With jewel-like colors of emerald and ruby, gothic windows, doorways, and arched paneling – and an enchanting library – the place has an elegance that feels as ecclesiastical as it does scholastic.  Rambling yet cozy, inviting, and magical, it’s packed with beautiful Christmas decorating ideas for a good old-fashioned family holiday season. Tucked away in the Goulds Ground area of Frome, Somerset – now a conservation area – the school served the children of the community from the early 1880s to the late 1980s. Over the past 20 years, the couple has taken the already converted school and turned it into a home that celebrates their combined love of all things old and historic, from materials to furnishings.  With a passion for repurposing salvaged materials, Seth has taken the lead on building work and tried his hand at almost every aspect of general building. Allie has taken the lead on the interiors, choosing old over new – from curtains to furniture – and traditional decorating ideas.


The beautiful wood and stained-glass doors – an idea for glass partition walls – that lead from the library tell a wonderful story. ‘My grandfather Harold Hillam salvaged them from a Lincolnshire chapel in the 1940s and used them as the doors to his workshop,’ says Allie. ‘When he passed away, I asked my father if I could have them so that Seth could integrate them into our home. They pretty much set the tone for the whole library through to the snug.’  Allie had always lusted after a home library with a hidden bookcase door and Seth brought her dream alive by fitting two walls with bookshelf ideas. The red room is now lined with old books, most of which have been inherited from family. Nowadays the room is reserved for family dining on special occasions, Christmas being a favorite celebration, when the Christmas dining room decor is in jewel colors and the dining table is dressed for the occasion with chenille cloth, blue, white, and green Victorian china, antique family silver, and vintage glasses.   Old saris torn into ribbons and antique crystal drops make simple yet impactful Christmas ornament ideas.

Living room

A festive scene is set around a reclaimed stone fireplace as a Christmas living room decor idea. When the house was renovated by Seth’s aunt, the kitchen and living room were one vast school room. The space was split, and a fireplace was installed on the living room side and an Aga on the kitchen side. A simple Christmas garland made of foraged greenery and berries from the garden looks perfect against the walls painted in Farrow & Ball’s (opens in new tab) Saxon Green. Vintage baubles and candlelight set the look off perfectly.


The freestanding kitchen includes a cream Aga and a matching 1950’s New World gas stove, both eBay purchases, as a vintage kitchen idea. A small single cupboard and quadruple draw unit have been given a fresh lick of paint with Farrow & Ball’s Cooking Apple Green.  The glazed top dresser is made up of two separate parts – one found at a car boot sale and the other at a junk shop.


This beautiful snug of reds, pinks, and greys enjoys a great deal of light through gothic mullion windows, which were replaced after a fire. Seth designed and built a gothic wall paneling idea, which is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Moles Breath, to match. Jewel colors, floral paintings, and chintz textiles make the perfect setting for traditional afternoon tea. 


The country bedrooms have been decorated with a combination of Toile de Jouy, chintz fabrics, and patterned rugs to create layered and comfortable-looking bedrooms.  Although the master bedroom is an awkward shape, Allie has managed to make a feature of it with the clever placement of antique furniture and vintage bedroom ideas. This pale and serene blue bedroom is filled with cottage decorating ideas, from vintage eiderdowns and Toile de Jouy bed linen to pretty lace hung at the Velux window as a bedroom curtain idea.


The small family vintage bathroom was made entirely out of salvage, from the free-standing bath idea, sink, and taps sourced at a local reclamation yard to the wood used to make the wall paneling.  An old dressing table top and salvaged sink make the perfect bathroom vanity unit. Allie and Seth discovered that to add character to and maintain a period property there is a lot to learn. Seth has truly learned on the job, turning his hand to roofing, carpentry, stone-work, and general building. ‘He’s become an expert at salvaging and repurposing. When anyone in the area is getting rid of windows, doors, or interesting bits of wood or furniture they’ll offer it to us – we pretty much have a salvage yard now,’ laughs Allie.  ‘We really cherish our chance to be custodians of this gorgeous building and each time we’ve added to it with old materials we feel we are enriching its history.  ‘The history of the building is ever-present, and we’ve always felt it exudes a sense of joy due to having had children in it for so many years,’ says Allie. And it is certainly filled with comfort and joy at Christmas.