Donna Ida Floral Arrangement in blue kitchen with white marble countertops
in conversation with

donna ida:
The chatelaine
of Langdon
Court Manor

Words by Lucy Siddall

From high-end denim retail to owning an inviting
country house, ‘Jean Queen’ Donna Ida Thornton
on renovating, hotels and hosting.

Rooted in nostalgia, quality and style, Donna Ida is a brand designed to look and feel amazing. Inspired by Donna Ida’s Grandmother with styles named after the friends she would have had, the range is versatile, exceptionally high quality and timeless. Now, in addition to her thriving retail business alongside her husband, whom she affectionately nicknames ‘Bobby Dazzler’, the designer has swapped the city for the sea and a new adventure at Langdon Court Manor, the meticulously restored 16th-century property now available for private hire.

LS: What inspired you and your husband to buy Langdon Court Manor?

DI: I grew up in Australia, which, compared to The UK, is a very young country, so you don’t have these incredible old buildings steeped in history. We’re lucky to have them here, and I’ve always wanted to live the English country lifestyle. I was looking for places but couldn’t find the right one. We wanted space for guests, but the rooms needed en suites, too, so we decided to search for a small hotel instead. We went to see somewhere in Wales, and the second property we saw was Langdon Court Manor. We couldn’t believe how pretty she was. The house is so beautiful and near the sea, so the air is incredible. We just fell in love with her right away.

LS: When you first saw the house, what was your vision for what it would become?

DI: For me, it was always about de-hoteling her. I wanted to remove everything that made the building recognisable as a commercial property: the enormous kitchen, the plastic and the white paint which adorned everything and turn the existing structure into a big, beautiful, comfortable country home that was a hotel where people could stay, but it didn’t initially seem like it. There was to be no “back of house” or out-of-bounds areas. I wanted to reinvent the luxury hotel experience.

Lounge Landon Court Manor

The Drawing Room at The Langdon, where elevated luxury meets contemporary details featuring By Bazaar London. Fringed cushions (similar here), cotton cushions in ochre (similar here), glass bowl (similar here) and The Garden Book by Sonia Berjman.

The grand entranceway Landon Court Manor Donna Ida

The grand entranceway of the manor. Featuring ceramic vase (similar here), table (similar here), Impressionists at Home by Pamela Todd and Monet in the 90s - The Series Paintings.

Donna Ida Manor House Landon Court Manor

Langdon Court Manor, Donna Ida's meticulously restored 16th-century property.

The Drawing Room Landon Court Manor

The Drawing Room featuring gallery wall (similar here), gingham cushions (similar here), fringed cushions (similar here), sofa (similar here), and large table lamp (similar here).

LS: How did you tackle such a vast project?

DI: We had to do it one tiny bit at a time. As the phrase goes, “You eat an elephant one bite at a time.” It was literally like that. 

LS: Which is your favourite room in the hotel and why?

DI: That’s so hard. It changes all the time, but at the moment I love the drawing room and the library. The library in particular because it has the most enormous fireplace, the panelling is beautiful, and the paint is stunning. We chose a lovely pink by Edward Bulmer called Jonquil. The fabric on the sofa, too, is very soft. The whole room is just a very restful and cosy space. I love it.

LS: You have a lot of incredible artwork on the walls. Are these pieces you bought specifically, or did you have them already?

DI: I’ve been collecting art for over twenty years, and the collection at Langdon Court is a culmination of everything I’ve gathered. It doesn’t have to be expensive, it could be twenty pounds or a couple of hundred, but if it speaks to me, I want it, and that’s it! But it’s not just about the artwork. It’s about the room and the rest of the wall. It’s about what feels right in each space. However, I’ve never bought art as an investment; I’ve always purchased it because I absolutely love it, and I think the best collections stem from this mindset. 

Donna Ida The Drawing Room Langdon Court Manor

A sophisticated and considered room where guests can relax and unwind in luxury. Featuring vintage brass table (similar here), Live Beautiful by Athena Calderone, Kate Moss by Chris Roberts and Chanel: The Vocabulary of Style by Jérôme Gautier.

