Ros and James’ English Countryside California Cottage
Name: Ros Wyatt (of Green Plum Design) and James Vernon
Location: Kensington, California
Size: 2,100 sq/ft
Years lived in: 9, Owned
Who else lives here: Jack, Mischa and Alfie
In classic English style, interior decorator Ros Wyatt’s San Francisco Bay home features a multitude of pretty prints. A plaid throw drapes over a wing chair, gingham rambles across a coverlet, mod poppies blossom beside a bed, and cabbage roses bloom in the medicine cabinet. A delightful mix of antique and handmade, the bright, breezy home seamlessly blends English country style with a sunny California feel.
In a sewing studio tucked away off the living room, Ros stitches linen and vintage barkcloth into whimsical throw pillows, which she sells on Etsy. Back in England, she upcycled tattered woolen blankets into pillows and bags, an effort immortalized in a souvenir pillow emblazoned with some of her favorite labels.
Other parts of the house combine Ros’ creativity with her British background as well. Heirlooms, shipped over the Atlantic and across the United States furnish most of the rooms, while antique French linens turned curtains flank the windows. Broken china adds charm to a kitchen she’s not crazy about, and a mismatched set of embroidered lace-edged pillowcases complete the country cottage look of the master bedroom.
When Ros and her husband James bought the house nearly ten years ago, the one-story, two-bedroom bungalow was barely big enough for the family of four. But boundless sunlight and views of the San Francisco Bay and city beyond made up for the cozy quarters. And as their family expanded, visions of a second floor became a reality.
Five years after the expansion, the family’s back door opens onto a rambling hillside garden where the kids play soccer, James writes history books (in a prefab “pod” from Summerwood), and like a proper English hostess, Ros pours out steaming cups of Earl Grey tea.
My/Our style: My style is certainly a mix of vintage and new – I love old furniture that has seen a bit of a life and I like putting it in a room that has a really clean white base so that any interesting textures and colors really stand out.
Inspiration: Usually other people’s houses I see in magazines like the British edition of Country Living and of course, design blogs like Design Sponge, Décor 8 and sfgirlbybay. And finally, the home and general style of my former business partner from England, Eleanor Kellett – she has just about the most beautiful and stylish house ever – basically, I am just trying to keep up with her!
Favorite Element: I love the tongue and groove panels in our house – it feels like a beach cottage.
Biggest Challenge: The kitchen – working around lots of yellow counter tiles and brown and green tiles on the floor – very tricky.
What Friends Say: People always say that our house looks so ‘English’ which says something about my homesickness!
Biggest Embarrassment: I don’t like our kitchen at all – lots of yellow tiles on the counters and a dark tile floor with little hunter green tiles thrown in – I am saving up to pull them all up!
Proudest DIY: I made all of our curtains from old vintage French linen and screen printed on a few of the window linens.
Biggest Indulgence: Definitely our claw foot tub, which we ordered from Canada (Cheviot) – it really is a daily pleasure.
Best Advice: Don’t go and buy everything all at once – take time to pick up old and interesting things along the way.
Dream Source: Alameda Point Antiques Faire, French flea markets.
Green Elements/Initiatives: Our house is filled with things that we have found at yard sales, flea markets and even picked up off the side of the road – apart from the bath, I don’t think we own one large piece of furniture that was bought brand spanky new!
Lots of salvaged textile remnants used in various ways throughout the house; broken dishes used as decoration; old furniture refreshed with a swath of pretty fabric.
Furniture: Most of the big furniture is from England, some inherited from family and others from the flea markets and antique shops.
Accessories: All the pillows and curtains are made with fabric I have found on eBay or from trips to England.
Lighting: Alameda Point Antiques Faire, Omega Too, antique shops.
Rugs and Carpets: Alameda Point Antiques Faire, IKEA.
Window Treatments: I made all the window linens and curtains from fabric I picked up in England and on eBay.
Beds: Pretty much all from antique shops and flea markets in England.
Artwork: Two Gretchen McCondochie oil paintings, photography by Sim Canetty-Clarke, one print by David Morris and water colors by my grandmother Betty Wyatt.
Paint: Kelley Moore Antique White, Benjamin Moore Bamboo Shoot, Knoxville Grey, Hail Navy.
Flooring: Oak and Douglas fir boards.
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(Images: Celeste Sunderland. Originally published 2010-12-08)