There can’t be many women who would take a hammer to their staircase on little more than a whim, but after watching the period drama Phantom Thread, Sophie Conran had an inkling that her home might boast a stone staircase like the one in the film. “I started thinking, do I have one of those?” she says. “I pulled back the carpet and peeled off the white gloss paint and there it was.” It was the great surprise discovery of the house.
Built in mellow Bath stone with a Georgian bow front, and set in acres of greenery and ancient woodland, Sophie Conran’s Wiltshire home is both a retreat and an inspiration for the homeware designer. Conran and her husband, financier Nick Hofgren, had been looking for a house in the country for three years before they found the 18th-century Grade II listed building in 2013. “It has the most amazing proportions,” says Conran. “Huge floor-to-ceiling windows with the original shutters. We moved in as it was. My vision was to respect the architecture and peel back. I wanted to make it a house for friends, one that makes you happy.”
The happiness is certainly there today. Having rented out the London flat she’s owned for 30 years, Conran is now here full-time, as are her children, Coco and Felix, 25 and 24, who have been here since lockdown. “I think it’s the longest we’ve spent anywhere, to be honest,” she says, laughing. “It’s been a lovely place to be at this time. Watching the seasons change has been like one of those time-lapse films of buds opening. Now we’ve got blossom filling the house, and all the roses are coming into bloom.”
Although Conran calls the interior “a work in progress”, and still can’t decide what to do with the kitchen, it is a remarkable home. Full of period features, wild colour and romance, it’s furnished with antiques and art, and dotted with ceramics and glassware collected over the years. “The architecture has very much influenced how I’ve decorated,” says the former interior designer. “Looking out of the window, it’s all buttercups and blossom – blowsy blooms of mock orange. This house has brought out the romantic in me.”
Read more: The 12 Best UK Hotels For Interiors Lovers
The daughter of designer and restaurateur Terence Conran and cookery writer Caroline Herbert, Sophie says her education in interiors was a process of osmosis. “I grew up in a house that dated back to the same period. Everyone would get excited about a new piece of furniture – talk about its merits, where it had come from and how it was constructed.”
Entertaining also runs in Conran’s blood. “I love having people to stay,” she says, “so the first thing I decorated were the guest bedrooms.” The dining room is the centre of social life here: “It’s the room we use when we’re having parties.” Overhead hangs a spectacular Murano chandelier that came with the house – its twin is in the hotel Villa d’Este on Lake Como. Conran bought matching wall sconces on a visit to the glassworks in Venice.
From the rich flock wallpaper (her own design for Arthouse) and faded green woodwork in the boot room to the vivid pink bathroom, colour is used for warmth and drama, but also at times for a sense of coolness and tranquillity that allows the architecture of the house to shine. “Wallpaper and colour can transform a room,” says Conran. “I love getting out a pot of paint and just changing everything.”
Her progress in furnishing has been purposely slow. “I enjoy rummaging in antiques markets and vintage shops,” she says. “I can spend hours looking at fabrics and light fixtures.” She recommends Brownrigg in nearby Tetbury and John Bird Antiques in Petworth, West Sussex; she also visits Bath and attends The Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea.
Conran recently relaunched her website, where she sells her award-winning ceramic collection for Portmeirion, as well as scalloped bed linens, gardening tools and tableware (look out for her colourful glassware and hand-printed napkins). “The house is a great base for my work,” she says. “We do all our photoshoots here, too – it’s the backdrop to everything we do.”
Her next big plans are for the garden, which at one time was tended by a team of six: “I’ve started a vegetable garden and we have chickens. We’ve got about 30 acres of woodland, and I want to plant another 20. I’m also working on some meadows, and I’ve just got a beehive.” She takes a breath. “This project is going to keep me busy for the rest of my life.”
More from British Vogue: