Inspiring Interiors -Bill Davies, Wolsey Place, Hailsham
Bill moved to Wolsey Place five years ago with his much-loved wife of 40 years, Suzanne. They decided to look for somewhere that would be easier to manage. Since Suzanne very sadly passed away last September, Bill has taken hold of the design reins.
“Now I’m on my own, I’ve begun to put my own stamp on the apartment. All the picking and choosing (for the first time), has been down to me”, he explains.
His newly confident eye is clear throughout the modern one-bed apartment. Exposed brick wallpaper in the bedroom adds texture and a cool, loft feel – “It makes an impact”, says Bill. “The room initially was a comfortable but plain space, so I was eager to introduce some texture and life to it. Now it’s one of my favourite features, although I was careful with it being such a bold choice, not to overdo it! “, he says.
Completing the look is a canvas print of a sunny beach scene surrounded by palm trees - one of many unique finds Bill has picked up on Amazon, and an equally vibrant multi-colour duvet. Also from Amazon, Bill has added faux hanging vines in the hallway –“they add a pop of colour and greenery but without any of the watering”, he laughs.
And Bill’s lack of enthusiasm for living plants is often joked about between friends, as Bill actually spent over 25 years as a florist at Covent Garden Market in London, where his father and brother also ran a fruit stall. Green-fingered Bill would take regular trips to Belgium and Holland to buy his plants – he was an early riser opening shop at 4am to prepare the flowers for a busy morning of sales, before knocking off at 11am and heading to the golf course with his colleagues.
“I do know my amaranth from my amaryllis”, says Bill, but this blossom master tries to avoid too much floral when it comes to his own decor. “I think I used to inundate Suzanne with flowers – there weren’t enough vases some weeks”, he jokes. “Nowadays I prefer to keep my pruning shears hidden away, and for things to be clutter-free and a bit lower maintenance”, he smiles.
At first Bill and Suzanne weren’t sure if a new-build home would be suited to them, but Bill is now a strong convert - “I love that it was a blank canvas. No stripping wallpaper or ripping up carpets – it was ready to move into and no nasty surprises!” he says.
Bill’s has decided to have some fun with his style over recent months, and is attracted to a bold and contemporary look. Craving the light, Bill opted for state-of-the-art electric windows complemented by practical shutters rather than blinds, to let air flow through on sunny days. “I’m not a fan of curtains - they can be a bit dark and depressing. The shutters make the windows look so much smarter and have made a huge difference”, he explains.
In the kitchen, white gloss cupboards create a fresh and stylish feel, with the washing machine neatly tucked away in a handy utility room. Bill especially loves his living room for the space and how light and bright it is - “it’s my favourite spot for reading”, says Bill. He has made some wise investments when it comes to furniture, opting for classic pieces rather than trends. “I want things to last!” he says.
Bill continues: “Our furniture needed a bit of a refresh when we moved but I tried to keep things simple with just a few new items including some lovely grey painted oak furniture to replace my old-fashioned pine pieces. I’m now on the hunt for a matching corner unit to display Suzanne’s pride and joy – her glass collection which will make a perfect finishing touch to the room which I spend most of my time in."
“The design of the apartment is very ‘me’ “, says Bill. “My style, my tastes…but Suzanne’s influence can be found in almost every room, in the mementos of our happy life together.”
Hanging on the walls in the lounge and bedroom is an eclectic collection of hand-crafted, wooden masks representing different cultures which the couple picked up from local markets on their travels adventures across the Maldives, Mexico, Cuba, Kenya, Venezuela, and more.
In the lounge a picture containing a piece of silk Suzanne found and treasured on one of their special trip to the Maldives. Bill recovered the fabric later and decided to make a feature of it. “It’s like she’s always smiling down on me”, says Bill. Suzanne was a very creative person with a diploma in Art and one of her creations – a cross stitch of a map of Kent, the county where Bill and Suzanne spent many happy years raising their two children, makes for a welcoming and personal touch.
Bill has also included many of his own features to add character to his rooms, such as a statement wall in the living room which is papered with grey and silver wallpaper, and that glistens in the morning sunshine which floods into the apartment. This is complemented by a bright blue patch-work sofa, distinctive wing armchairs and an ultra-modern log burner effect fire. It’s a cosy spot to enjoy one of the programmes he loves. “I’m what you’d call a frustrated archaeologist,” he says, “I like nothing better than settling down and watching a documentary about Egyptology. My grandfather was born in Egypt and Suzanne and I used to holiday there every year - Fluka riding on the river Nile, exploring the Valley of the Kings. My dream is to take part in an archaeological dig one day.”
And when Bill isn’t furthering his knowledge of Egyptology from his armchair, he is grabbing the controller and taking down his opponents on his Xbox game, ‘Call of Duty’. “I’m a bit of a gamer”, he says. “I like the fast-paced action – it can actually be very thrilling.”
Bill’s been impressed with the development at Wolsey Place, inside and out – and so have his visitors. “They always joke it looks like a hotel lobby. The entrance is really big and impressive.” The views are another favourite, his apartment looking out onto the pretty, flower-edged communal garden and summery pergola. “The views were one of the major selling points for us with this place”, says Bill. “I love that I can enjoy the garden now, even when I’m inside.”
While the couple were adventurous travellers, as an ex-coach driver for National Express and Virgin Atlantic, Bill really appreciates his time at home. “I used to ferry air stewards and stewardesses to the airport - they were a great laugh! But I spent that much time on the M6, endless miles of black and white tarmac. When it comes to my own four walls, I like to make the best of it. Your home should be your haven”.
Leaving behind their two bedroom bungalow was an adjustment for the couple at first but Bill says he is glad he no longer lives there now. “It would have been very lonely for me,” says Bill. “The community here has really looked after me. 15 of us go out every fortnight to a local pub for lunch and we’re a close-knit bunch.”
One thing’s for sure, he plans to enjoy life in his newly decorated home which has recently seen him take up painting with two of his projects proudly framed on his walls. “I love watercolour and am always fascinated by TV shows like ‘Watercolour Challenge’. I do try my best to emulate it but I’m afraid the nearest I’ve got is paint by numbers”, he jokes.
Bill continues: “I’m a young spirit. I think I take after my Dad. He was fiercely independent and I like to think it’s in the genes.” Bill used to play a lot of Golf before Suzanne became ill, competing in society matches and even winning ‘Golfer of the Year’.
“I’m looking forward to taking a swing at my golf clubs again this summer”, says Bill. “I’ve a feeling I’m going to be a bit rusty so I best make sure I have a few practice goes on the driving range and don’t hack-up the green too much!”
Bill is certain he made the right choice moving to Wolsey Place and is his advice to anyone thinking of doing the same is to “play with ideas first, visit a few showrooms, go into stores and take a few photographs of things y0u like. Create a wish list – top of mine was a reading area, a fireplace and making the most of the windows to enjoy the views – and work backwards from there.”
Finally he says: “There is no truer saying that you have to enjoy every day as it comes.”
And as the large wooden letters that stand tall on Bill’s living room bookcase state – ‘JOY’.
“For me now, it’s all about finding the joy and the humour in things, that’s the way I relate to life. And not sweating the small stuff…like cushions!” he laughs.