Lancashire Interiors - The Rookery, Clitheroe
PUBLISHED: 00:00 24 October 2013
This Ribble Valley manor house was the star of a television interiors programme. Owner Suzanne Clayton tells Ellie Hargreaves why she’s finally ready to call it home
With gleaming parquet flooring and high ceilings, polished antique tables displaying huge vases of fresh flowers and Jo Malone candles burning all around, Jonathan and Suzanne Clayton’s stunning five bedroom home could be the setting of a glamorous Hello! photo shoot.
It’s so beautifully appointed, it’s hard to believe The Rookery wasn’t the outright victor when it featured on ITV’s May the Best House Win - a show in which homeowners rate each other’s properties. As it turned out, the Clayton’s fellow contestants thought it was too much like a posh hotel and awarded it joint first. An oversight, if you ask me, because it soon becomes clear that this is very much a family home, dotted with sentimental pieces of furniture, paintings and family photographs that run into the hundreds. It’s also a house that is used.
‘We’re not one of those families that lives out of the kitchen – a house is there to be enjoyed and we spend a lot of time in the sitting room, the orangerie and out in the garden,’ says Suzanne. ‘We also love to entertain, this is a great party house.’ Having renovated a number of derelict properties together over the past 30 years, the couple moved to their home on the outskirts of Clitheroe from the Fylde coast seven years ago, along with daughters Harriet, 23, and Grace, 17.
The mid 19th century property had been renovated by the previous owners, who added an extension to the front, converted an attached outbuilding into guest accommodation, and created a grand staircase.
‘When we viewed it we thought it was too good to be true, everything was finished to such a high standard and the place just seemed to have a good feel about it,’ says Suzanne. ‘We bought it completely bare except for a couple of blinds, and have loved redecorating it and putting our mark on the place.’
Compared to other tasks the couple have taken on, turning the house into their dream home was relatively simple, although they did build a one bedroom annex and garage block which Suzanne’s elderly parents now live in.
‘My mum likes to tell people they live in the servants’ quarters,’ she smiles. ‘But although it fits in very well, it’s a new build.’
In the main house, the two sitting rooms, kitchen, utility, entrance hall, five bedrooms, four bathrooms, study and orangerie, are all decorated in nude and grey
Farrow & Ball shades except for the odd feature wall and one end of the kitchen, which has been transformed into a giant noticeboard using blackboard paint.
Modern paintings, photographic prints and a collection of unusual antique furniture picked up via Suzanne’s favourite local dealers and a French ‘treasure trove’ she’s discovered on The Kings Road in London, all give the house personality. The same can be said of the huge assortment of Philippe Starck lighting that is dotted about – a collection amassed by lamp-lover Suzanne. The most eye-catching of these is a giant angle poise light that’s been arranged over the long oak table in the dining room-cum-orangerie. Like many of the more dramatic pieces in the house, it was bought at a fraction of its original price tag from an ex-display specialist in Blackpool. A number of other items, including a bronze head of LS Lowry and a baby grand piano, were bought via house clearances, through Jonathan’s job as a surveyor.
‘We love having the room to show off our favourite pieces; the lamp in the orangerie would never have fitted in our old house, where we were stuffed to the gills, and it’s been a joy having so much wall space as we love art and photographs,’ says Suzanne, who is a regular at Ribchester’s Ascot Studios – a nearby mill that’s been converted into gallery space and is home to work by local, national and international artists. ‘My brother Chris is a wonderful painter too, and I’ll quite often see a painting on our travels and take a photo of it so he can recreate it for me.’
Among the most treasured furniture is an antique console, bought by Suzanne to get over losing a treasured diamond bracelet, a library table bought when their first child was born and a cupboard, which was passed down through the family and is an exact match of one owned by Elizabeth Taylor.
The couple are also great fans of anything bespoke and have commissioned Chatburn-based carpenter Paul Case to make a number of pieces, among them a large wooden shelving unit - which houses Jonathan’s collection of vintage cameras - and an unusual asymmetric wooden shelf which sits over the fabulous Water Monopoly bath in the main bathroom and was carved from wood from Lord Citheroe’s estate.
‘We try to use local craftsmen and businesses as much as possible but a lot of our influence comes from overseas travel,’ says Suzanne, who lived in Northern Spain and Istanbul before meeting Jonathan and has travelled extensively with him since.
‘I spent a lot of time abroad with work and was never really at home so to be able to relax here, and have a home I love, is very special to me. I enjoy being here and after transforming so many houses, it’s nice to think of this is our home.’