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Forget the fusty remnants of the past, throw out the gloomy drapes and antlers - modern barons of industry need equally modern castles.

A noble house needs baronial treatment when it comes to interiors but all too often buildings with a bit of history can end up being stuck in a time warp.

Owners of medieval, Victorian or Edwardian homes often feel they have to slavishly stick to the way things used to be, but Lorna Higgins loves to bring a 21 st century twist to an interior while still paying homage to the era.

When she first saw a large six bedroom house just south of Cambridge's busy railway station she fell in love with the dramatic Gothic style of the place.  "It is a wonderful building with plenty of space spread over three floors and lots of period detail like stained glass and panelling, but it did feel a bit closed in.  I just wanted to lighten up everything and let the original detailing really shine through," said Lorna.

Luckily she was soon given the chance.  An interior designer based in Cambridgeshire, Lorna had worked for the owner of the house before.  Spending long hours at his business left no time for home making, though he really appreciates living with fine things.

"I have worked on his first home in Cambridge, a modern town house near the River Cam, and we got on really well, so he called me in to help when he found his next house."

The style of the two homes couldn't be more different, but Lorna knew they had two things in common - they needed to be comfortable and the spaces had to work effortlessly.

"As soon as I saw this house I thought of glamour - rich fabrics, large almost over sized single items of furniture and a bit of drama," she said.

She chose a pale palette of colours to lighten the mood of the interior, including chalky off-whites from Dulux for the panelling and neutrals like Savage Ground and Buff from Farrow & Ball paints for the huge hallway with its sweeping staircase and vaulted ceiling.  "This made the most of the natural light and lifted the atmosphere, yet actually helped to pick out the period details like cornices and ceiling roses," said Lorna.

Paying extra attention to getting fittings right, like the antique bronze light switches, period lights and fireplaces took time and effort.  "But it really was worth it," she said.

Once the hall, drawing room and smaller snug sitting room were decorated it was time to add a touch of luxury.  Lorna turned to one of the world's style gurus, Ralph Lauren, and trawled through his collections for the look she wanted.

In the drawing room she went for two huge sofas in Garnet Red Palace Silk Velvet, teamed with Ralph Lauren's masculine and stylish Oakwood Silk Plaid in onyx colour at £140.00 a metre for the curtains and some of the cushions.  A black granite fire surround and a large dark Far Eastern-style coffee table are balanced by the unexpected prettiness of a glass chandelier.

"It is a room which just oozes glamour but there is nothing heavy about it.  It is a lovely light room by day and at night it is quite dramatic," said Lorna.

The smaller sitting room doubles as a television room and the scheme for the room started with a leather chair.  Lorna chose curtain material from Jim Dickens, Arezzo in Lincoln Sage at £45.00 a metre, for a distinctive bay window which had to have bespoke curtain poles.

Through the kitchen the house opens up into a garden room, used for dining, and Lorna used Print Room Yellow paint from Farrow & Ball to make it even sunnier.

Upstairs her main challenge was the master bedroom and again she found what she wanted at Ralph Lauren, this time choosing from the Hither Hills collection.  The walls are painted duck egg blue from Laura Ashley.

"The furniture is large - even the bedside tables and lamps are larger than usual - yet it is restful and comfortable; just the place to really relax."

She also found Victorian-style lanterns to hang from the high hall ceiling; the hallway is now so filled with diffused light it has become a perfect gallery for one of the owner's favourite paintings, a contemporary study of a dreamy Buddha by Jean-Marc Huss.

"My main aim was to pull everything together and make it feel like a home - even the painting looks as if it loves being here," said Lorna.


Red sofa

Table leg from drawing room