When Gilly Newberry and her husband Geoff moved from their Georgian rectory in Norfolk, England, to a new home on the Spanish island of Mallorca, they made sure that the old English rectory was with them in spirit.
Gilly, the founder of luxury textiles brand Bennison Fabrics, lives and breathes traditional English interiors so it was only natural that she would reinterpret the look for these sunnier climes.
The elegant blend of traditional English furnishings set against cool whitewashed walls and limestone flooring makes this one of the world’s best homes. The home’s reimagined country-house style is built on a more rustic and minimalist Mediterranean foundation, and the results are inspiring.
Many of the textiles you’ll see in Gilly’s Mallorca home are hand-printed silks and linens from her company Bennison Fabrics, their designs based on 18th and 19th-century English and French textiles. In her elegant room schemes Gilly demonstrates just how well these timeless classics translate to a different and unexpected setting. It’s the perfect illustration of the fact that good design will always make itself at home.
We caught up with Gilly Newberry for a house tour – and an illuminating lesson in achieving color and pattern perfection.
Step out of the Mallorcan sun into the cool of this high-ceilinged hallway and instantly you are transported elsewhere by the framed 18th-century Chinese textile, colorful painted chest and relaxed elegance of the palette. ‘The whitewashed walls and limestone floor give a sense of tranquillity, away from the hustle and bustle of life outside the front door and a promise of comfort in the house beyond,’ says Gilly.
Hallway ideas include using every bit of the entryway’s height to display textile artworks. A combination of three large vessels – one rustic, one brightly colored and one traditional oriental – set the tone for the interior styles you will encounter further into this special home.
The large living room perfectly showcases the meeting of the two style worlds, and embraces the garden through the French doors.
‘A convex mirror, gilt wall brackets and framed prints and oils all have a decidedly English feel but against a backdrop of Mediterranean sunshine, stone floors and whitewashed walls this is instantly transported far away from England,’ says Gilly of her living room ideas. ‘The Little Aztec linen on the sofa gives color, and earthy tones complement the beams overhead and balance the room perfectly.’
Antique furniture upholstered in natural tones balances with highlights from gilt frames, brass lamps and the yellow of sunlight. Comfort is everywhere, from deeply cushioned sofas and welcoming armchairs to rustic coffee table and pools of light being offered by well-placed lamps.
It’s not hard to see where Gilly and Geoff’s inspiration came from for the library. Their home office ideas are rooted in English tradition – this is definitely more Downton Abbey than downtown Palma.
‘A set of library shelves with classical detailing and proportions and filled with leather bound volumes together with the gravitas of a burr wood centre table all give a very English country house impression,’ she says.
Displayed above the books, a 19th-century Spanish Lebrillo charger from the Triana district of Seville softens the room and garden doors open to views of a very un-English landscape beyond. The blues and yellows of the pottery echo the blues and yellows of the Mallorcan sky and sun.
Old meets new in the kitchen
This is a no-nonsense professional-style kitchen with sleek, straight lines. Kitchen ideas include white subway tiles, white gloss cupboards and steel worktops, but these more clinical elements are tempered with aged wood wall shelves, a collection of English blue and white china, a well-loved butcher’s block and earthenware pottery.
Gilly and her husband Geoff moved to their beautiful home in Mallorca in 2015. It was built in around 2012 and is surrounded by a nature reserve and sits in the island’s Carrossa Valley.
Bedroom ideas in the guest bedroom continue the style theme – a traditional English look mixed with more earthy rustic tones. The high ceiling and limestone floor give the room an airy feel.
‘The open canopy of the American colonial four poster bed allows the eye to drift upwards to the high beams, but is then drawn back to earth by the dark wood of the antique furniture and spice colours of the colour palette which combine to create a grounded look,’ says Gilly.
The sumptuously draped and upholstered bed is perfectly placed to take best advantage of the views in this dual aspect room. The drape fabric is Bennison’s Chinese Paper on silk.
An antique sofa and armchairs covered in the company’s Roses linen (in a custom colorway) alongside characterful antique furniture, while table lamps topped by pleated silk lampshades, a gilt framed antique mirror and curated objects complete the look. Striped and patterned rugs give an oriental edge to this very English style but the light transforms and transports the room to Mediterranean shores.
The bathroom here is an inviting space, furnished with an eclectic but curated selection of curios that balance the clean lines of the contemporary bathroom fittings. Bathroom ideas include earthy, natural tones introduced with the louvred blinds, rattan chair and an oriental pierced wood room screen, and the more unusual idea of using the bathroom as a place to enjoy special treasures displayed on antique hanging shelves and a model yacht in full sail.
Even the apparently simple powder room enjoys the best of both design worlds. A contemporary polished and carved stone sink and polished concrete surfaces showcase Mediterranean aesthetics, while the gilt mirror and a memory of carved ebony elephants walk by along the shelf. Gilly and Geoff ensure that there’s always something to look at here, even in the smallest room in the house.
English style in sunnier climes
Gilly Newberry worked with antique dealer-decorator Geoffrey Bennison and when he died and bequeathed her a third of his business, she started Bennison Fabrics. The company specialises in handprinted fabrics based on the 18th and 19th century English and French textiles that Geoffrey originally discovered and reproduced.