Ilse Kerr, founder of Tailored Interiors Achitecture has lived and worked across three different continents over the course of her 17 year career. Born and brought up in South Africa, she has built, restructured and refurbished homes across South Africa, Australia and the UK. This, her most personal project, is the design and build of her UK family home. Situated in the pretty Surrey village of East Horsley, it had already been through planning when Ilse found it and offered a perfect combination of amenities and accessibility.
“Designing my own home was, in some ways, more difficult than working on a client project. When I am with a client, it is easy to interpret what they are looking for, provide a clear set up of options and help them make the decisions needed to progress. I found it much harder to make decisions for myself as I could always see so many alternatives. In the end, I chose to design the house quite instinctively, allowing myself to be led by what felt right for me and my family, rather than giving too much thought to my professional role as an architect. We are really happy with the end result. It is our home.”
Working in close partnership with her builder, almost unbelievably the build process took just six months. “I was designing the interiors as we went. The speed was a challenge but it meant that I didn’t have time to overthink things.”
What strikes you first is the fresh, spacious feel and the vibrant colours, which really zing on a typically grey British January day. Elements of Ilse’s life in Australia and South Africa are evident not just in the choice of colour palette but in the striking artefacts and paintings also. “I always said that I would never fill my home with African arts and crafts, but it is my heritage and the the textures and colours are part of who I am.” The deliberately neutral backdrop, means that they can be changed and a room refreshed easily. I love the fabulous elephant prints in the bedroom and the way the red theme been worked into the framed photos in the same room.
Ilse draws on her experience across all three continents when designing new properties. In this case the open plan space and flow of the design is rooted in South Africa. “South African living is more relaxed and the weather encourages a much stronger connection to the outside.” Whilst historically English houses had smaller windows, designing the house from scratch enabled Ilse to retain this relationship, bringing the lush green of the garden through the glass back into her kitchen. An outside canopy operated electronically allows for clean lines and maximum light.
Embracing a British interior design tradition she built a utility room by the back-door where her two boys can deposit their sports gear and outdoor clothing, leaving the remainder of the house clear of clutter. The open plan style means tidiness can be an issue so storage is key but cupboards are attractive features in themselves rather than an afterthought, with acrylic surfaces reflecting the available light. In the kitchen, base-level units keep things clear and uncrowded, and cupboards conceal carefully considered drawer arrangements, addressing both practical and aesthetic demands.
Realising that this was likely to be their home for many years, Ilse wanted to build a house that grew with the family and accommodated their changing needs and activities. A snug family room at the front of the house offers an alternative area to relax and perhaps a future den for teenagers. An ensuite bathroom has been incorporated for each bedroom and the top floor suite which is currently used as an office and as a separate space for long-stay guests.
The green theme flows through the house in various forms and gives continuity to the whole house scheme. The house is full of personality and successfully expresses the personality of the occupants – relaxed, fun and bubbly. It is easy to see why guests would want to stay here for a long time. I am definitely keen to book in.
Photography: Nadia Mackenzie