If you could live in any historic house, which one would it be? House & Garden's editors share theirs

Part of the fantasy of walking round a great country house like Chatsworth or a fascinating interior like Charleston is imagining what it would be like to live there. But which one would you choose?

David Nicholls, Deputy Editor

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Oh go on - I'll live in the Palazzo Fortuny if I absolutely have to. It's now home to the Fortuny Museum of course, but this Venetian Gothic masterpiece, dating back to the 16th century, retains some of its original rooms to show how Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo and his family lived from the early 20th century. The colours, the decoration and the acres and acres of silk  - on the walls, at the windows, used in costume design which is also on display - all contrive to create a sumptuous, otherworldly interior. One of my current favourite rooms ever is the Winter Garden - with three walls covered in a hemp cloth painted mural with trompe l'oeil scenes of allegorical figures, exotic animals and plant motifs. It is perfectly executed high campery. What is not to like?

Caroline Bullough, Chief Sub Editor

The sundial in the rose garden at ChartwellSeabreeze / Alamy Stock Photo

Chartwell – Winston Churchill's former home – is a National Trust house I could imagine living in very happily. While it is large, it is not ostentatiously grand and feels comfortably unpretentious for its size. The garden is quite low-key by English country-house standards (with a rather strange swimming pool), but there are the most wonderful views over the Weald of Kent. Though there has been a house on the site as far back as the 16th century, the present house is principally a 1920s concoction, with many of the 'period details' introduced as part of a costly renovation that nearly bankrupted Winston and his wife Clementine. I like the fact that, though the National Trust have had to make a few changes to accommodate visitors, many of the rooms are furnished as they might have been in the 1920s and 1930s. So you get a real sense of what it might have been like to be one of the many people who the Churchills entertained there. I especially love the dining room with its bespoke Heal's chairs and trio of windows. When a friend (quite unprompted) said that our dining room reminded them of Chartwell's, I was ridiculously pleased.

Fiona McKenzie Johnston, Art Editor

Maharawal Palace, Sonar Qila, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India. (Photo by: Amit Pasricha/IndiaPictures/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)IndiaPictures/Getty Images

“There are so many achingly romantic houses around the world that I can semi-visualise myself living a parallel life in. The Maharawal Palace in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan is now a museum, but the elaborately pierced and engraved sandstone outer walls and balconies have a permanent place in my mind’s eye, and I dream of a secret life within them, able to see out when nobody can see me. Villa Santo Sospir on Cap Ferrat is another such fantasy; decorated by Madeleine Castaing with murals by Jean Cocteau, I can picture glittering parties and a life of perpetual decadence. But ultimately I’d get too hot living in the Indian desert, and I’m actually not terribly sociable and often prefer an early night with a book, so perhaps it had better be a larger house in London than the one we used to have, in the same area, so Charles Jencks’ Cosmic House on Landsdowne Walk, W11.

Sue Barr

Also, I’m genuinely a fan of post-modernism, and would hugely enjoy having a Piers Gough-designed jacuzzi that is based on the upended Renaissance dome of Borromini (it’s never worked, but I’m sure that could be remedied), a cantilevered concrete spiral staircase with a black hole mosaic by Eduardo Paolozzi at the bottom, and sleeping in a bedroom that is designed around the subdivided square motif. I even love the decidedly kitsch kitchen, which has been criticised for putting form over function, but when you live in a city with such good Deliveroo options, why would that matter?

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But if I could truly choose anywhere at all, anywhere in the world, it would be Hanford, a Jacobean manor house in Dorset. It’s the extraordinarily beautiful - and happy - girls’ boarding school that I went to between the ages of seven and twelve, and then lived in as a teenager when my parents started working there, and I know every loose floorboard, every chip on the shell-headed niches in the entrance passage, every sloped step and vase finial of the oak staircase. I know which the warmest rooms are in winter (in truth, not many of them would be thus described) and where to sit in the summer to feel the breeze coming off the box gardens. I can conjure up the paintings that hang in the garden hall, and feel the springs in the sagging sofa that used to be under a wisteria-surrounded window in the dining room. It was never mine, but it was my first great love - along with my pony, Rainbow, who lived there with me - and I’ve never entirely got over it.

Arabella Bowes, Commerce Editor

Andreas von Einsiedel / Alamy Stock Photo

Because I’m both greedy and indecisive, I’m picking two houses. The first of my two is Monk’s House, the 16th-century cottage that once belonged to Virginia Woolf. Tucked away in rural Sussex, Virginia chose the house for the ‘fertility and wildness of the garden’: I’ve chosen it because of her.

Monk’s House is not too grand, but it is perfectly formed with a writing lodge in the garden where she wrote some of her most celebrated works. Just down the road from the house is Charleston, the beating heart of the Bloomsbury group, and the home of Virginia’s sister. It’s certainly the more famous of the two houses, but something about Monk’s House just speaks to me in a way that certain spaces do.

The palette of Monk’s House is mostly arsenic green, with splashes of rich red and blue. There are tiny nods to the Bloomsbury group - painted tiles around the fireplace, decorated panels - without being overwhelming. Apologies if this makes me sound like a heathen, but I’d find it difficult to actually live in a house where every surface is so decorated.

John Keats' house in HampsteadClare Waddingham / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

The second house is also steeped in literary history, and arguably even more Romantic. It is the home of John Keats, who lived there for a few years before leaving for Rome in an unsuccessful attempt to cure his tuberculosis. Keats is one of my all time favourite poets, but even if he weren’t, I’d undoubtedly still be hankering after a Regency villa slap bang in the middle of Hampstead.

