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The Joy of Discovery: At Home with British Dealer/Decorator Max Rollitt

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The Joy of Discovery: At Home with British Dealer/Decorator Max Rollitt

​Christopher Horwood September 20, 2021

“In retrospect, I’d like our house to be like the Weasley’s” explains the British antique dealer, interior designer, and furniture maker Max Rollitt. “Do you know who I mean?” It takes a while for the penny to drop, but I soon realize that Max is talking about the make-believe home of Arthur and Molly Weasley—the parents of Ron Weasley, Harry Potter’s best friend. “It’s a real home, isn’t it?” he continues. “It’s there to welcome people in, to make them feel comfortable. That’s what home is about.”

max rollitt living room portrait
Above: Max Rollitt’s living room, featuring a Max Rollitt bespoke Knole sofa covered in John Boyd horsehair fabric and Turnell & Gigon mohair fabric and an antique Swedish leather covered armchair. The c1780 English corner cupboard is fronted by a table lamp is by Marianna Kennedy with a parchment lampshade by Robert Kime. The walls are painted in Little Green “Silt.”

max rollitt exterior
Above: The exterior of the Rollitt family home. “We have raised four boys here: three of them are now artists,” says Max.

Max moved into his current home—a small farm in Hampshire with a cottage, an old diary, two large barns, and 10 acres of land—in 2009. Six years ago, the barns were converted into his offices and showroom. When we speak, he is in the midst of redesigning two of the larger rooms in preparation for November, when he will launch a series of events including tours, talks, and an exclusive supper club that aim to showcase his most tantalizing finds. “It’s great to show off,” he admits. “And I don’t mean that in a braggy way. But these things need to be seen as a whole sometimes. It’s not a museum, and neither is it just for people who want to buy. The showroom is there for anyone who wants to come and look at the things that I’ve found.”

max rollitt desk and chair
Above: A nook in his son Will’s room. The cocooning walls are ‘Cinnamon’ by Edward Bulmer. A late 18th-century English comb-back Windsor chair sits in front of a painted washstand from the early 19th century. The lampshade and blind are both hand painted.
max rollitt kitchen
Above: Max Rollit’s Weasley-esque farmhouse kitchen.

Max is an influential dealer-decorator whose style is instantly recognizable. It is an aesthetic honed throughout his childhood (his mother owned a fabric shop) and during his eight-year apprenticeship with the high-end furniture restorer Frearson & Hewlett. “Dealers came in all the time,” Max recalls. “Although I was largely working alone, I got to see what was going on, what a piece was worth, and who was buying what.”

max rollitt bedroom 3
Above: The master bedroom has been papered in ‘Sans Papillon’ by Pierre Frey and layered with antique textiles. “I once sold a chest of drawers we had in our bedroom,” Max recalls. “My wife, Jane, came home to find our clothes on the bed and the chest of drawers gone. It hasn’t happened since. That was 25 years ago.”

The years spent hands-on in the workshop taught Max about finish and patination–“the way things evolve and develop over time.” They also gave him a deeper understanding of color. “Although it’s all brown,” he says, “there’s every color within brown.” At the age of 28, he was ready to leave the workshop. “I felt I had my own route by then,” he explains. He purchased a shop opposite his mother, who was thinking about retirement. He then invested in a trade stand at London’s Olympia and soon found himself selling to “all the big boys” including Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler, Axel Vervoordt, Michael Smith, and Veere Grenney.

max rollitt dresser
Above: A burr elm French cupboard c1820 in the rear hallway, which has been covered in Liberty of London wallpaper (now out of production).

“I started to think, actually, I’m doing all right. I understood what interior designers wanted to buy and I got a good following,” he explains. Soon after, he was approached with a brief for a full house renovation—a large vicarage in Hampshire. His first clients gave him complete free rein. “That’s the great thing about having a definite line of taste,” he says. “People tend to trust you to do your thing.”

max rollitt portrait 1
Above: Max Rollitt at home. “I get affectionate about things, so all the pieces in my own home stay put.”
max rollitt kitchen window
Above: The view from the kitchen sink has been bisected by a row of house plants.
max rollitt upstairs hall
Above: The upstairs landing features a Tibetan ‘Thangka’ depicting the Buddha of Compassion. A pair of eighteenth-century delft vases occupy a shelf alongside Max’s own bespoke white vases.

In Max’s own home, what it lacks in scale it makes up for in atmosphere. “It’s a small farm house and atypical of the houses I work on,” Max explains. “There’s not a lot of room for very grand furniture. That said—although it’s not purposefully a visual feast—it is somehow enriching.”

max rollitt morning room
Above: The morning room at the front of the house features a comb-back Windsor chair and Chinese coromandel chest on stand from c1690. The rush matting is from Felicity Irons of Rush Matters.
max rollitt entrance hall
Above: The stair hall is decorated in a selection of family hats. The lipstick-red stair runner is by Roger Oates.

The house is furnished with meaningful pieces: “stuff that I collect and I love, including furniture from his parents, and from his wife, Jane’s, family home. And since three of his four sons are now artists there is a proliferation of artwork on the walls. “That is the great thing about collecting,” he reflects. “It’s that discovery, really: it’s about finding the object, remembering who you bought it from, how it went. It’s about the joy of discovery.”

See another layered English interior:

The Feminine Mystique: Model Lizzie Bowden’s Notting Hill Apartment

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