The walls of Maria Le Mesurier’s country home on the Uppark estate in West Sussex are lined with baskets, of every shape, size and period imaginable. Handmade from natural wicker, seagrass or straw, they have been collected over a lifetime of travels to Italy, Spain and much-loved Madeira – the home of her late father, the Madeira-winemaker John Cossart. ‘For me they are like works of art, and each has a story to tell,’ says Maria, an interior stylist. ‘I love the rawness of their form and their simple aesthetic; and, of course, they provide invaluable storage.’
With five children – three from her first marriage (Alfred, 15, Pearl, 13, and Gio, 10); and two from her second, eight years ago, to Paul Le Mesurier, a cousin of the actor John (Dolly, five, and Rocky, two) – she makes design choices based largely on simplicity. ‘The more children I had, the fewer complications I needed, whether that be in life, belongings or furniture,’ she says. ‘My style is smart without frills, but ordered and always natural. Juggling a busy family life and work, my head can feel like the inside of a handbag, so for me organisation and a streamlined home are key.’
The family moved into their new home five years ago. ‘We were living like sardines in a small converted farm building nearby,’ says Maria, so they decided to do a house swap with her mother, who had the opposite problem and felt she had too much space.
Situated amid beautiful West Sussex countryside, the 17th-century Uppark estate had been inherited by Maria’s great-grandfather, Admiral the Hon Sir Herbert Meade-Fetherstonhaugh, in the 1930s. When the war ended, he and his son approached the National Trust and asked it to take on Uppark to protect it for the future, and in 1954 the main property passed to the Trust, while the extended family continued living within the house and on the estate. In the late 1980s tragedy hit when Uppark was devastated by fire: Maria and her family lost all their possessions and her parents moved into the former stables, where her mother remained until the house swap.