We go inside Penelope Chilvers' traditional Cotswolds cottage

penelope chilvers
Inside Penelope Chilvers' Cotswolds cottageSimon Brown

When it comes to an eye for style, it’s clear Penelope Chilvers has one of the best-trained in the business – not just when it comes to her eponymous shoe brand (a favourite of the Princess of Wales, no less) but also her own interiors.

When Chilvers and her husband decided to move out of their minimal, John Pawson-designed home in London, they were drawn to something totally different: a traditional, five-bedroom house made up of three former workmen’s cottages, near Burford in the heart of the sleepy Cotswolds. “Very often, people sort of sanitise houses by trying to make everything really uniform, but I like this house for its imperfections,” she tells me, for the latest instalment of Bazaar’s at-home series, Stylish Spaces. “And it’s just a space that I knew we could grow into very slowly and organically.”

a person standing next to a door
Simon Brown

The impetus to move came from a desire for a (slightly) quieter life for Chilvers, who is remains creative director of her brand. “I was working really hard, finding that I would finish on a Friday night, then carry on the next day,” she says. “I was just yearning for the fresh air and beauty that the countryside gives.”

Chilvers took on the task of decorating the house herself, and laughs that she was creating moodboards “before we even moved in. I brought all the elements together, like I would for a collection, but with this – unlike with the business – there wasn’t a strict plan or timeline. Above all, I wanted something that was really relaxing, welcoming and comforting.”

Here, Chilvers takes us through her favourite spots, from her sunny-hued bathroom to her functional yet rustic boot room.

The drawing room

a room with a couch and chairs
Simon Brown

“This is a 1970s extension of the old house and it has big, wide windows on all three walls, so it’s a lovely, light room. I’d never had a drawing room before – living in London, everything is so multi-use, isn’t it? – so this is an extra space that we use when family come to stay, or in the evening. I painted the walls myself during lockdown – before I started making shoes, I used to paint walls for a living, and do special effects and murals. All the furniture is pre-loved, found during sourcing trips at the weekend. I bought the ochre-coloured, velvet sofa on Instagram and installed red ticking curtains, which I like against the pink wall.”

The kitchen and dining room

a dining table with blue and white plates on it
Simon Brown
a dining room with a table and chairs
Simon Brown

“I could have knocked the kitchen and dining room through and turned it into a modern family room. But I really wanted something old fashioned. I love the scale of both these rooms, because they're small and cosy; they feel like parlours. When it’s just me and my husband, we’ll sit by the fire in the dining room, and it just feels contained and lovely. I have a ponyskin rug on the floor, that I got from the same people who supply our footwear leathers at Penelope Chilvers. When it came to the kitchen, I was very cautious and didn’t want to modernise it too much. For the last 20 years, I’ve always cooked in front of all my guests and had people in and out of the kitchen; now, I really like being on my own.”

The office

a person sitting in a chair
Simon Brown

“I fell in love with this table that I picked up in antique shop, as I like a big surface on which I can lay out all my moodboards. I don’t just work on a computer – for each collection, I’ll fill the shelves up behind me with new references and objects, scraps of fabric and pieces of leather everywhere. I also work on the floor a lot, so I do need a big space.”

The bedroom

<span class="photo-credit">Simon Brown</span>
Simon Brown

“I really like the rhubarb raspberry wash effect I have on the walls here, which I get by using a big brush. If you have imperfect, slightly wonky walls, it’s an effect that can make the room feel quite soft and blurry. The starting point was the headboard, which is actually upholstered with an old rug. I didn’t have anything for the walls, so I went through my portfolios that I keep for inspiration and found an old, hand-painted Japanese textile print. I then used that as a mount for a little notebook which says ‘Think’ on its cover, which I found in a South African junk shop. The bedside table used to belong to my father, and I have a lamp from Pooky on top.”

The bathroom

a bathroom with a tub and a stool
Simon Brown

“This room was a real exercise in trial and error – I think I painted and re-painted it about 20 times! I like to lie in the bath and look out at all the greenery, and I wanted something that worked with that. The room is north-facing, which means it has quite a cold light. I started off painting it green, before moving to quite a strong yellow, which just didn’t really go with the view. I kept mixing until I got this colour, which is a sort of lemon with a paler yellow on top, a bit like a lemon sorbet, and looks good in all lights. The curtains are made from an out-of-print fabric which has actually got a tiny bit of yellow in it. I love playing with bright colours, at home and in my collections. Will I change the walls again? I don’t know! I like it for the moment…”

The boot room

a sink and a window
Simon Brown

“This is my favourite room; I love the wood. When we moved into the house, we had the opportunity to say what we’d like the previous owners to either sell or leave for us, and I really loved that idea because we didn’t have any furniture. So we had the opportunity to inherit these incredible baskets, which I have hanging up. It’s the greatest luxury to have a room like this that you can chuck things into. When we moved in, there wasn’t even water running in this room, so we put a tap in and now you can rub the mud off your boots. One of my favourite things to do is polish shoes – I don’t know why, I find it very therapeutic!”

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