The site of a former Indian restaurant doesn’t sound like the most promising place to make a dream home. But denim guru Donna Ida has done just that, overseeing the renovation while also running successful boutiques in London.
She shares the bright, glamorous, four-bedroom property in Wiltshire with her husband, Bobby Thornton, a restaurateur.
‘It was originally a Victorian pub, which my husband had converted into an Indian restaurant,’ explains Donna. ‘With three acres of land surrounding the property, it seemed like a waste of space so we decided to convert it into a home for ourselves and move the business elsewhere.’ The couple enlisted the help of a local builder to open up the house to let in light and make the most of the views.
The internal structure was gutted, walls removed and the height of the main open-plan living area was raised to create a big, lofty space.
It was not an easy process: the restaurant closed in January 2014 and building work went on for 16 months. ‘After we decided to open up the roof, we realised that the whole back section was going to cave in. We had to support it all, which added a lot of time and expense,’ Donna says.
Once the building was structurally sound, an under-floor heating system was installed and everything was painted to give a neutral backdrop. A sleek marble and chrome kitchen adds a contemporary feel to the core living space.
‘The marble is very calming and clean but it provides pattern and tactility. I’m so happy with it. I’m not much of a cook but it’s great to spend time in there.’
When it came to decorating, Donna used cheerful fabrics and patterns throughout, striking a confident balance between comfort and style. Pops of bright colour, such as the acid-yellow velvet ottoman, and other modern pieces are offset with vintage finds.
The overall feeling is of an upbeat contemporary home that’s almost as dynamic as the lady of the house. ‘I love colour, but I like to keep the walls white and add interest with bursts of brights. I like being surrounded by things that make me feel uplifted and happy,’ says Donna. ‘It’s quite a feminine house – I’ve put my stamp on it, but my husband doesn’t mind.’
Donna’s home office has pink glossy walls to add ‘an extra level of glamour’, and upstairs the master bedroom suite has been reconfigured to create a restful space complete with a plush dressing room. Now 42, Sydney-born Donna was 25 when she arrived in London, and worked in marketing before opening her first shop in 2006.
The idea for the business was born when a friend suggested that she channel her obsessive quest for the perfect jeans into a store selling an edit of the best denim from around the world. As a self-confessed jeans addict, Donna has around 40 pairs in her wardrobe at any one time.
She extends her high-low fashion philosophy to her home, mixing the precious with the accessible. ‘In the same way I might wear a cheap T-shirt with an expensive pair of jeans, I like to use affordable things at home and dress them up – like a cheap sofa in good-quality upholstery.’ Donna has several Ikea pieces and also revamps things she finds on eBay: the bathroom cabinet, for example, was repainted in a chic grey.
The sleek transformation of Donna’s home is all the more impressive given that she did much of it remotely, getting her builder to send pictures to her phone of everything from paint swatches to the position of radiators. ‘I did some tearsheets from magazines and knew roughly the colour scheme I wanted but I sourced most of the furniture online and visualised how it would look,’ she says.
‘I’m a very driven and decisive person. I think if you have to ask a question about whether something’s right, then the answer is no.’ She compares creating her home to finding the right pair of jeans, which she still loves helping customers to do.
She describes herself as a ‘shop girl’ who ‘runs on adrenaline’ and often works six days a week. To relax, she retreats to her marble-clad bathroom on a Friday evening. ‘I have a glass of gin while soaking in the tub,’ she says with a laugh. ‘It’s total bliss.’