December 3, 2023

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Your Dream House

Tour 6 British Houses That Are Bursting With Historical Charm

Tour 6 British Houses That Are Bursting With Historical Charm

When she isn’t starring in films and television series or onstage (including a role in the Apple TV+ series Extrapolations, set to debut next year), Miller, her daughter, friends, and family spend glorious times at the house. And for more than a decade she left the faded chintz-filled interior with its engineered flooring pretty much untouched. During the pandemic, however, when the urge struck to restore the house, she knew just who to call. “I wanted a Gaby house!” says Miller, referring to her great friend Gaby Dellal’s houses in London and Cornwall, with their wonderful eclectic interiors where vintage fabrics and kilims, industrial fittings, and other homey elements commingle in unexpected unions that exude warmth, impeccable taste, and heartfelt character.

Dellal, a film and theater director by profession, was happy to undertake the project and set about the work with gusto, shuttling back and forth between London and the site while Miller, who was born in the U.S. and raised in the U.K., was grounded in New York during lockdown. “What was beautiful is that she just trusted me, and we had a deal whereby she was not allowed there for six months until I completed the project,” says Dellal. —Harriet Quick 

An Arts and Crafts Country House

A leaded glass window illuminates the stairwell and great room. The bespoke sofa wears a Ralph Lauren Home print. Vintage leather Chesterfield sofa; Lampshade by Robert Kime; On walls, Farrow & Ball paint.

Photo: Simon Upton; Styling: Sara Mathers

Vintage bamboo furniture in the primary-suite foyer. Stark carpet.

Photography by Simon Upton; Styling: Sara Mathers

With its chimneys thrusting into the sky, its half-timbered brick façade and vast expanses of leaded glass, the stately structure exemplifies the moment when the English country-house tradition met the wealth of the Industrial Revolution and the aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts movement. It’s not difficult to visualize swirls of cigar smoke rising to the rafters in the vast main hall, and brandy being served by liveried footmen. Indeed, the estate was once owned by famed tobacconist Alfred Dunhill, founder of the eponymous luxury empire that still bears his name.

Decades later, the scene in the Old Barn, as it is affectionately known, was far more raucous when it belonged to music producer Robert Stigwood, manager of Cream and the Bee Gees. “The house was the scene of legendary parties,” says current owner Angelo Moratti. “It’s where George Harrison’s wife and Eric Clapton started their romance. Elton John stayed often. Virtually everyone who was important in the ’70s music industry was a guest here. There are so many wonderful stories.”

Stigwood sold the place to Moratti’s father, Gian Marco, in 1976, shortly before relocating to Bermuda. Gian Marco Moratti, like his father before him, was head of one of Italy’s largest oil companies—where Angelo Moratti himself works today. (The family had also long been involved with Milan’s championship soccer team Inter Milan.)

“My father immediately hired Renzo Mongiardino, who had designed our home in Milan,” says Moratti, referring to the legendary 20th-century Italian interior and set designer. Located on 43 acres, with two lakes, the property is only a 40-minute drive from central London, which made it an ideal refuge for the family. “I was attending boarding school only about a half hour away and would go to the house on weekends. My family had an office in London as well, so they were often there, and I still used it a lot when I was in my 20s and 30s.”