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Home Style: Pastures New

The grass really was greener for this family, who left behind their recently remodelled London house for a new life in the country

In 2011, Tori Odell-Romanoff, husband Erik and their baby son Harry upped sticks from London and moved to Tori’s sister’s house in rural Hertfordshire while their house in Tooting Bec underwent a total overhaul. Fast forward nine months and they moved back into the finished property, but, as Tori said, “Something didn’t quite fit.” Then a couple of years later, daughter Thea came along, and the couple realised that the busy pace of London life was no longer for them.

A better life for the children was the main motivation behind the couple’s decision to move out of London, but their time living in Tori’s sister’s house in Hertfordshire had given them a taste of rural life and they had been bitten by the countryside bug. They had been back in their London ‘perfect-on-paper’ property for just over a year when things came to a head. Tori explained, “One evening, not long after Thea was born, Erik looked at me and said, ‘You’re not happy, are you? Shall we move to the country?’ And that was it. We put our house on the market the next day and it sold that afternoon.”

Next, the couple faced the dilemma of where exactly to relocate to. “We knew we wanted to live in the South East,” said Tori. “So we drew a triangle between London, where Erik works, and both sets of our parents. Wye, in Kent, was the middle point.”

So, on a summer’s day, the family piled into the car to go and check out the area. On leaving the M20, they were met by hedgerows frothing with cow parsley and astounding views of the Great Stour valley. Their minds were made up. “Erik was also sold on the fact that there was free parking everywhere,” laughed Tori.  Soon after, they were house hunting online and found a beautiful, weatherboarded cottage near their search area – and knew they had to see it.

“I rang the estate agent and they put me in touch with the vendor,” recalled Erik. “I called and told her we were cash buyers and begged her not to show anyone around until we could see it. She agreed and we put in an offer straight after our viewing, which was accepted." The London sale went through quickly and the family briefly moved in with Tori’s parents while waiting to complete on the purchase. The vendor was chain free too, so it wasn’t too long before the house was theirs.


The wisteria-clad property is nestled  in the valley, with pretty green window frames offsetting the white cladding. At the bottom of the garden lies a seating area with a breathtaking vista of the rolling countryside. When they bought it, the house was in good shape but needed some cosmetic updating. They also converted part of the upstairs landing into Thea’s nursery, turning it into a four-bedroom home.

Interior designer Erik oversaw the project with aplomb, drawing on his expertise and skills in his trade. The house features a stunning inglenook fireplace in the dining area, which Erik limewashed himself. The couple also had the dark beams lightened by a company based in the East Sussex town of Rye. They revamped the kitchen with new tiles and removed the overhead cupboards, replacing them with open shelving crafted by Erik. They opted for a calming palette of off- white, taupe and green for the walls and have filled the house with pieces that reflect their love of travelling and also Erik’s American heritage – he spent his early years in Chicago and moved to the UK when he was 12, returning for university in upstate New York.

“We have collected things from almost every destination we’ve ever been to,” said Tori. A carved wooden giraffe peeping out from behind an armchair is just one example. “When I was 18, I made my father fly with it between his legs all the way back from Kenya after a family holiday,” Tori laughed. Meanwhile, the smattering of American flag motifs, bright iping, plaid fabrics and reclaimed shutters on the sitting room wall lend a New England feel.


The couple are the perfect match when it comes to decorating, with Tori also bringing a flair for design to the table. Before leaving London, she was MD of an upscale floristry business. The use of a glorious white indoor hydrangeas in a huge blue and white china trug in the hallway is testament to this. The duo describe their style as ‘modern classical, with a touch of clutter’. “I’m a maximalist,” laughed Erik. “Our style is comfortable and relaxed.”

Upstairs, the bathroom has been spruced up with a lick of paint and the bedrooms feature an eclectic mix of fabrics, including lace and patterns of checks and toile from sources ranging from high street to designer.

It’s clear the family are finally living in a part of the country that suits them perfectly. “When I leave work and the confines of London, the sky opens up and my tension levels drop,” said Erik. “This place is my tonic. One of our favourite things to do is take the children for a walk, meet friends for a drink by the fire in the pub and then all pile back to ours for a roast.” Tori couldn’t agree more. “I was a complete city girl,” she said. “My London friends couldn’t picture me living down here. But it’s perfect for us all.”

As for the house, there are further plans afoot. “We are planning to do an L-shaped extension, creating more space downstairs and a further two bedrooms upstairs,” Tori explained. “This is definitely our forever home.”


PHOTOGRAPHY: Richard Gadsby/Living4media

WORDS: Amy Maynard/Living4media





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