Kent home in the spotlight

PUBLISHED: 09:14 28 November 2015 | UPDATED: 09:14 28 November 2015

A Coolings of Knockholt Christmas tree in the colourful sitting room

A Coolings of Knockholt Christmas tree in the colourful sitting room

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

Taking inspiration from a carrier bag, an episode of Downton Abbey and the seaside, the Shawver-Marchals have taken a dark 1930’s bungalow and 
turned it into a bright family home.

At one point there were only three walls left standing. A digger sat in the front sitting room and plastic-covered scaffolding had taken place of the roof. Georgia and Emmanuel Shawver-Marchals’ boys, Theo (now seven) and Max (now three) thought it was brilliant. Their parents on were finding it a little more stressful.

What started out as a simple wish to move out of London turned into a long, complicated affair involving lost house buyers, bidding wars and rental dilemmas. And to top it all, the place the family now calls home once prompted Georgia to immediately say ‘no way!’

The 1930’s bungalow was dark, needed gutting and revamping and the garden was waterlogged. It was the total opposite of what they were looking for but, several months later, when the couple had settled into a rental property around the corner, they viewed it again.

This time, Georgia says: “My mind popped wide open. I was like ‘oh we could take the whole back off and we can take the ceiling down, and we can do this and that and my husband was just standing there going ‘oh my God, here we go’.”

In spring 2014 work finally started and just before Christmas last year the family moved into what is now a bright and spacious four double-bedroom home. Georgia wanted a house that was “healthy, open, child-friendly and fun” and one year on, feels they’ve achieved it.

With a degree in art history and 15 years’ experience as an interior designer, Georgia has a strong sense of personal style and believes “colour makes people happy.” Throughout the build she used websites to create idea books, but while she had at least 20 with 100 pictures in each, Emmanuel had just one book with four ‘random’ pictures in it and only knows what he doesn’t like, so trying to come up with a style for their new home was a bit of a struggle.


One room they really clashed on was the kitchen and Georgia reveals: “We went to Ikea and nearly filed for divorce. Basically, we planned the kitchen and got a price.” No problem there you might think, but Georgia had already fallen in love with a hand-made, hand-painted kitchen and she really didn’t want anything else.

Emmanuel, on the other hand, as a logic-led engineer, couldn’t understand why they needed to spend the extra money as it was “just the same stuff.” Georgia says it took months to come to an agreement and throughout that time she retained a distinct vision for the room.

“I was saying I wanted this dark blue island and he was like ‘I can’t imagine why you would want to do something like that.’ It was agony.”

In the end, however, with much-appreciated help from their designer, she convinced 
Emmanuel that the end result would be worth it. On the night the recycled glass counters were installed, Georgia says “he came in and said he was really impressed and that it looked amazing. It’s now his favourite room in the house.”

When it came to choosing colours for the rest of the house, Georgia took inspiration from 
Emmanuel’s love of the seaside and mixed it with the colours she found on a carrier bag.

“I went into Cook one summer and the bag I took the food away in had these beautiful colours on it. It was coral and turquoise and lime green and yellow, like the seaside and I was looking at it and thinking the next house I have, I’m going to have these colours in it. Emmanuel kept laughing at me and going ‘your inspiration is a takeaway bag!’ But you’ve got to start somewhere and I really liked it.”


While a vibrant orange wall warms the cosy seating area within the combined kitchen/dining space and a purple wall adds character to the downstairs cloakroom, for the front sitting room Georgia took inspiration from an old Persian rug she found in her in-laws’ basement.

She says it took ages to get rid of the damp smell, but she fell in love with its unusual teal and ochre colours. Georgia grins as she admits: “I’m basically a scavenger who likes to dig around and find stuff.” And whereas pretty much everything in the house is a good buy, the sofa is the one thing she really splurged on.


Georgia’s passion for colour is particularly evident in the boy’s bathroom, where a bright orange floor takes centre stage. Although this is one choice she wavered on as, when she told people what she was going to do they went ‘oh my God’ but in the end she went ahead.

“I just thought it’s a kids’ bathroom. Its vinyl, they’ll probably knacker it anyway and if it’s horrible it will come up in five years, but I think its made a huge difference and orange and blue are in fact one of my favourite colour schemes.”

Her unusual choice of tiles for the en-suite bathroom, however, proved more popular; their tiler was so impressed that he kept taking photos and emailing them to people. Georgia was 
inspired by a friend’s use of encaustic tiles in her tiny bathroom. “You can go crazy in a small space. It’s little and you’re not spending much time in there anyway, so do big patterns and lots of colour because it makes such a statement.”


In the main bedroom, it’s the wall behind the bed that makes a statement and Georgia says: “From the start I wanted this dark, almost navy wall. I think it’s gorgeous but my painter said it had more coats of paint on it than a Rolls Royce and it’s so delicate that if you touch it, it marks.” Georgia’s solution is to have a huge mustard-coloured headboard there eventually.

One reason they bought the house was for its views, particularly from upstairs, and a lack of curtains is noticeable. “The windows are a big part of this house because of the black frames, which I saw in an episode of Downton Abbey, and I wanted to showcase them.” She did this with discreet Roman blinds.

So would she change anything? “I love the house, how it functions, how everything seems to have a space. If I did it all over again I would probably do it the same way,” she smiles.


The whole family, especially Max who has a birthday on 7 December, is ‘Christmas mad’ and looking forward to a second Christmas in their new home. Georgia admits she finds it easy to get swept up in new trends, but always ends up with “lots of bling, diamanté and silver glittery stuff,” which is then added to more traditional rustic ‘things from outside’ found on family foraging trips.

Georgia will also be taking inspiration from her childhood and using a flocked, snow-covered Christmas tree (see page 138). With her American and Emmanuel’s French roots, their Christmas is now a mix of traditions.

One thing they do agree on, however, is their tradition of making salt dough decorations with the boys: “Even though they’re super manky, falling apart and glitter gets everywhere, it’s fun!” Which is exactly what was wanted.

Get the look

Interior design

Georgia works as an interior designer for the company

and offers a range of services for clients, based in Kent and London, seeking a complete makeover, a de-clutter and change around or a ‘staging’ for sale.

Christmas tree

If you fancy a little snow-covered magic in your home this year, use a flocked tree similar to this 7ft, pre-lit balsam fir, £385 supplied by Coolings Green and Pleasant, Main Road, Knockholt TN14 7LJ,

Bespoke kitchen

Sarah Reeve-Daly of Alon Interiors in Larkfield designed and installed the kitchen which has been hand painted using Little Greene paints,,

Fox in the kitchen

Using a ducal sticker like this lovely fox can add a touch of whimsy to your scheme and can be added, and removed, in minutes. This one was brought from Etsy for under £20 and was designed by Chocovenyl.


The sofa in the kitchen/dining /snug area came from DFS ( and the ochre-coloured sofa in the front sitting room came from Loaf,

Bathroom flooring

The vinyl orange floor in the boys’ bathroom came from The Colour Flooring Company,, and the encaustic-style tiles in the en-suite were sourced from Topps Tiles,


Georgia loves all the blinds in the house which were made by Fabien at Sevenoaks Roman Blinds,


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