Like a nook of northern Italy transposed to Northumbria, Susi Bellamy’s home has all the arrogance and swagger of a contemporary palazzo. Tousle-haired busts stare upon gilded frames and silvery mirrors go together with Susi’s personal designs: velvet cushions, tables or lampshades in deep oranges, Borgia reds and Medici greens. Even the structure of this five-bedroom condo carved from a vertical slice of an Edwardian nation mansion is classical: the colonnaded portico and pilasters grounded in Renaissance proportions.
It reminds Bellamy of Florence, the place she lived together with her household for six years when her husband, an vitality advisor, was posted to Italy. “I’d taken a career break to bring up our children so I had time to absorb the city… It’s that mix of old and new which I loved: the contrast of a Pucci pattern against a crumbling palazzo wall; the coffee bars and the traditional shops selling gilded frames and marbled papers. It really did feel as if I’d died and gone to heaven,” she laughs.
Returning to the UK in 2010, Bellamy was eager to carry a few of that “ancient meets modern” mixture to her house, close to Newcastle. Set in a former transport magnate’s rural pile, the condo sits within the central part of the constructing. From the double-height entrance, a staircase swirls as much as the first-floor sitting room, essential bed room and visitor bed room. There are 3 extra bedrooms tucked below the eaves, a structure that suited a household with 3 grown-up kids.
But there was work to do. “I’d looked at lots of architecture in Italy and realised that some elements of the apartment didn’t work. With historic buildings you sometimes have to move on – sympathetically.” So Bellamy referred to as the architect Ike Isenhour, who she had met in Florence. “He came to stay and we bashed out ideas in the pub.” Isenhour’s “simple” modifications introduced symmetry and light-weight. The previous utility room is now a hall drawing your eye in direction of the brand new door into the sitting room. Underfoot, the unique flooring had been oiled to a dove-grey and the oak “gentleman’s club” panelling painted taupe as a foil for evolving wall schemes: oranges, yellows, or the deep-plum of the sitting room.
Bellamy had deliberate to make use of the doorway corridor as a eating room – “But Ike took one look and said, ‘You’ll never use it: it’s too cold.’” Now it features as a light-filled 2nd sitting room the place a settee from Bellamy’s previous provides a snug spot for the Sunday papers. Next door, the kitchen was redesigned to echo the proportions of the Edwardian structure. The spherical desk, a Tuscan memento, sits by the bay window with views throughout landscaped lawns to the Tyne Valley. This is the place Bellamy, who launched her design enterprise in 2016 (to the approval of patrons from Liberty and Heal’s), works utilizing pens, paints and inks to create distinctive prints and patterns.
The peaceable nook is a world away from her first job as vogue editor at Brides journal, zipping Kate Moss into nuptial whites and chasing Jimmy Choo for heels (“He’d turn up with a pair he’d made that morning, smelling of glue.”) That staff spirit of collaborating with designers is echoed in items Bellamy commissioned for the home. “I love ping-ponging ideas about to produce something different,” she says. She designed the summary rug within the hallway together with her buddy, the inside designer Eve Waldron. Raskl, in Newcastle, made the leather-clad wardrobes within the bed room and vibrant mirrors which bounce mild into the sitting room. On the highest flooring, the place bedrooms are lined in Bellamy’s marbled wallpapers to evoke the texture of jewel packing containers, the hallway glows with gold-stencilled motifs impressed by Lanvin’s 1920s bed room in Paris.
The artwork, too, “has a meaning; a personal connection”. There is a portray by Bellamy’s cousin, Vivien Geddes, which as soon as hung on the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, and drawings by her émigré aunt and uncle who taught Bellamy, “a nice Jewish girl from Cardiff”, the best way to paint. In 2015 she did an MA in nice artwork at Northumbria University: “I was the 49-year-old surrounded by 21-year-olds. It forced me to throw out preconceptions and experiment.” But it was in Florence that she “served her apprenticeship”, practising life drawing, copying Old Masters just like the Van Dyck which hangs within the bed room, or making her Madonna collages, “reappropriated versions” of Catholic road shrines.
At 54, Bellamy is experiencing one thing of a midlife renaissance with orders from designers and stockists in Japan, Scandinavia and Russia. “Even now I am still very ambitious but I’m aware that I need to move forward before it’s too late,” she says. In September, she is again in Florence for a solo present on the Palazzo Tornabuoni. On days off she has earmarked her favorite espresso bars and paper outlets; there shall be journeys to stare upon triptychs and academic window procuring on piazzi the place, sooner or later, she desires of opening her personal retailer.
Serena Fokschaner from theguardian.com