As a child, Birdie Fortescue spent many a holiday on the north Norfolk coast. Further visits with her husband, Frank, rekindled her affinity with the area, so when looking for a second home this was the obvious location.“Although much larger than the property we originally had in mind, we fell in love with this late-Georgian house that belonged to the former estate manager,” says Birdie.“We spent six years coming to the house during school holidays but, four years ago, when the children left their local schools, we decided to move here from Suffolk for a more rural lifestyle. This house was the right size and it felt like the right time.”
Similar upholstered chair, White Linen Relax, £412, La Maison Chic. Jazz 612 rug, £600sq m, Gideon Hatch.“Our previous property was larger and more traditional in style, while this house had been a holiday home and was decorated in casual beach house style, with painted furniture that I had picked up on regular trips to Europe. The layout worked well, though, so what I needed to do was make it cosier and give it a more lived-in family feel. In the end, I chose favourite items from both the houses, which has led to a mix of traditional polished pieces partnered with painted ones, helping to create the relaxed, informal look we wanted.”
Striped jute rug in Green, £150, Birdie Fortescue.
This is where Birdie’s experience as an interior designer (she trained with Percy Bass and Colefax and Fowler) followed by 15 years as a specialist dealer in continental antiques becomes clear.
Artwork by Paul Darley, Fairfax Gallery. Similar wall light, Louis Philippe 1 French Period flat back wall lantern, £244, Garden Antiquities.“Elegance and a strong sense of comfort and calm are key to all my design schemes,” she says. “It’s important to live surrounded by the possessions you love, but the trick is to balance these using subtle and discreet interior design.”
Display cabinet, Geoffrey Stead.
Recently, Birdie decided to take her passion for design and colour harmonies a step further, setting up a lifestyle shop and café in nearby Burnham Market. Included among the carefully curated collection of homeware is her first fabric range, which takes the form of block-printed table linens and soft furnishings. “The designs feel like a natural progression for me,” she says. “They are inspired by my years in the interior design world and by our location on the north Norfolk coast.”
Similar antique Persian Ziegler rug, from £15,000, Farnham Antique Carpets.The bunk bed was the first thing to go when daughter Lydia redecorated her room (above) with her mother’s help. “We wanted to combine elements from her childhood with a more teenage feel,” says Birdie.
For a similar bed, try French Finds.The shell mirror (above), although another of Birdie’s French finds, is a sweet nod to the nearby Norfolk coastline. “I love this drawing of a sheep,” she adds. “Jason manages to capture the very essence of his subjects in just a few strokes.”
Artwork by Jason Gathorne-Hardy and Oliver Campion, Cobbold & Judd. Bed upholstered in Carsten Check in Tan, £77m, Brunschwig & Fils.The subtle, contemporary cast of the vanity unit, which was designed by Birdie, prevents the guest bathroom from being quaint.
Oyster wood mirror, Myriad Antiques.
Words Andrée Frieze, Photographs Paul RaesideTweet