No one knows how to make a statement with their interiors quite like Greg Penn – otherwise known as the Man with a Hammer over on Instagram, where he shares his renovation journey with over 180k followers!
Tiles play a huge part in many interior projects, taking spaces from simple to statement - so we were delighted to work with Greg on his renovation of Admirals House, the old Navy Hospital in Plymouth, Devon. We caught up with Greg to find out how the project is going…
Q. Please could you tell us a little bit about you, where you live and how long you’ve lived in the Admirals House? Well, my name is Greg – better known as ‘Man with a Hammer’. I bought Admirals House almost three years ago in quite a sorry state and I am slowly restoring it back to its former glory. It’s in the old Royal Naval Hospital in Plymouth, Devon.
Q. Tell us about the Admirals House, do you know when it was built? Does it have any interesting history? What made you fall in love with this property and take on the renovation challenge? It was built in 1804 – the architect was Daniel Alexander Asher who most famously designed Dartmoor Prison, built just after. It was the residence of the chief officer in charge of the 26 acre hospital site (one of the most advanced hospitals in the world at the time, and the design of which was made popular all over Europe later by Florence Nightingale). The house is jam packed with history, my favourite being the creek that used to run behind the house - it didn’t smell too good! But it's how the injured sailors were brought up into the hospital. If you were too ill to paddle, your prospects were perhaps not so good so it’s where the phrase ‘up the creek without a paddle’ comes from!
Q. What were your primary goals when it came to renovating the property? Well, first and foremost, to make a comfortable home for myself. I’m hoping it’s my ‘forever home’ – though obviously you never know what the future holds. It’s also hugely important to me to respect the house and the architecture, preserving and making good what I can, and reinstating anything that might be missing – whilst also making it appropriate for modern day living. The Admiral would have had staff to tend the fires, grounds and whatnot – sadly I can’t say the same for myself!
Q. Where did you find your inspiration for the renovation? For me, it’s listening to the house a bit. In terms of the bathrooms, obviously the house wouldn’t have had bathrooms in the conventional sense in 1804, so I wanted them to feel as ‘unbathroomy’ as possible, treating them much like any other room. This includes the use of colour and pattern, and materials like wallpaper (a chinoiserie from a similar era to the house), panelling, aged oak parquet, pleated lampshades and of course the patterned tiles in the shower enclosure (which do an excellent trick of stopping your brain from seeing it purely as a shower enclosure which was my intention – it’s far more subtle and softer within the room). The hand painted ‘English – Delft’ tiles add a nice bit of whimsey!
For the fireplace in the bedroom, it was wonderful to find tiles that mirror what would have been there originally (albeit the insert is perhaps 100 years newer than the house!) and the Victorian hearth tiles really pull in some of the other colours from the room.
Q. What made you choose Original Style’s Victorian Floor Tiles, Winchester and Artworks ranges? The Winchester tiles, being such an artisanal product, vary slightly in colour and texture and you really see them as handmade – I think something perfectly uniform and machine made in that space, would have jarred slightly. They give a real softness and are just beautiful! The Victorian floor tiles – being individual tiles, meant we could create a design perfect for the space both in style and colour – and the Artworks range has amazing authentic replicas of the originals so it was the obvious choice.
Q. How did you find your experience when visiting our Plymouth showroom? It was really lovely – a really spacious layout with some gorgeous set pieces that provide loads of inspiration. It’s really helpful to see things laid out like that and picture things side by side. There’s so much choice it really helps refine your ideas. The staff were hugely knowledgeable too!
Q. We offer a CAD (computer aided design) service, did you use this? If so, did it help you visualise the tiles in your -project? Yes for the hearth – it was such a small space, it really helped making sure everything was going to fit nicely and look right together.
Q. Would you consider using them anywhere else in your renovation? Yes absolutely – if you’ve the right space for them, they add a huge amount of character to a space whilst also being really hardwearing and practical. I can imagine them in a grand hallway or pathway
Q. Would you say there are any specific interior design trends that could be highlighted for 2022? Is there anything that you could pinpoint in the tile world? I think people will continue to get braver with pattern and colour, and I’m seeing far more of this within their tile choice. For a while as people were dipping their toe into colour, they might paint the rest of the space but stick to a neutral tile - but the effect is so much more impactful and cohesive when you really have some fun with the tiles too! I think making a statement with pattern on tiles - like you might with wallpaper is really coming through.