Seating Area at Landon Court Manor By Donna Ida

The sweeping views of the garden through the drawing-room windows.

LS: Where do you shop for your artwork?

DI: I’ve bought a lot of photography from The Little Black Gallery and modern British artists such as Tracey Emin and Bridget Riley through Tanya Baxter Contemporary. I also shop locally, so many paintings have come from nearby or art fairs. I’ve also gotten to know sellers over the years. I have a woman I see on Portobello Road who I’ve bought from. You tend to find dealers whose style you love and whose taste you admire.

LS: Now that the renovations are complete, is the finished property everything you thought it would be?

DI: Yes, but it’s more than I expected. It’s also still developing and getting better and better all the time. I see it as a lifelong project. We’ll be at Langdon Court for the next thirty or forty years, but she’s been here for five hundred years and needs looking after. We’re a small part of her journey, but we will look after and preserve the property for as long as possible. I feel like the house is providing a haven for me, and we’re lucky to have found it, so we’re doing everything we can to look after the building and the land while we’re alive.

LS: How do you approach hosting at home?

DI: Get everyone in and gather around the bar in the kitchen; we use this area a lot. We have a big table in the morning room, but we tend to gravitate to the kitchen like in most homes.

LS: What do you think is the most important thing when you’re hosting?

DI: Give people a drink immediately, and don’t wait for them to ask for one! Whether alcohol or not, if you’ve got something in front of you in a nice glass, you feel like “I’m supposed to be here”.

Langdon Court Manor Bedroom by Donna Ida

One of the breathtaking bedrooms at the manor. Featuring The Linden Table Lamp by Andrew Martin, Diptyque Roses Candle, velvet cushion (similar here), and glass decor (similar here).

The chatelaine of Langdon Court Manor Large Blue sofa with gallery wall

The Langdon Film Room featuring artists such as Hockney and Chris Levine from The Donna Ida Collection. Decor includes Reversible Letter Cushionby Jonathan Adler, Bella Freud 1970 Gold Ceramic Candle,World of Anna Sui by Tim Banks,  and Gucci - The Making Of by Frida Giannini.

Library Landon Court Manor

Donna’s favourite room in the house, The Library. Featuring Baum Sputnik Chandelier by Pure White Lines, Scandinavian Vintage Chairs.from the 1950s sold by 1st Dibs, Capri Dolce Vita by Cesare Cunacci, Riviera Cocktail by Edward Quinn and Seaside Polaroids by Jon Nicholson and Joseph Galliano.

Cosy bedroom Langdon Court Manor

This cosy bedroom is the perfect place to spend a lazy Sunday morning at the manor. Featuring Scalloped Bedspread by Sarah K, wicker basket (similar here) and Camilla Wallpaper Marmalade by Peony & Sage.

Langdon Court Mano Kitchen

The heart of Langdon Court Manor - the modern and exquisitely renovated kitchen. Featuring Bertazzoni Heritage Series Induction Top Electric Double Oven by Bertazzoni, Equilibrium Single Rise and Fall Pendant Set by Pooky, pendant light (similar here), flower basket (similar here), ceramic milk jug (similar here), Ginger Pig Meat Book by Fran Warde and Tim Wilson and Giglino Bowl With Stand by Bettina.

LS: How do you think the style of your home influences your hosting style?

DI: I’m not formal, so I’ll never get too dressed. If anything, I’m pretty casual, as I’ll often ask people to help or join in. As a host, I want people to feel relaxed and at ease.

LS: Can you give our readers tips on creating a beautiful experience when hosting guests at home?

DI: Make it easy for yourself. I love a one-pot dish or something easy like lasagna and salad. I never do a starter either, maybe a few nuts or nibbles. I keep it simple but always the best quality. That's it. Then you can make the table look amazing but nothing too complicated or fancy. I might go for spring or winter colours, but don't theme anything. It's just good quality, easy to serve and simple. Create a lovely atmosphere with good music, low lights and always candles. Simple but classic and welcoming.

Visit the Langdon Court Manor website to learn more about the property and the history of the beautiful building.

Langdon Court Manor Outdoors