Past brought up to date

Settrington House has had a modern makeover but the period features and fine furniture still have pride of place. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Tony Bartholomew.


When most of us move house it marks a fresh start for the interior as we fill the rooms with our belongings and mark the territory with our own taste.

When Karen Storey moved into Settrington House, she had a very different experience. The grand, historic home, near Castle Howard, has layers of family history and is full of furniture and furnishings that have been passed down through the decades.

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“It was lovely but quite formal and we wanted to create a home suitable for young children, somewhere they could play,” says Karen, who has a daughter and two sons, aged between 11 and five.

She enlisted the help of interior designer Sara Cussons and together, they have added some 21st-century style that is sympathetic to the inherited pieces and the period architecture.

The Georgian house at the heart of the Settrington estate was originally built by Sir Mark Sykes in 1793 and bought by Lord Middleton of Birdsall in the 19th-century. Samuel Storey MP, later Lord Buckton, bought it in the 1930s and passed it to his son, Sir Richard Storey, in 1978.

His son Kenelm took over the reins recently, and he and Karen moved from their home in London four years ago to settle in Yorkshire.

The house has been well-looked after over the years and the late Lord Buckton ensured its future after a fire destroyed the central section of the property in 1963. He commissioned Francis Johnson, a renowned Bridlington architect who specialised in the Georgian style, to design a replacement that fits seamlessly with the surviving east and west wings of the property.

Lord Buckton was a fellow Georgian devotee and collected furniture from the period for the house

Karen and Sara, who have now launched their own interior design consultancy, Cussons and Storey Interiors, had to factor that in when they began work on their scheme.

Their first job was to turn what was the library into a stunning family-sized kitchen. The ground floor bedroom next door became a dining room and the old en-suite bathroom is now a snug/TV room. The old kitchen was turned into a boot room.

“The library was a beautiful room with views over the garden so it made sense to make that into the kitchen. The days when you rang a bell and tea was served are long gone. We make our own cups of tea and our own meals and we spend a lot of time in here,” says Karen, who adds: “We preserved and highlighted the original features, though we moved decorative ceiling rose into the hallway and had it re-gilded. I found a chandelier in the attic that is now a central feature in the kitchen. We have trained spotlights on the crystals to make them sparkle.”

The units and the island are made of oak from the Settrington estate by Richard James of Flaxton and there’s an Aga from Country Warmth of Malton. The wallpaper is hand-painted then varnished to make it washable.

The dining room features a table made of oak from the Settrington estate and designed by Francis Johnson and an innovative lighting scheme.

“It was difficult because it has a barrel ceiling so we put an extra piece of wood on top of the coving and put angled spotlights on that,” says Sara.

The boot room has been lined with built-in cabinetry that boasts leather handles and BTC industrial-style lighting.

“We also tried to re-use where possible, so the 1960s union linen curtains from the ground floor bedroom were restored and re-made for Karen’s study and we have re-upholstered some of the old chairs,” says Sara.

“Where we have made new curtains, the fabric wasn’t that expensive but there is plenty of it. The right fullness, the interlining and the right poles make it look more luxurious than it is.”

Elsewhere, they converted the attic into bathrooms, a cloakroom into a study and two offices into a large guest bedroom with an oriental theme inspired by the time Karen lived in Hong Kong. The wallpaper is Cole and Son, the lamps from Bella Figura and the headboard, pelmets and coronet were designed by Sara.

All the furniture and furnishings are now a mix of old and new.

“We kept everything that was here because we wanted to respect the fact that it comes with the house,” says Karen.

“It’s lovely for my husband who grew up here because they are all part of his childhood memories.”

Karen and Sara’s latest project is Settrington’s orangery . It is a sensational space with enormous Palladian windows and has just launched as a weddings and events venue.

“It had been beautifully kept with amazing art work that my father-in-law put in over the years. It has always been used for family events and we decided to create a business from it because it is perfect for weddings,” says Karen. A bar has been installed and Cussons and Storey are renovating a cottage in the grounds to accommodate guests.

It is separate from the main 11 bedroom house, which is surrounded by a walled courtyard, ensuring that the family retains privacy.

“It’s a large house but it all gets used,” says Karen. “There are parts that we use as a family but when we have friends over we fill the rest of the space and it all comes alive.

“It’s a wonderful place and we feel it’s a duty and an honour to look after it.”

See a slideshow of Settrington House and The Orangery,

Useful contacts

Interior design by Cussons and Storey Interiors,

The Orangery, Settrington, weddings and events venue,

Richard James Kitchens, Flaxton,

Country Warmth for Agas, Malton,

LHL Architects, York, re-designed the layout of the house,