PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 March 2016
Neil, Catherine, Oliver, Elliot and India-Rose Fox's house is a spendid family home restored to its former glory at Brundall
Words & Pictures: Tony Hall
Regular readers may recall that 12 years ago, I wrote about Neil and Catherine Fox and their chocolate box thatched cottage, which they renovated at Stratton St Michael. I recently got a call from Catherine, saying that their family home at Brundall, near Norwich, was finally complete after many years of hard work. Naturally I was delighted to see it, knowing this couple’s attention to detail and style.
Catherine greets me at the front door which leads into a spacious entrance hall, complete with its own fireplace and striking black and cream tiled floor. The property, built in 1909, had been a doctor’s surgery and home.
So what took so long, I ask. Catherine explains: “With Oliver (now 18 and at university), we were keen to have more children and the cottage was too small. So we wanted a family house, near to Norwich for convenience of schools and facilities, plus Neil’s business - running his insurance company, Fox Insurance Services.
“We also wanted a project, and we certainly found one here! We now have two other children, Elliot, 11, who is at Taverham School and India-Rose, who is six and at Norwich School. When we first viewed this property we both liked all the period details that were intact, the bay windows, the size of the house was perfect, the large garden and its location, plus just the general character which - because we are both artistic - really appealed.”
I notice the period light switches then, as we turn into the dining room, the cast iron radiators, the beautiful drapes, the wall colour and the period furniture. The Foxs have lost none of their skills, with everything spot on. “With adding to and raising our family, plus wanting to get everything perfect, we took our time,” continues Catherine. “We have worked extremely hard to source every single Edwardian period piece, to reinstate as original. Neil is a stickler for attention to detail, as shows both inside and out.”
Catherine was brought up in Caistor St 4 Edmund, within walking distance of her grandparents, whom she adored. As a little girl, she aspired to one day have a beautiful home like theirs, full of wonderful antiques. “I am sure I developed my terribly expensive taste for the finer things from my ever glamorous grandmother, Molly, whom I worshipped as a child,” she laughs.
Neil and Catherine had known each other for several years before getting together in 2000. Neil, from Thorpe on the edge of Norwich, worked at Norwich Union but wanted to start his own business, which he did 25 years ago with offices in Sprowston. Catherine did a short stint at Norwich Union before working in a florists in Toronto. “Art and design were in my genes, and Toronto was a great place to go,” she says. Later Catherine returned to Norwich to City Florists in Ber Street, before marriage and motherhood beckoned.
All the main rooms downstairs, with the exception dining room, face south overlooking the immaculate garden - Neil’s pride and joy. After showing me the drawing room with its original fireplace and comfy sofas, Neil’s study next door and the garden room, a new extension behind an existing wall, styled with French furniture, Catherine leads on to the spacious family kitchen. “It was divided into smaller spaces, with larders and pantries,” she explains, “so by opening it up, we now have space. All the family gathers here; with the centre island breakfast bar and the Aga, it is the hub of the house and certainly one of my favourite rooms; the other being the master bedroom and dressing room. I naturally love the four poster, the sumptuous drapes and the separate dressing room with built-in wardrobes for clothes.”
Also on the first floor besides a grand landing is a guest bedroom with period bed and furniture, a stunning family bathroom with free-standing bath and French twin basins from Stiffkey Bathrooms. Next door is India-Rose’s bedroom, colourful, but simple. On the top floor, both boys have their own bedrooms and another shower room.
I ask Catherine what she does in her spare time and does she have a favourite item in the house. “You have got to be joking,” she answers with a big smile. “Sporty children, taxi service, no home help with a substantial house to run, all equal hardly any spare time. Neil used to play cricket for Norfolk, which he is now re-living through our son Elliot. India is very academic and also loves swimming, tennis, hockey and skiing, plus paying the flute. We still go on holiday to Dubai as a family once a year for the heat and the five star luxury, plus I go skiing with the kids once a year. Eating out at our local, The Lavender House in Brundall, is a firm favourite - always so welcoming and friendly. As regards favourite item, without any doubt our children, now and forever.
“Neil and I are happiest now when at home - or for Neil at a cricket match. We enjoy adding to the home, keeping everything looking tidy. For instance, we like the lawn to have stripes. I am very much a sentimentalist, a home bird, and this house so reminds me of my childhood around at my grandparents’. It has a very secure feeling and is somewhere that the children, Neil and I feel content. That said, when we bought it, the property came with a large plot, so we are now drawing up plans to create a new build incorporating all the things we love here, which we can do without having to move anywhere, as the children and Neil’s business are well established here - so watch this space.”
Fox Insurance Services, Sprowston,