See How a Musical Theatre Star and his Developer Partner Transformed their 19th Century Georgian Hall
Ben Forster discovered Mylands paints during his time as a musical theatre star, and when he and Paul Longman (known together as @thecountryhousediaries) decided to restore their historic 19th century home, they knew just where to turn
Best known for his career in musical theatre spanning more than 20 years, with roles including Jesus in Andrew Lloyd Webbers’ Jesus Christ Superstar, the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera, and Buddy the Elf in Elf the Musical, Ben also has a passion for property and design; Ben has successfully developed various properties prior to The Country House Diaries. Meanwhile, Paul has worked in property full-time since leaving his job in finance in 2012, before which he developed property and designed freelance for friends and family. Their combined passion for property, heritage and design, is evident throughout their skilful and passionate restoration.
Ben’s background in musical theatre first introduced him to Mylands: on set one day, Ben recalls a painter describing Mylands, which has long been the go-to paint for theatre, film and TV sets, as the best paint on the market, a statement that stuck with him and positioned Mylands as the couple’s top paint choice for the project.
The duo worked to create a home true to the building’s rich history, making a nod to each era of the property’s heritage in every room. Throughout the home is an eclectic mix of antiques and an assortment of classically-shaped furniture with a contemporary twist, upholstered in bold and textural fabrics that bring a distinct sense of character to each room. The schemes are bought together harmoniously through the backdrop of Mylands’ rich hues, which also accentuate the building’s original architectural features. Inspired by Mylands’ colour collections, each shade was carefully selected to create an energetic palette that emphasised the property’s personality, infusing it with a confident and welcoming atmosphere. From the calmer neutrals like Egyptian Grey No. 154 and Honest John No. 58 to the warm mustard yellow Haymarket No. 47, the classic dark green of Messel No.39 and the nuanced blue grey tones of Long Acre No.102, each colour brings the unexpected through every door.
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The hallway welcomes you into the home with the embossed wallpaper by Lincrusta, a wallcovering invented by Frederick Walton, which has been painted in Mylands’ calm, stone-white shade Honest John No. 58 and accented with a contrasting dark olive-green Messel No. 39 on the doors and woodwork. In the kitchen by Olive and Barr, the cabinetry and a 4m prep table island with a Carrara marble worktop have been painted in the deep and classic shade Messel No. 39 used in the hallway, while the kitchen walls and ceiling feature the off-white pigment Holbein Chamber No. 7, with a hint of pink that brings a subtle glow.
The games room is enveloped in the rich, dark blue Bond Street No. 219 from floor to ceiling, enveloping the space in the mesmerising almost-black shade, while the living room is painted with the calming neutral Egyptian Grey No. 154 that forms a mellow backdrop for the vibrant yellow L-shaped sofa.
‘Each shade was carefully selected to create an energetic palette that emphasised the property’s personality'
The drawing room underwent some of the home’s most major structural changes, due to a dry rot issue that meant the loft could be seen from the ground floor, and so Paul and Ben were forced to remove some intact features and replace them with plaster cornicing mouldings and other bespoke features without compromising the room’s original charm. Once complete, Long Acre No. 102 was used to colour drench the room, creating a restful, deep grey blue backdrop with opulent accents of gold on the ceiling rose.
The home’s six bedrooms have all been uniquely designed with bold furnishing and colour; one bedroom is painted with London Plane No. 200, a light olive green hue that forms a restful backdrop. The principal bedroom is painted floor to ceiling in Egerton Place No. 297 and feels opulent and luxurious; in contrast, a dramatic bedroom painted in dark green-blue Burlington Arcade No. 216 is paired with rich shades of umber and orange, and the deep red Arts Club No. 281 is used on the bathtub.
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The building’s history has also inspired the en-suite bathrooms throughout the home, of which there are six; one pays homage to the 1970s with retro bathroom tiles, while the principal ensuite incorporates classic Minton Hollins handmade tiling; replicas of those found in the Roker Lighthouse in Sunderland, Ben’s hometown, as well as throughout the London Underground. The neutral mushroom hue Egerton Place No. 297 provides a deep and earthy backdrop in one bathroom, while the same shade on the walls of the principal bedroom contrasts subtly with the Egyptian Grey No. 154 used for the woodwork, while another is a pink dream with light pink pigment Kensington Rose No. 22 on the walls and Threadneedle No. 262 woodwork details that complement the soft pink tiling.
Paul Longman says: ‘We spent three years going through the buying process of the property. It had long been a fantasy of ours to restore a country estate like this, so when we finally got to refurbish the property it really was a dream come true! The house has an incredible history; it was built by a wealthy local family who had made their fortune in the cloth and drapery trade in India, and it was really important to us throughout the project that our restoration really embraced the property’s past and held on to its amazing energy.’
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Ben Forster adds: ‘I grew up in Sunderland and would often spend weekends and holidays in a village near this house. I’d ask to be lifted over the wall so I could peer in the windows and stare at it in wonderment. I left Sunderland at 16 to begin my career on stage, so it is a real dream come true to have bought this house and bring it back to life. Colour was of course always going to be a key element of each room as paint choice really has the power to transform a space, but working with Mylands meant we were thinking about the backdrops more than ever. The Mylands collections draw on the brand’s own rich history of paint and colour, which complemented our desire to honour the heritage of the property, and it has also been a top brand amongst the theatre industry for such a long time that I had always been aware of it through my work on stage – Mylands had been our first choice from the beginning, and it was an honour to work with them.’