RINGING THE CHANGES, 25 BEAUTIFUL HOMES, DECEMBER 2018

Photography by  Bruce Hemming

Photography by Bruce Hemming

Cover story. All copy as provided to publication.

After a long-running house renovation that has meant Christmas with family and friends, marketing director Estelle Derouet and her company director husband Jon Savage are determined to host for once and make the big day special for their ten-year old son Louis now that the house is complete. ‘Louis was only three when we moved in, so it’s about making a bit more effort now,’ she says. ‘I think we’ll really enjoy it this year.’ Regardless of where they spend the big day, it starts early. ‘I am a morning person, so I’m awake from 6am. The family begins with presents and a breakfast of smoked salmon and champagne for the adults and chocolate pancakes for the children. The lunch menu varies. ‘If we’re with Jon’s family, it’s turkey. I’m a terrible cook, so I follow Jamie Oliver’s recipe to the letter and that seems to work. My family are French and a little more adventurous – my mum does goose with all the trimmings.’ There are of course long-running family traditions either way. ‘There is the annual Christmas jumper competition,’ explains Estelle, ‘And then a few years ago, Jon found the most ludicrous hats on eBay. There is everything from a chimney stack with Santa’s feet coming out of the top to a Christmas pudding – and the more you drink the more ridiculous everyone looks.’

The thought of the festivities finally all happening in her own home means that this Christmas, Estelle is going to town. ‘Every year I buy something new, and this year, my three big boxes of decorations have finally come down from the attic,’ she says. ‘No doubt, I will be up until 1am on Christmas eve getting the table just right.’ With an antique napkin, a feather and a name-card in a tiny frame for each place setting – that’s no surprise, but Estelle has a couple of tricks up her sleeve too. Plastic plates sit on top of china ones, real foliage is intertwined with faux, and she has also made the controversial move of investing in a fake tree this year. ‘I have hung pine-scented icicle decorations on it and no-one believes me when I confess,’ she says.

But all of that is just the icing on the cake of finally being able to spend Christmas in her own home – a property the couple bought in 2011 knowing it would need a total overhaul. ‘We were looking for a project, so we knew what we were letting ourselves in for,’ she laughs. They began by replacing the roof, removing the pebbledash exterior and refurbishing all the sash windows. ‘It wasn’t the most exciting part of the project, but we needed to get the big stuff out of the way,’ says Estelle. Upstairs, they knocked two rooms together to create a large family bathroom, sacrificed a small bedroom for a home office, and turned a kitchen (part of a former self-contained flat) into a guest bathroom. A ground-floor extension created a large eat-in kitchen and they reinstated period features throughout. ‘We sourced everything from vintage radiators and fireplaces to reclaimed floorboards and bathroom fittings from eBay and reclamation yards to bring it all in on budget.’

When it came to the decorating, Estelle’s ‘side hustle’ as an interior design blogger and stylist (see @savageinteriors on Instagram) paid dividends. ‘Good interior design is about having confidence in your vision,’ she says. It’s a style she describes as ‘modern Victorian with a hint of Savage,’ inspired by her childhood. ‘Watching my mother renovate a 400-year-old farm house is definitely where my love of old buildings and antiques comes from,’ she says. ‘I am also very lucky to travel for work and so a lot of my research is done in boutique hotels.’ And whether it is the house as a whole or the dining table on Christmas morning, it’s a passion that’s worth staying up until the early hours for: ‘I just get so much joy out of it,’ she says.