Eva Farrington, Art Editor

I grew up (and my mum still lives) a short stroll away from Kettles Yard and I used to visit quite often when I was little in the 1980s. My memories are a bit blurry but I do remember a large crumpled white sofa that I would sit on when nobody was looking. There were a pebbles I wanted to touch, a painting of a man in a nice jumper and a lovely cool brick floor. It was also largely always quiet and empty, and I wished, as my house was full of a brother and lodgers, that my mum would sometimes forget and leave me there.

Christabel Chubb, News Editor

The Nissim de Camondo museum is an elegant French decorative arts house museum located in the Hotel Camondo in Paris, France, on 1 September 2020.(Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)NurPhoto/Getty Images

I'd move into the Nissim de Camondo house in Paris - it was built in the early 20th century and became a museum in 1936. It remains as it was when it was built, by Moise de Camondo and the architect René Sergent. Based on the Versailles Palace, it's packed full of beautiful French textiles, colours and architectural details. The gardens back onto park Monceau - it's spectacular! Or Villa Necchi Campiglio in Milan - which was designed by Piero Portaluppi in the early 1900's. And in part by Gio Ponti, I think, and is an incredible example of Italian design and the gardens are lovely too.

Virginia Clark, Digital Director

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If we're fantasising, I'll have a city pied-à-terre and a country house, thank you, and the former would be 2 Willow Road in Hampstead, the former home of the architect Ernő Goldfinger, who designed the terrace it sits in, and much of the furniture within it. Modernist houses are so beautifully designed for modern life (unsurprisingly), and I love the way light streams in and its the cleverly configured rooms (the main living area has a partition you can fold back for parties). With its huge windows, spacious rooms and uncluttered aesthetic, it's a wonderfully soothing place to be. Plus it has a fantastic art collection that includes works by Henry Moore, and it's practically on Hampstead Heath.

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Heading for the country, it would be the completely charming Willy Lott's House at Flatford in the Dedham Vale. Immortalised in Constable's painting The Haywain, the house was first built in the 16th century and extended in the 17th, and occupies a delightful situation next to the River Stour. The whole site is now run by the National Trust, so I'd have to remove the cafe and so on (sorry, general public!), but I'd be left with wonderfully secluded house from where I could walk up and down the river, perhaps go for a swim, and explore the Suffolk countryside. I don't think there's much going on in the interior these days, but I'm not averse to a (fantasy) project.

Charlotte McCaughan-Hawes, Deputy Digital Editor

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In contrast to my rather lavish colleagues, I'm choosing a single room to occupy: the Octagon Room of Orleans House. In all honesty, the reason I am only getting a single room in this fantasy is because the rest of the house sadly no longer exists, and it was only the baroque beauty of the Octagon Room that survived dereliction over the 20th century. Thank goodness, because it a thing of beauty and the unique shape makes the rather small – though very lofty – room seem endless. It's a grand room, that's for sure, and it was designed in the early 1700s to be a place where James Johnston, joint Secretary of State for Scotland, could entertain on a large scale and impress the royal court. It worked, but that's not what drew me to it. There are windows on five on the eight facets, a huge marble fireplace, gilding and the most perfect chequerboard floor, all of which work within the scale of the room to make it feel utterly, totally peaceful. It helps that it is set on the Thames and surrounded by trees, so everywhere you look, you see nature and feel removed from daily life. Now, however, it forms part of Orleans House Gallery and so is frequented either by those seeking culture or the very smart in-the-know people who marry in the opulent setting. I'd happily kick them out, put an antique futon in the middle of the room and keep it as my space to think.

Elena Smintina, Decoration Coordinator

Entrance hall of Eltham Palace, London, 2003. In origin, Eltham was a royal palace, but by the early 20th century it was partly ruined. In the 1930s the Courtauld family used the architects Seely & Paget to restore and extend the historic buildings to create a family home. The entrance hall was designed by Swedish designer Rolf Engstromer. Artist: Unknown. (Photo English Heritage/Heritage Images/Getty Images)Heritage Images/Getty Images

What I love about Eltham Palace is that it's both playful and sophisticated, a combination that is not that easy to achieve if you go over the top with your personal eccentricities. Once a medieval palace, it was acquired in 1933 by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld, a millionaire couple who seem to have gloriously enjoyed their lives there. It's a house where I'd constantly wear extremely stylish clothes, invite everyone over and disappear towards midnight. 

Ruth Sleightholme, Decoration Editor

2H23X44 Villa Necchi Campiglio, An icon of ?30s deco in the heart of MilanStefanos Kyriazis / Alamy Stock Photo

I know I am not the first person to say that I think I could lead an excellent life in Villa Necchi Campiglio, a city-centre Villa, built in 1930s Milan, which balances classical layouts with a modernist sensibility. For me it shimmers with romance, whilst never feeling stuffed with stuff; the living feels modern, easy and convenient, and yet the materials and finishes are beautifully precious and antique. Maybe the most internet-famous room is the veranda, with large, brass-framed windows, heavily planted up from the outside; green, curved sofas and geometric marble floor. But what stays in my mind - beyond the rosewood lobby - is the layout of the first floor, where each of the original residents has their own apartment, with bathrooms that I adore. Each bathroom has its own style and materiality, but are all laid out in the same way: one cubicle for showering and one for a loo, with a bathtub stretched between the two, opposite double sinks and a dressing table: all laid out in mirror and marble. Even the housekeeper's bathroom is understated but chic, with black, gloss tiles and a porthole mirror. The breezy gardens and swimming pool will help me lead this beautiful life, for sure, but in every room this house gives absolutely flawless living. One thing though - lacking staff, I just might need to move the kitchen up from the basement.