With a longstanding reputation in design excellence, the in-house interior design team at award-winning restoration specialist City & Country is one of the many hidden weapons behind the company’s success in recent years. As the business celebrates its 50th anniversary with rising sales and a growing property portfolio, Karen Cox and Liz Freeman are the dynamic duo working behind the scenes to create the stunning interiors for which the company is known.
City & Country is renowned for taking iconic historic properties and transforming them into beautiful, high quality homes; taking meticulous care to retain the wealth of original features whilst setting them amidst the very best of modern interior design. The sumptuous décor created by Karen and Liz in the show homes consists of a neutral colour palette and textured materials that enhance the elegant atmosphere created by the historic architectural intricacies on show in each property. The homes are cleverly designed to maximise space and natural light, and every detail is carefully considered to ensure a seamless finish.
Karen comments: “As City & Country’s developments hold such great historical value both locally and nationally, it is crucial that the interior design undertaken in each home, though modern, remains sympathetic to the original character of the buildings and has the ‘wow’ factor. We are heavily involved in the entire process of creating the new homes, working with the architect to ascertain the best layout for each property, as well as selecting the best kitchen and bathroom finishes and the property’s furniture and soft furnishings.”
Karen and Liz have a great working relationship and discuss every detail that goes into the show homes to ensure that there is synergy between each room and a consistent feel throughout. The pair first met in 1988, and then worked together for three years. After 11 years, Karen left the company and, after undertaking a City & Guilds course in Interior Design, joined City & Country as their sole interior designer. In the 13 years that she has been with the company, she has seen her role naturally progress and become ever more vital to help sell homes.
Liz’s career took a slightly different route. Having set up her own company providing bespoke interior design for private residential clients, she developed an intricate knowledge in the skills of dressing both historic and new build properties. Liz was later approached by City & Country and worked as a consultant for 18 months, before officially joining Karen in the company’s professional in-house design team in early 2012.
Liz comments: “Both Karen and I feel really privileged to be able to work in such beautiful historic locations at City & Country’s developments. Period properties provide an excellent opportunity for us to maximise our creative flair, and the variety of skills and techniques required in dressing these homes - taking care to find interior elements that complement rather than overshadow the original features – ensures that no two days are the same. Each step of the process is carefully considered, and witnessing the development of the spaces from a blank room to the finished product, is really rewarding.”
Karen and Liz love taking advantage of the quirky and unusual features in City & Country’s homes, using modern design touches to highlight them in such a way that the already unique properties are given a new lease of life. The team use their experience in working with the historic grain of a building and come up with original designs to turn these period traits into key features and create the stunning luxury show homes that have attracted a wide range of house hunters from across the south-east.
City & Country currently has properties on sale at four historic locations: the 17th Century mansion house which played a pivotal role in the Battle of Britain, Bentley Priory, in Stanmore; the Grade I Listed Mansion House at Balls Park, in Hertford; the former Domestic Site for RAF Bicester, The Garden Quarter, in Caversfield, near Oxford; and Grade II Listed ex-Victorian lunatic asylum, The Galleries, in Brentwood.
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