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In the Stillness: A 1640s Georgian in an Affecting Palette by Cassandra Ellis

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In the Stillness: A 1640s Georgian in an Affecting Palette by Cassandra Ellis

October 29, 2021

Recently the New Zealand-born, London-based designer Cassandra Ellis sent a note from across the pond: She’d completed a project in East Sussex, not far from her redone flint barn but “a completely different color palette,” she wrote. And because this is a designer who often describes physical spaces as poetry (see Expert Advice: Developing Style with Designer Cassandra Ellis), I was, as always, intrigued.

The house is Well House, a historic Georgian building on a cobblestone street in the market town of Lewes. The structure dates to around 1640, with timber framing and a stone foundation taken from the ruins of Lewes Monastery, but it was dilapidated when Cassandra found it. “The previous owner had been here for 50 years, and the house hadn’t been touched for about 43 of those,” she told Inigo, the UK real estate site. “It looked like a pub from the 1970s.”

Cassandra and her partner, Ed, embarked on a gentle but thorough and exacting renovation, removing and replacing the entire roof, re-plumbing, re-wiring, re-plastering, insulating, swapping in new-old windows, hand-scrubbing the floors with wire brushes, and updating for weather and modern times.

My favorite thing about the project just might be the palette Cassandra mentioned, the interiors painted in rich, nuanced, dark tones. “It was such a specific moment in time for me,” says Cassandra of choosing them. “I didn’t realize (until almost too late) that I had pneumonia. I just thought I was overwhelmed from juggling too many things. For me, when life is too much, I always retreat to art and books and words (and the Financial Times), and so the palette came from this.” Many of the hues are from Cassandra’s own Atelier Ellis paint collection, This Stilling That I Love, a name that gives a hint to the house’s effect.

“When people visit the cottage, there is usually genuine emotion by the time they get to the top,” says Cassandra. “It’s not the fanciest house, but if it makes people feel, then I’ve done what I think is right.”

Stay a moment and take a look.

Photography via Inigo, courtesy of Cassandra Ellis.

the house is perched on a steep slope the locals call scare hill. cassandra and 9
Above: The house is perched on a steep slope the locals call Scare Hill. Cassandra and co. removed the clay-peg tiles, added eco-friendly insulation, and then rehung them.
a door from the garden leads into the dining room, with box sash windows and a  10
Above: A door from the garden leads into the dining room, with box-sash windows and a table by English antiques dealer Jolly Folke, who gives old pieces—like this Georgian antique—a shou sugi ban treatment.
the kitchen, like the dining area behind it, has a concrete floor. it&#8\2\ 11
Above: The kitchen, like the dining area behind it, has a concrete floor. It’s minimally fitted, with British sycamore counters, pared-back lower cabinets painted in Solstice, and open shelves in a niche that display ceramics.
two apertures let in natural light. 12
Above: Two apertures let in natural light.
broom as decor. 13
Above: Broom as decor.
the front door leads into the living area, with bare pine floors, original timb 14
Above: The front door leads into the living area, with bare pine floors, original timbers, and a gathering of small-boned furnishings. The room is painted in Paper & String by Atelier Ellis.
cassandra had the historic chimney rebuilt and cleaned and the mantel re plaste 15
Above: Cassandra had the historic chimney rebuilt and cleaned and the mantel re-plastered. The finished effect is all sculpture and simplicity, no embellishment.
&#8\2\20;there’s not a straight line in the house,&#8\2\2\1; cassandr 16
Above: “There’s not a straight line in the house,” Cassandra told Inigo. “There something very comforting about living somewhere that’s hundreds of years old. You feel very settled, and it perhaps gives you more permission to make different creative choices. You can’t wrestle with the house, you have to give in to it, but that also gives you freedom.”
a tucked away stair leads to the second floor. 17
Above: A tucked-away stair leads to the second floor.
upstairs, a dark and moody living area is painted in plume. the cast iron firep 18
Above: Upstairs, a dark and moody living area is painted in Plume. The cast-iron fireplace is flanked by original built-in cupboards.
&#8\2\20;i think i finally came back to the seven year old, the fifteen yea 19
Above: “I think I finally came back to the seven-year-old, the fifteen-year-old that I was,” says Cassandra. “I am very happy making colors and telling stories. It’s what I did at both those formative ages, and I think it shows.”
a rough and rustic door closes off a dark painted guest bedroom. 20
Above: A rough and rustic door closes off a dark-painted guest bedroom.
the main bedroom is on the top floor, under blackened beams. the built in desk  21
Above: The main bedroom is on the top floor, under blackened beams. The built-in desk is British sycamore, just like the kitchen worktops.
the bath also has counters of british sycamore and original flooring (hand scru 22
Above: The bath also has counters of British sycamore and original flooring (hand-scrubbed with a wire brush). The lighting throughout the project is from Zangra.
the centerpiece: a copper soaking tub. 23
Above: The centerpiece: a copper soaking tub.
Above: Cassandra in the living area, and the view of the surrounding country.
and a hidden surprise: behind the house is a tiered garden with room enough to  26
Above: And a hidden surprise: Behind the house is a tiered garden with room enough to sit. “The old town wall of Lewes is positioned to the rear behind a wooden Japanese teahouse—a remnant from a previous inhabitant who was a practicing Zen master,” according to Inigo.

N.B.: The house is currently on the market; see the listing here, and for more on the project, head to Inigo.

And for more in the UK, see:

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