East meets West and old blends with the new in Monica Vinader' s enchanting Norfolk home, which is filled with furniture, artefacts and decoratives from a host of different countries and eras. But despite this mix of cultural styles and influences, the sensation that greets you when you step through the front door is one of cohesion and calm. In many ways, this bold, unorthodox style, which exudes a pared-down simplicity that’s also sophisticated, is a reflection of the ideas behind Vinader’s namesake company, which produces beautiful handcrafted jewellery.
Monica makes jewellery that’s characterised by organic shapes, as in the gemstones she uses are deliberately irregular in form and multi-faceted, rather than the perfect ovals and straight cuts commonly seen elsewhere. She describes them as “sophisticated organic jewels that you’ll want to wear everyday,” and defines her brand as one that celebrates “individuality.” Her company is eponymous for creating a new category between fashion and fine jewellery. Her vibrant gemstones and cutting-edge diamond pieces have made her successful worldwide and count a diverse celebrity following, from Kate Winslet to Olivia Palermo and the Duchess of Cambridge.
Born in San Sebastián in Spain and brought up in Madrid, Vinader was schooled in French and moved with her parents to England as a teenager, subsequently enrolling in art school. Much of the inspiration for her free-form shapes and delicate designs comes from the many years she spent travelling and living in remote parts of Chile, Argentina and Mexico with her husband, Nicholas Zoll. It was only after 12 years of this exotic yet nomadic experience that it felt right to come home to the UK. However, the wanderlust bug has not left her, and neither has an innate love of adventure. Vinader regularly departs for Mexico, a place “I have always found very inspiring” and India, where all her stones are cut and the place where “the energy of the people and the rich culture is enthralling.”
The house boasts a 19th-century capstone exterior surrounded by a pond and verdant fields
Setting up her home in Norfolk enabled her to develop her brand and expand her empire. With a number of Monica Vinader boutiques in London, the natural question that arose was why choose Norfolk? She used to regularly visit her mother’s summerhouse there to escape from London, until she and her husband decided to live in the country full time 17 years ago. “It’s good for my temperament,” she adds, explaining, “I get a great deal of comfort from being in the countryside. I need to escape to a more isolated world to be creatively charged.”
When she first acquired the property, she spent a year completely restoring it with the help of her husband. For Vinader though, the house was a project of passion. She cites her mother as an early aesthetic influence. Her mother ran an antiques business for numerous years, no doubt instilling in her daughter an early appreciation of the old. For a while, Vinader opened a design studio and lifestyle store in Norfolk, selling her own furniture designs, made in her parents’ Spanish workshop, alongside antiques, fabrics and candles. But eventually her parents retreated from Norfolk, too, and the shop ceased to exist. “It’s a house that’s part 12th-century, part 15th -century, and it goes up to the 19th-century,” she says. The house evolved over the years, including a Victorian façade built in the 19th century by A. J. Humbert, the architect of the nearby Sandringham Estate, who had lived in the house. “The most exciting part is that it’s a historical patchwork of periods,” exclaims Vinader. Because of listed property laws in the UK, Vinader couldn’t make changes to the exterior of the house. She could only restore it to the original. Restoring it from scratch meant doing everything from building bathrooms to installing fireplaces in the old manor.
The living room with blue mid-century chairs by French designer Charles Ramos
While the main structure of the house is from the 12th century, Monica explains that the annex and forge were extensions added later on. “Every window was changed to its original state. The incredible cobblestones were also repaired. Internal features were maintained and salvaged as much as possible,” she says of the exhaustive project. The kitchen is a later addition, so the old exterior wall is now indoors. In fact, when the family moved in, there was a water pump inside their front door. While the coal sheds were converted into a guest bedroom and bathroom, what was once a forge is now the dining room. Local auctions and antique shops proved invaluable. Some of the old beams that were used when converting the forge came from a reclamation outlet nearby.
The guest room features a gold Tom Dixon lamp and a bespoke hand-painted bedspread from Jaipur, India
The jewellery designer found more freedom when she commenced the interior design. Her slender, linear bracelets and pendants covered in elegant pavé diamonds are frequently created using an 18th-century French technique called vermeil, which involves plating gold on sterling silver. Her home in Norfolk similarly calls upon the past and melds it beautifully with present treasures from Monica’s life. Of note are the bespoke pale blue brick walls in her daughter’s bedroom, a communal library with stunning turquoise walls that offsets the collection of shells and corals gathered by the couple on their travels, to a kitchen with antique wooden cabinets from Spain, and plenty of mid-century furniture and antiques she’s collected over the years. “I love my antique Chinese drinks table, while my husband is keener on the 17th-century country Spanish pieces,” she smiles. One of their favourite possessions are the pair of divine 1950s electric blue velvet chairs by Charles Ramos in the living room.
The dining room chairs are covered in Indian fabric and a 1960s Italian starburst chandelier hangs above
“Some of the things that I value about jewellery, I really value about interior design, too,” says Monica. “I like to chose something that has real materiality to it. I love intrinsic quality,” she says, referring to one of her favourite vintage tables, sitting in her personal study, which is made of solid wood with steel legs. In terms of the furniture, pictures and objects, “I like being surrounded by what I love so I buy what I like, not what would work on a text-book interiors scheme. I don’t like contrived interiors that are over-designed, instead, I prefer to have a house for living, not for display.” Therefore, at the end of the day, form follows function, says Vinader. It is a household with a constant flow of people, both family and friends. Vinader has successfully created a welcoming atmosphere that expresses harmony, authenticity, peace, and intimacy – the goals she had set out to achieve for her home. Monicavinader.com