Work in progress and a story of Zulu baskets in Norfolk

When we started our project for a holiday house with annexed guest cottage, we knew that neither clients nor we were after the usual “we are in Norfolk but we wish we were in the Hamptons” kind of look.

We have seen too many barn conversions where the power of the

utilitarian architecture has been obliterated by shaker kitchens and chintzy curtains, too many pretty gardens facing the bracing winds of the North Sea and definitely too many colour schemes in white and blue.

We wanted our inspiration to come from the building, the site and their history.

Kings Lynn used to be a Hanseatic city – possibly the smallest of them all, but still – and a hub of commerce. Our thoughts went to the Portrait of Georg Gisze, a young hanseatic merchant, by Hans Holbein and we were not surprised in seeing that the greens, blacks and purple of the painting are so close to the tones of the marshes and the fields surrounding our building.

We thought of vessels and drift wood carved by the sea and found a hand chiselled timber flooring that has the same smooth and textured finish.

To complement such a rich back-ground we are going to plaster the walls white and leave the plaster in view, as we like the chalky and uneven finish. Zelliges tiles, in the same ivory colour, have been chosen for the wall behind the kitchen, as we like the play of light on their uneven and shiny surface.

We do not like kitchen splashbacks – the awkward strips of tiles behind the units -. The whole wall is going to be tiled and on the tiles we will hung a collection of Zulu baskets that our client has been lovingly collecting for years. They will look great, with their brown, tan and auburn colours and the fine weave.

As for the colour black, it is so essential to the balance of the majestic portraits by Holbein that we must learn his lesson, and get some in our scheme. We chose a timber cladding that has been charred with the Japanese technique of the Shou-sugi-ban to clad the dormers of the cottage externally and possibly some cupboards and storage units inside.

The contractor's stripping out the cottage is still a work in progress and a long way before the fitting out will start, but we take great pleasure in looking at our very own "Norfolk" mood-board.