Still keeping that back to school feeling today as it there are new houses on the market at this time of year as well as collections of clothes and furniture and shoes and, well, pretty much everything really. It’s like Spring with everything blossoming forth in an explosion of newness. So I thought we would go to Cambridge. To this gorgeous house which is a lesson in whites and pale neutrals and is on the market with The Modern House for £2,250,000.

A former religious retreat in the 1950s, this Georgian house is just fabulous. The owner, an interior stylist (which helps) turned it from 22 cellular bedrooms on the top floor to five with en suites and created a series of living, working and entertaining spaces on the ground floor. I love it and I want it.

And, as I said on the podcast yesterday in our discussion on maximalism versus minimalism, it’s a classic example of loving something that I know I couldn’t keep like this. It’s not just keeping all that white clean as I know after about six months I would feel compelled to pick up a paintbrush, or add a darker punch of colour somewhere.

So, in the absence of two-and-a-half-million quid down the back of the sofa, I’m going to keep it here and admire it and we can all look at how to achieve this look as we go round the rooms.

Let’s start with the kitchen as that’s one of the most important rooms and one of the most expensive to change. And sold! I mean I know the reality is that in choosing to paint the kitchen pink we worry we’d get bored with it but inheriting a pink kitchen is another matter altogether. You can enjoy it for as long as you want and feel no pressure if you do decide you want a change as you can paint it all in another colour.

But I think I’d keep it. Note also the narrow island. If you don’t have room for a full size one, this is a good way to trick the eye into thinking there is more space than there actually is. The top is a standard worktop depth – 60cm – but the base is narrower meaning you can tuck the stools underneath to save space. And you might just be able to squeeze some narrow cupboards into the other size. Standard wall units are 30cm deep and you can fit plenty in those.

So while it doesn’t actually take up less space than a standard run because the top is full width, it looks narrower and more streamlined.

Also those cupboards… looks like vintage shop fittings that have been painted but you could probably also have modern ones made and put glass – reeded is the new trend – or foxed mirror on them and paint them any colour you choose.

I was going to say olive green would look amazing with the pink and brass and there I go adding more colour again before we’ve even left the first room.

Into the sitting room now and there are two that are linked with these double doors with a small office leading off one of them (as well as two other room elsewhere on the ground floor).

And this is the lesson in how to do white, or neutral more accurately. The answer likes in textures. Lots of them. So there are linen sofas and cotton or velvet curtains, natural wood and marble, large paintings and metallic light fittings with some sheepskin thrown in for good measure. It stops it feeling sterile and makes it feel cosy. I love this room. I would so fill it with colour.

But not the bedroom. That I would leave with its soft mix of white, ecru and blush pink. Well I might add some pictures on the wall. But let’s make them black and white so as not to disturb the peace.

Once again, there is almost no colour in this room but there are lots of different materials which make it feel warm and relaxing. You wouldn’t be scared to come in here and sit down. Well not unless you’d forgotten to take your shoes off downstairs and it was raining outside.

Finally, a couple of bathrooms for you. It’s unusual to see a free standing bath that isn’t a roll top these days and I like the way the floor tiles have been used on the side here. It makes the room feel bigger – not that it needs that – but it also adds to the calming feel as the surfaces all flow together.

But this one below is like the interior stylist’s handbook of bathrooms. All white with a large basin and lots of lovely things hanging on a wooden shaker rail. I wonder how often they are used… Looks good though doesn’t it.

What do you think? Anyone moving here? I would.



Tags : converted propertyFormer religious retreatGeorgian househousehunterProperty for salethe househunterThe Modern House
Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. I grew up in the village this house is located in and remember it well in its former incarnation – the renovation is beautiful and I would buy it in a heartbeat if I had the money!

  2. It would require the new owners to make their mark but good bones. I couldn’t live with the pink kitchen units so they would not stay pink for long.

  3. Thank you for starting off my Friday with my dream home! I love the white and wouldn’t change a thing — other than adding some bathroom storage.

  4. Me too! I wouldn’t necessarily add colour straight away but would certainly add lots and lots of plants and greenery as soon as I moved in!

  5. Too pink for me, and I’m also mentally adding other colours to the walls in my head! But it is a lovely house.

  6. Absolute Nirvana! I would always feel serenely calm in this space. The kitchen is stunning, what an amazing colour. Do we know what colour it might be?

  7. I remember this house being on Light Locations, have always loved it! Any idea where I can find similar large brass pendants? I need one single, large pendant for over my island. All suggestions gratefully received!

    1. I love this one and I wouldn’t change it because I love white. The house looks really peaceful and it doesn’t surprise me it was formerly a retreat. I read the agents interview with the owners and apparently that parquet floor was reclaimed from the M15 building which makes a talking point. If that floor could talk…

      The owners also have a beach house in Norfolk – I’d love to see that too. I bet that is also gorgeous.

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