This quiet town located on the border between Scotland and England is not to be underestimated: steeped in history, its possession changed hands several times over the centuries between the two kingdoms. The centre is a warren of elegant Georgian streets and squares and is ringed by the fascinating medieval town walls. At the head of the town, overlooking the sea is the last remaining, working Georgian barracks in Britain, which doubles as a museum and art centre. There are plans to create studios for the towns many working artists in the spacious complex.
Sharon Hunt had dreamt of buying and restoring a townhouse on one of the picturesque Georgian streets since she was a child. A long time fan of artist LS Lowry, who used to holiday in Berwick every summer, often paying for meals with drawings which the waitresses often tragically binned! He was a much loved regular customer, but the staff did not foresee his future fame.
Her dream came true when her and her husband Gavin spotted a run down property on the towns very desirable street of Ravensdowne. They saw the incredible potential and knew it would make the perfect backdrop for their extensive collection of art and antiques.
Sharon and Gavin were aiming for a ‘Gentleman’s Club’ effect in their dining room, depicted below, inspired by TV presenter, Dan Cruickshank’s dining room in his well know period home in Spitalfields. She engaged a specialist carpenter, Grant Laidlaw to install the panelling, which is made from hand chiselled MDF to look completely authentic. The walls and woodwork and fireplace are all painted in ‘Hedgerow’ an emulsion by Laura Ashley, the Georgians would always paint wood to unify random mismatching woods that they used during a build.
Both Sharon and Gavin are fascinated by military and social history, their home is like a living history lesson, Sharon has researched the story of the house: when it was first built, the house was larger, it included the house next door; it was divided into two in 1860. The two attic bedrooms were once Georgian and Victorian servants quarters, one for males and one for females. The social changes over the years are all echoed in the changes to the property, the addition of a proper kitchen and bathrooms for example.
The improvements that Sharon and Gavin undertook were major and a testament to her love of the past as she wanted to do as much as she could herself and learn about restoration techniques. She also learnt to cherry-pick tradesmen who loved old buildings and who were determined to get things right.
The kitchen was made by an antique dealer near Durham, called Something Different, who also offer bespoke cabinetry. ‘It is my favourite destination and I went in looking for some furniture and realised they made kitchens to order. ‘I was delighted, I wanted something really different: completely unfitted and slightly distressed and got exactly what I hoped for’ she says. ‘Nothing in the kitchen matches, everything is made from salvaged wood, often from pieces of furniture that are beyond repair. I absolutely love the drawers made from old vegetable crates.’
Sharon collects Georgian and Victorian kitchenalia: old tins, willow china, copper pans, she is a self confessed magpie. Her unfitted kitchen is perfect for displaying it all.
The kitchen was installed into an extension, added by Sharon & Gavin, with French doors opening out to the pretty both facing garden.
The sense of history continues in the bedrooms and the bathroom.
The bath is the original Victorian cast iron bath, carefully positioned to see the town hall clock from it. The Lefroy Brooks mixer tap was a bargain find on eBay. The Victorian towels are from Sharon’s friend and antique textiles dealer, Alisha’s Attic Vintage Linens.
The marble topped sideboard is from the Auction House in Berwick, the mahogany chair is from Gumtree and the small side table, underneath the window, is from the antique shop in Bishop Auckland Something Different that Sharon favours so deservedly.
You can find out even more about this exquisite home in the current edition of Period Living magazine, February 2022, in the shops now, or on Readly if you are reading this later in the year.
We loved our day with Sharon & Gavin, it was such a privilege to meet them, when we had just moved to the area. We share so many interests and have kept in touch. Unsurprisingly they will be tackling another ambitious project shortly, I cannot wait to see what they do – will keep you all posted!