Inside the cool and collected 18th-century townhouse Ali Heath calls home

With a mix of warm, natural materials and a clean palette, this 18th-century townhouse filled with treasured memories is where interiors expert Ali Heath calls home. 

Words by Ali Heath.

The panelled hallway is a calm space that leads into the centre of the home. The mirror is an antique sourced by Ali during her trading days. The stool is from thefigstore.com. Photos: ©Marnie Hawson.

For me, home is the foundation of everything; the place where I can be true to myself, surrounded by family, and where I feel relaxed and creative. It has been at the start of many new journeys: moving in when it was just my husband and me; leaving the corporate world to open an antique and interiors company; providing the catalyst for my move into styling and journalism; becoming pregnant with our two children, and celebrating endless happy occasions. We have been here for nearly two decades – but things have never stood still.

Bare brick walls, marble work surfaces and limestone flooring add textural appeal to the kitchen, which leads out to a courtyard. The open shelf displays artworks, ceramics and time-worn decorative finds. Kitchen by thomasfordandsons.co.uk. The antique pendant light is from skinflintdesign.com, the wall lights are originalbtc.com. Photos: ©Marnie Hawson.

Located in the heart of a historic market town in Surrey, our home was built in 1750. We fell in love with the house for its symmetrical proportions and the period details: an original central staircase, fireplaces and shuttered sash windows.

The family’s dog Purdey relaxes in the light-filled kitchen. The cook’s table is by thomasfordandsons.co.uk and doubles as a prep area, office and study desk. For similar stools, try cultfurniture.com. Photos: ©Marnie Hawson.

With four bedrooms over three storeys, there are lots of nooks and unexpected turns. The house seems to expand as you work your way up to the top floor, which is home to a lofty sitting room, an office and a fourth bedroom.

Gallery walls feature throughout the house. ‘Art does not need to be expensive, it just needs to be framed beautifully to look great,’ says Ali. In the kitchen works by Malene Birger, Hugo Guinness and Patrick Earle are mixed with sketches, vintage portraits and antique market finds. Photos: ©Marnie Hawson.

The spaces feature a blend of natural materials: wide oak boards, marble and limestone. I wanted to choose materials that will age well as time passes.

The pared-back dining table is positioned near a large window to make the most of the natural light. The footed bowl is by astierdevillatte.com. The table is appleandhardwick.com. The chairs are from igigigeneralstore.com. Photos: ©Marnie Hawson.

The knocked-back palette is both restful and calming – a chalky mix of whites, soft greys and deeper earthier tones, balanced with shades of tobacco, brown and black. I love the way simple monochrome schemes allow furniture, collections and art to stand out.

In the main bedroom an antique french headboard is juxtaposed with hand-dyed velvet cushions by kirstenhecktermann.com and natural linens from delecuona.com for a similar headboard try crownfrenchfurniture.co.uk. Photos: ©Marnie Hawson.

I am a passionate collector, always in search of new makers, independent sellers, antique haunts, markets and galleries – the buzz of discovering something special never fades. For me, it is those unique finds that make rooms feel individual – they are part of our story and what makes it a home.

A glass dome from haus-interiors.co.uk with handmade ceramic figures take centre stage atop a pile of favourite books. Photos: ©Marnie Hawson.

Q&A with Ali:

The Townhouse appeals because? The house has a soul that is hard to explain – it feels like part of who I am.

Your style here is all about? Pared-back tones, earthy textures, collections and comfort. Lived-in, timeworn and hugely personal.

Most successful features? The laundry on the middle floor – it’s life-changing!

Best advice for designing a townhouse? Keep things simple, stick to a select palette of colours and only choose things you truly love.

What quality time here means? A place for creativity, the important people in my life and the start of many dreams – such as writing this book.

Paint colour of choice? Farrow & Ball – all of the shades between All White and Mole’s Breath.

What’s on your walls? A complete mix of contemporary abstracts, old prints, antique portraits, maps and vintage finds. I have promised to leave Lynda my antique male portraits one day.

What’s on your bedside table? Diptyque and Mad et Len candles, and always books.

Favourite possession here? So many! Letters from my late dad; pebbles from Nantucket, Massachusetts; Astier de Villatte everything; and my children’s plaster teeth moulds – a reminder of how their faces have changed!

Best seat in the house? The kitchen island – it’s where every important conversation takes place.

 What you couldn’t live without? My husband, children and our dog, Purdey – they make our home complete.

What tunes are playing? Max Richter and Michael Nyman when I’m writing; Gregory Porter and Nina Simone when I’m relaxing; and so much I have no control over!

What’s on the table for dinner? Always a surprise – my gorgeous husband is a great cook. My suppers never quite hit the mark.

Tell me something no one knows about this home? It started life as a brewer’s house and has been home to a few notorious characters.

What noises can you hear? Passers-by, music from the park and birds. We have a huge magnolia tree and vertically planted courtyard walls full of nests.

Scents that are evocative of home? Ernesto by Cire Trudon, Sang Bleu by Mad et Len; and for me, Thé Noir 29 by Le Labo – it’s a definite love affair.

Favourite season at home? In summer the garden comes alive and is where we spend all our time. In winter the house is the perfect place to hunker down.

This space makes you feel? Happy and always appreciative.

What are you dreaming up next? Creating an office outdoors that links back into the house.

This is an edited extract from Curate: Inspiration for an Individual Home by Ali Heath and Lynda Gardener, with photographs by Marnie Hawson, to be published by Mitchell Beazley on 10 June, priced £30. 

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