After coming through an emotional few years filled with upset and loss, Annabel Benton has created a living space in her Southsea home that offers tranquillity and solace.
Kate Thompson visited Annabel to find out more, and this is her story. Photos: Paul Windsor
A fascinating life, full of travel and adventure, is reflected in the carefully curated objects in the living space of Annabel Benton’s Southsea home.
Passing the delightful, colourful Victorian tiles that surround the front door as you step over the threshold, Annabel’s home is an oasis of calm and serenity.
Stripped floors with Pompey boards and white walls create the perfect backdrop for keepsakes, treasures, and furniture found across the years.
“My favourite room is the dining room,” said Annabel. “I tend to spend most of my time there.”
A large bookcase covering the facing wall has been repurposed to house special objects collected over a lifetime.
“When I moved back here three years ago, the house felt very dark and old fashioned.
I had a vision for how I wanted it to look, and it has evolved over time.
“Originally I thought I might get rid of the shelves (which are Mexican pine), but my daughter India and partner Nigel persuaded me to keep them and use them to display items that mean a lot to me,” explained Annabel.
Annabel’s brothers work in design and furniture making and their influence is all around. The dining room table was once a dreaded piece of dark furniture, but her resourceful brothers took it apart and used the elements to create a delightful table which is full of style.
“I took back the dark colour and let the natural beauty come through,” said Annabel.
Annabel lived in Nigeria with her parents until the age of four, and place mats dating from that era are a treasured possession. A nurse by training, she lived with her doctor husband in Saudi Arabia for 13 years and spent two years in Singapore too.
Annabel spent six years looking after both her father and her husband. Initially when her husband died she could not bring herself to live in the home they had shared, but eventually she felt able to make the move.
“At first I found the prospect of moving back daunting because of the small size of the house. I sanded some of the floors and painted. I took away the ugly fireplace that dominated the front room.
“My settee is from my father’s home, and I am planning to get it recovered. My daughters say I should get a more comfy one but I love the design of this one.
“My parents had a wonderful round oak dinner table, it was very large and there were five children in the family. “So my brothers used the wood to make us all an item that we can cherish.”
Annabel’s home is full of memories but she has worked hard to make sure the possessions that surround her trigger positive and happy thoughts.
“My home is really tranquil and peaceful. I work as a learning support assistant four days a week which, is quite hectic.
“So I really enjoy being able to come back to a place I can call home,” she said.