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Bath House to House Beautiful

PUBLISHED: 11:15 18 November 2013 | UPDATED: 11:27 18 November 2013

The Bath House was built in 1815 by the Reverend John Sneyd

The Bath House was built in 1815 by the Reverend John Sneyd

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Derbyshire-based interior designer Lucie-Clare Watson is creating the perfect haven at the Bath House, the unique historic property she acquired recently

Lucie-Clare Watson is one of the most prolific interior designers in Derbyshire – an agent of style and taste-maker for the busy of the county. She moved recently to a wonderful folly – The Bath House – which has given her the opportunity to lavish attention on her own home rather than on creating perfect surroundings for others.

The Bath House was built in 1815 by the Reverend John Sneyd, a member of an ancient Staffordshire family whose principal residence was Ashcombe Park, in the fascinating Staffordshire Moorlands area near Leek. In the 19th century medical opinion held that the benefits of a cold bath were almost limitless and many owners of country houses decided to equip themselves with a ‘tailor-made’ building. Hence John Sneyd constructed his own bath house. In keeping with current fashion, he had it designed in the style of a castle and included a swimming pool, waterwheel, underground passages, a living room and a kitchen. He also added a separate ‘Rapunzel Tower’. Today the Bath House makes an idyllic home. The swimming pool and waterwheel have given way to more practical living space but the tower remains, and has been earmarked to become Lucie-Clare’s ‘retreat’.

The Folly is a blank canvas which Lucie-Clare is currently utilising all her design skills to renovate and remodel. It is an extensive project that will take some time to complete, particularly as Lucie-Clare and her partner, Malcolm, are carrying out much of the work themselves.

‘I hadn’t made a pair of curtains for such a long time that it really was a challenge,’ she commented.

The furniture has been inherited both from their grand London apartment and a country cottage, so the style is eclectic. ‘Work around what you have,’ says Lucie-Clare, ‘as long as it has style. But if it doesn’t, get rid of it, now!’

Lucie-Clare says, ‘We have a long way to go, but the room containing the old pool is now our dining room and whilst we have installed new lighting and decorated, we have preserved a thirty-year-old Pollyanna Pickering mural we found on the wall. It shows some of the guests at what can be only described as a Bacchanalian feast. Those scantily clad individuals depicted in the mural are now the ‘grandees of the county’, so I think it best that they shall remain nameless!’

Elsewhere two bedrooms and a passage have been converted into a delightful drawing room. One drawback was the impossibility of creating a fireplace, so rather than ‘fake’ it, Lucie-Clare created a focal point within a bookcase modelled from old church panelling. ‘Every room needs a centrepiece of some description,’ she says. ‘A focal point is important because it sets the tone for the rest of the decorating scheme and ties the total look together. It also draws the eye away from the less pleasing aspects of the room. In this case I think the room’s windows are too small, so we needed to create focal points at each end of the drawing room and the enormous oil painting from our London apartment counterbalanced the relatively small windows.’

The romantic main bedroom suite is set into the eaves of the house and Lucie-Clare has just acquired a wonderful set of 19th century half-glazed French doors which are currently undergoing restoration by Top Drawer Antiques in Ashbourne. Putting on her professional designer’s hat again, she advises, ‘Your bedroom is the most personal room within your home. It should offer you sanctuary from the day’s cares – an oasis of calm in which you can feel rejuvenated and soothed. Bedrooms are much more than places in which to sleep, the most successful ones have bed-sitting room quality and up here I can write letters or bury myself in a good book. If you design your bedroom with this in mind, you realise that it is just as important to create the right atmosphere for daytime use as it is for the night.’

What were the inevitable challenges though in transforming such a unique property designed for such a specific purpose? Lucie-Clare points to the three octagonal turret rooms with a staircase so narrow that even a single bed will not turn the corners. The couple had a two-week deadline to create an appealing guest room in one. However, a visit to the local antiques market produced an iron bed and with a bit of restoration, various coats of paint to both room and bed, and the aforementioned curtains, behold – The Princess Room. ‘The name is a bit sickly, but the room just leant itself to this romantic theme,’ she says.

Between projects in Scotland, London and Derbyshire, Lucie-Clare dreams of new and quirky ideas for this charming property. Outside the Bath House has well tended gardens, complete with a lake, a waterfall and a series of water cascades, all created by the Reverend John Sneyd. As we stand on the doorstep watching the ducks on the lake, the Labradoodle puppy, Daisie, mindlessly chasing her tail and Lucie-Clare’s Westie, Lollipop, taking an early evening snooze, I wonder ‘What more could anyone want?’

Sadly the Bath House will not be open to the general public, but Lucie-Clare will be offering personal conducted tours to attendees of her seasonal Watson & Watson interior design master classes, the next are to take place later this year.

Photographs by Andrew Eyley

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