At Home With: Birdie Fortescue

With its mix of antique furniture pieces and layers of tonal soft furnishings, this Georgian doll’s house is elegant inside and out.

Photography by Cherise Bailey

When you think of Birdie Fortescue a quintessential Englishness comes to mind. The designer’s eponymous brand offers beautifully crafted collections across lighting, tableware, soft furnishings and larger furniture pieces. With a focus on slow living and future heritage, each carefully considered design is made to be cherished long-term, and it is taken from a gentle, nature-inspired colour palette in which everything perfectly blends. It is no surprise then that Birdie’s red brick abode is fittingly doll’s house pretty.

The grand, seven-bed residence was originally bought by the designer and her husband as a holiday home to enjoy during school breaks, but when the children left their local schools in 2010, the family decided to move in full-time. Birdie tells me that the late-Georgian property had already undergone a significant conversion by the time it fell into the couple’s hands, with a sizeable new kitchen/dining/living room created by connecting two adjoining farm buildings with a glass atrium to make a light-filled space. “Proportions and scale are very important to me,” she says. “I always look for good ceiling height and well-appointed rooms in a house. An open-plan kitchen and dining area, I feel, are a must. I love to have friends and family over and this layout is perfect for entertaining.”

Birdie Fortescue

Patterns and textures are layered through the use of soft furnishings and upholstery


That the house boasts huge sash windows and those requisite high ceilings makes it a dream for Birdie to fill with her collection of elegant antiques, decorative objects, and layers of tonal soft furnishings, positively designed to complement the period features. I wonder how important these historical elements are to the designer when viewing a property. “Character and period details are vital,” Birdie confirms. “The bones of a building need to be intact – but if features are missing they can be salvaged, so I never write off a property for this reason. If you need to build onto a house, then I love a contemporary extension but this needs to balance with the main house to give a harmonious effect.”

Birdie describes her interiors style as “clean and classic with a contemporary twist”. She says she loves to add contemporary accents with colour and print to an otherwise traditional interior. “I also love to juxtapose style and periods and always look to achieve a balance and harmony between traditional polished furniture and more relaxed painted pieces to give each room character and individuality.”

Whether it’s the soft colourway, the light loving windows, or the considered furniture placement, you’re hit with an immediate sense of tranquillity when you enter Birdie’s countryside dwelling. And there’s a pleasing continuity that runs throughout the property, too. “There is a colour theme running through the house which works as a visual thread and allows each room to lead seamlessly to the next,” she explains. “I love layering pattern through soft furnishings and upholstered furniture, but I make sure this is done in a structured way for an overall calm and balanced effect.”

Birdie Fortescue

The rustic bathroom is the epitome of French countryside chic


As much as Birdie’s interior scheme incorporates traditional furniture pieces and a harmonious blend of pattern and print, there are some pleasingly quirky elements, too. Travel inspired touches include chinoiserie wall art and objects in the drawing room; a chic, Mediterranean feel stone hallway, and a beautifully rustic bathroom complete with a painted roll top bath that sits underneath a huge shuttered sash window – the epitome of French countryside charm. Amongst the ornate oriental vases on Birdie’s coffee table is a collection of oversized sea shells, a reminder of the property’s previous incarnation. “As we originally used the house as a holiday home, and with its close proximity to the coast, it initially had a beachy feel with lots of painted, informal furniture,” she explains. “When we moved here full-time, bringing with us a collection of more formal furniture, we didn’t want to lose this look, so we mixed the two together. It has given the house a wonderfully eclectic and individual feel, which we love.”

A keen collector, Birdie looks for antique continental furniture pieces from the 18th to the 20th century in particular. “I have several go-to dealers ranging from Lorfords and Brownrigg to Tarquin Bilgen and James McWhirter,” she reveals. “I love the 20th century painted wrought iron console table in our sitting room – the shape is fabulous and it is so simple.” When it comes to newer furniture finds the designer name checks Soane, Tom Faulkner and Carl Hansen & Søn. But like anyone with a particularly good interiors eye, Birdie has the enviable ability to find homely treasures anywhere. “I bought the set of six Chinese silk painted panels we have in our drawing room from the flea market in Paris,” she says. “They are so decorative and completely make the room. Our set of Swedish, mid-century dining chairs are another favourite. I found a set of five at a fair in France, and had the remaining copied by our talented restorer.”

Birdie Fortescue Drawing Room

This March sees the launch of Birdie Fortescue’s SS23 collection, and it’s one particularly close to the designer’s heart: “It is a deeply personal collection, inspired by my trips to Florence,” she tells me. The brand has also just opened a shop in Holt, “a beautiful market town in Norfolk. It is a converted barn with wonderful proportions and it shows our stock off perfectly!” Excitingly, we can also look forward to a pop-up on the King’s Road, starting in early summer for six weeks, and then in the autumn for a further five months. And when she’s not busy scouting for antiques, opening shops, and getting stuck into a new season of luxury homewares, you’ll find Birdie in her very favourite spot at home. “I love the light and space of the big open plan area, which houses the kitchen, dining room and sitting room,” she says. “It is the centre of the house where everything happens and, if you’re stuck in the kitchen, you don’t feel cut off! It is where my family and I spend most of our time.”