After retiring from an illustrious career as principal decorator of Colefax and Fowler, Imogen Taylor took on a personal project – transforming a house for herself in a picturesque Burgundy village. Taylor left Colefax in 1999 and subsequently operated independently for a few years. She was dreading her imminent retirement, but then she found her little house – the former presbytery for the village curé – in a quiet village in Burgundy.
“When I walked into the sitting room, I said ‘Yes, I think I’ll have it.’ My friend replied, ‘Don’t be silly, you haven’t seen it yet.’ But it was exactly the sort of place and the sort of room that I had in mind: high ceiling, beams, a stone floor and a big open fireplace – very French. Never mind about the rest of it,” said Taylor. Taylor was ready to begin her new life. Accustomed to running up to 12 projects at once – from Chelsea to Chicago – with the help of four assistants, she had never done a house for herself from scratch.
Taylor sold her London flat, put its contents into storage, and began her quest on “perfection road.” She drove round the area taking pictures to get ideas for the new architectural design. “I wanted the door hinges and handles, the plaster and especially the woodwork to be decent,” she said. Taylor worked with local architect Guy Cabaut for structural changes including two spare rooms and bathrooms in the attic. Artist Lucinda Oakes (daughter of George Oakes, the head of Colefax’s textile design studio and a director of the company) painted a wooden trompe l’oeil cartouche for the fireplace. And the furniture from Taylor’s London flat, much of it left to her by her former boss and mentor John Fowler, fit perfectly into the new sitting room.
“That this most English of designers has cast her spell over this simple French house is proof of her adaptability and her ‘eye’, acquired over her long professional life at the pinnacle of decorating,” wrote House & Garden. Pictures below by Gavin Kingcome and captions by Elfreda Pownall for House & Garden.
To read more of this charming story, please visit House & Garden. I also highly recommend Imogen Taylor’s autobiography On the Fringe: A Life in Decorating, published in 2016. And if you don’t already own the books John Fowler: Prince of Decorators and Colefax and Fowler: The Best in English Interior Decoration, they are must-have additions to any interior design enthusiast’s library.