The Househunter: Room by Room

I’ve said it before but I do think Somerset gets, if not all, a lot of the best houses and for that reason we are returning to this listed beauty in Frome which had two shops on the ground floor which was on the market with The Modern House for £1,250,000. earlier this year. Also if you love a dark interior…..

Monmouth House, so named because the Duke of Monmouth stayed here in 1685 before heading off to the Battle of Sedgemoor – he was on the rebel side. The Government of James II (his uncle) won and Monmouth was carted off to London and executed. But don’t let that put you off. He was after the throne after all and I assume you just want a nice house and a good size kitchen.

The house has been completely refurbished in recent years and the modern dark grey paint works really well against all the old wood -both rustic and antique. There are also lots of lovely original features including windows and shutters, architraves and arches.

Georgian houses really are ridiculously easy to decorate as their elegant proportions and large rooms mean they can wear, as it were, anything at all and still look good. In this case the dark grey walls show off the features perfectly although a warmer colour wouldn’t go amiss these days .

You can see from these images that the house is happy with both that industrial style trolley, the modern rustic dining table and the antique and mid-century modern pieces scattered throughout. That’s the joy of them.

However, the downside is that this has only two bathrooms and one shower room and they are all very, very small. Now given that there are six bedrooms, the obvious solution is to lose one to create another, larger bathroom. Particularly as you can only get to one of the bedrooms on the second floor via one of the others.

But it’s a listed building. So these things aren’t always as straightforward as you might wish. If there is fancy plaster on the ceiling below where you want to put the bathroom you may not be allowed in case a leak damages it. If, as seems more likely, this was listed because of the Duke of Monmouth, then as long as you aren’t interfering with his bedroom – if it’s known where he slept – then you might have chances.

I think you can get away with small bathrooms when they are en suite and while one of them is, that leaves two sharing a tiny shower room. The one picture below is on the top floor and it’s bijou and serves three bedrooms so you can see why you might want to change things.

The bedrooms themselves are all generous – the Georgians loved a big square room and downstairs it’s a delight with a large kitchen leading through that arch to the dining room and a large sitting room  – pictured above with the dark walls doing a reasonable job of hiding the television.

If you have a space under the stairs that isn’t being used then do consider what you can do with it. Sometimes you can squeeze in a loo, it’s often the perfect place for coats and here it’s just been turned into a pretty book store.

There are two shops on the lower ground floor one of which will soon be empty which might turn out to be an opportunity for anyone who buys the house or just wants to make some rental income from the spare space. Presumably they would have been the original kitchens where Monmouth’s pre-battle dinner was prepared.

The main rooms up and downstairs are all about 17ft wide by at least 14ft and in an age where 10ft square counts as a good size double bedroom, they are really generous.

Now I’m just going to show you this one bedroom from a property in Faversham that is on the market with Strutt & Parker for £1,425,000. The rest of the house is a riot of colour as you will see if you follow the link, but I thought this was an interesting idea for an en suite. Yes you need a big room, but you could also do this without a window (which this has) and instead of an opening you could build a false wall and hide everything behind there. It’s not idela if you want a loo in there but then this doesn’t have a door on it either so that’s a different conversation that you need to be having with your partner. You can just see they have put the loo behind a screen for visual privacy (if not sound) and then this feels like a generous space for a bathroom. Would also work well as a dressing room/walk -in wardrobe.

bedroom with open plan bathroom via strutt and parker
bedroom with open plan bathroom via strutt and parker

I just wanted to show you because, as you know, I am always banging on about different ways to divide up spaces and actually, now I think about it – you could have put the loo at the other end with a sliding door and had a smaller shower at the window end. The solution to these planning matters often lies with a piece of graph paper and a pen, I find.


Tags : Duke of MonmouthMonmouth Housethe 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. Wasn’t the first one built a bit early to be Georgian? Although I see the estate agent describes it like that. Maybe Georgian is shorthand for “very nice house indeed”

    1. I think, though I am no historian, that the ‘eras’ which preceded that of the Georgians were the Restoration and then the William and Mary. Both of which produced architecture which looked very similar to that of the Georgians (to the untutored eye like mine anyway). The Georgians certainly get most of the credit but these beautifully ‘simple’ symetircal buildings with their huge windows (the real departure from what had gone before) were definitely around for the rich before the Gerogian era offically kicked in.

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