Elgar of Nelson Design UK.

A large, grand house with a rich history set in acres of land on the Essex/Suffolk border – sounds like every person’s dream home. The house itself was built in 1867 by local seed merchant William Dunnet. There is rumoured to be a strong link between him and Darwin; if you look through the documents for the original estate before it was split up, you can see that there is a distinct botanical focus with outbuildings called Cucumber House, Peach House and the Vinery. It is also rumoured that Constable once painted in the house.

Owner Ben had never worked with an interior designer before; it was only when Julia was recommended to him that he considered bringing her on board and speaking to him today, he’s certain he made the right decision.

Before Ben and his partner Lauren bought the house on the Essex/Suffolk border, they were based in London. Although they enjoyed decorating their home there, with such a large, long-term project, both realised it could be incredibly costly to make mistakes. The renovation was being managed from London remotely with Ben and Lauren visiting on the weekends, which just highlighted how important it was to have a central force on site, planning and organising. So on New Year’s Day 2013, Julia got her first glimpse of the house.


When Julia came on board the house was a blank canvas and everything was completely redecorated except for the main kitchen. Julia spent time soaking up the house, reading up about the history, getting to know Ben and Lauren and understanding what they wanted to achieve.

‘Ben wanted the house restored sympathetically, incorporating nods to the original creators of the estate,’ explained Julia. One of the main requirements was to get away from the dark emptiness of the large property and give it the feel of a Victorian gentleman’s residence. It was important to Ben and Lauren that the house has a warm and cosy feel as it was so large. One of the main themes that runs throughout is one of natural history which links up nicely with both the origins of the house and Ben’s hobbies. The natural history theme encompasses a variety of elements: exploration, botanicals, florals and insects which allowed Julia to give each room a different feel yet have them all link up in the subconscious.

‘One of the bonuses we found with Julia is that she has a background in history,’ explained Ben. This meant that Julia knew why rooms were where they were and what what they were used for.


Whether a big or small project, an interior designer can really help transform ideas into reality. ‘It’s all very well saying “I like this and that but actually putting that all together into something that works is a very great skill to have,”’ said Ben. ‘Having Julia on the project meant that she knew where to go to source the furniture, wallpapers and get furniture designed and made, whereas we wouldn’t even know where to begin,’ explained Ben.

Trust between Ben and Julia was up the upmost importance but for Ben, the most valuable thing in the process was Julia’s ‘homework’ which involved sending Julia photos of elements of homes he liked and information about his hobbies. Julia explained: ‘It’s my job to take the ideas, narrow them down and make the right choices for each individual property based on the client’s requirements.’ Once Julia narrowed down Ben’s ideas, she bought samples of fabrics and wallpapers to the house for consideration.

Julia’s husband James was also involved with the project and often gets involved in the logistical side of projects. It was particularity important to have someone with such a methodical and precise way of thinking and practical skills like this on such a big project. James was able to point out practical solutions to things that wouldn’t have even been considered, for example, which way the doors open or how a window fastens. He was able to take these problems in hand and offer solutions, keeping one step ahead and also ensuring the project stayed cost effective.

‘We now have a beautiful home with rooms well beyond our expectations,’ said Ben. ‘The dining room is so opulent people walk in and their jaws literally drop. There are surprises at every corner and it’s fantastic.’

Finding the right interior designer for you can add so much value, saving you from making mistakes, pushing your boundaries and making sure you get what you want first time around. Ben said: ‘I am now an advocate for interior designers and now the house is finished Julia is working with us on another project in London, too.’


The Nelson Design UK showroom in Ipswich is inspirational and aspirational. Anyone can walk in with pictures on their smart phone or a sofa arm cap under their arm and Julia will be happy to offer advice. Julia works with a range of different properties and prides herself on being sensitive to what her clients want, helping to inspire and make dreams a reality.

A colour consultation for the home is £75. For this Julia will come to your property and give practical advice on choosing the right colours for your property. In this hour session she is also able to advise on a range of practical design solutions.

To speak to Julia about your home call 01473 857852 or pop into the showroom at 15 St Peters Street, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 1XF. Alternatively, visit the website at www.nelsondesignuk.com