Friday, 13 February 2015


Key Change

Julian Robinson-Porter uses his artistic talent and flair for design to connect his passion for period furnishings to a Grade 1 listed home in the heart of Somerset.

When Julian Robinson-Porter, a classical musician, was offered an exciting new job opportunity with a unique commissioned residence attached to it, he jumped at the chance. Furthermore, this meant he could now move back to the UK and live closer to his family, having spent much of the past 30 years working abroad with the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. The move to this enchanting Grade 1 listed, stone terraced house, steeped in history and ecclesiastical tradition, was a complete contrast to the prestigious modern Penthouse flat he had lived in for many years in Munich’s artistic quarters.

With no structural or decorating work needed, other than laying new carpets in most of the rooms, Julian set about making the place his own. “One of my first thoughts on viewing the interior was that much of the furniture I had brought over with me from Germany was depressingly unsuitable and would have to go”, says Julian. Although understandably irritated by the situation, he embraced the challenge to find pieces of statement furniture and luxurious soft furnishings that would blend sympathetically with the preserved interior of this medieval building and help to create a comfortable and practical home for himself and his two dogs, Wanja and Fearne. The search was on and reclamation yards, newspaper advertisements, flea- markets and EBay were scoured on an international scale and soon proved to dominate the early transition period from Germany to the UK. His passion for buying dilapidated antiques and restoring them himself, proved invaluable in his quest for finding 'the right stuff', as did his acquired contacts and connections overseas.

He found beautiful tapestries (some depicting medieval scenes) to adorn the walls, adding an instant splash of colour and warmth/luxury to the rooms. It proved rewarding, taking time sourcing the perfect Church pew from a cafe in Covent Garden, London and then commissioning a bespoke second pew to fit round a large victorian pine table in the kitchen.  A growing collection of antique wall and grandfather clocks which he has restored, fill the house with the sound of chimes throughout the day. ‘I like nothing more than sitting and listening to the alternating ticking sounds of them’, says Julian.

         ‘I feel honoured to live in this beautiful historic building which has such a distinctive physical structure, lots of original features and natural ancient beauty’, says Julian. Incorporating pieces of antiquated and retro furniture complement and enhance the simplicity of the rooms.

One thing was clear, namely that in keeping with the unique ecclesiastical environment, incorporating stained glass into his design scheme was going to have to play an important role. Carefully sourced pieces strengthen ties with the surrounding buildings, but also compliment the large medieval open fireplace, the 14th century stone door arches, original mullion window frames and blue lias flagstone flooring.
         In the main sitting room, he has combined single brown leather club chairs (purchased from a west midlands Golf club) with chasing Victorian footstools and a fitting retro Danish leather sofa for practicality and comfort. ‘I love the way the colours of the rug enhance the stain glass panels, interrupted only by the contrasting blend of the darker shades ’, says Julian.  A Uebel & Lechleiter baby grand piano also offers evenings of soothing music to the accompaniment of a crackling open fire.

         Being known in Munich as ‘The Scotsman’ who had a decent collection of malt whiskies, it was necessary to find a complimentary presentation cabinet. ‘I managed to find the perfect antique pine vitrine at a flea market in Pfaffenhofen in Southern Germany’, says Julian, ‘which I restored by stripping, sanding, staining and eventually waxing for a matt vintage feel.’ For added effect, he fitted rows of LED lighting within the cabinet which illuminate the various shades of ‘liquid gold’, antique glassware and equally casts a warm glow onto the Victorian stain glass panels, adorning the walls above. Hence the name, ‘Whisky Room’.

His draw to natural earthy colours based around deep reds, browns and greens compliment the style of the house and have created a sense of continuity/common theme throughout. The coffee table, grandfather clock and Vitrine in the Whisky Room were stained with a Clou Honey Blond lacquer, steel wooled and then finished with Clou antique wax. ‘These subtle tones connect naturally within the room, accentuating the more darker woods, thereby providing a warm radiance and subtle vitality ’ says Julian.

Julian’s desire for a clutter free home, choice of furniture, keen eye for colour and coupled with his passion for design and attention to detail, has meant that he has transformed this historic house into a comfortable and stylish home which continues to evolve.

Stockists details:

Waterford 01782 282650
Ikea 0203 645 0000
Selling Antiques 01293 804 684
Jack Wills 0208 747 76021
Tapestries Direct 0118 981 3402
Irugs 0808 189 0459
Ebay Uk
Ayers & Graces 01582 536760
Old Boot   0207 7363738
Wells Reclammation Yard 01749 677087
Argos 0845 165 7477