A sunlit garden room is now being added to one side of the house, and Kate, whose eye for design was honed during her years studying art history, is now sourcing all the interior details.
“The property is being decorated, ready for occupation,” Simon Knight, owner of Knights Oriental Rugs in Henley-on-Thames, tells PEOPLE.
“Instead of hiring a royal interior designer, she wants to furnish it in her own style, because she wants this to be her own family home.”
Knight spent time with the Duchess of Cambridge when she visited his antique rug store in January and purchased several Turkish kilims – a type of flat tapestry woven carpet.
“She was looking for things for bedrooms,” he said, “so she wanted softer pastel shades rather than strong colors.”
After first doing her research online, she came into the store armed with the specific stock codes.
“She knew exactly what she wanted to look at, as she had looked at my website,” said Knight. “She is very hands-on and down-to-earth, helping to get things out. She really wants to be involved.”
A Work in Progress
The home, which is surrounded by parkland on Queen Elizabeth’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk, required considerable renovation, including a complete re-tiling of the roof, which has just been completed.
On her nesting mission, the princess has also been spotted at the Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour, a one-stop shop for home furnishings that offers 500 designer brands in a three-story, modern showroom.
“I think she likes to pop in every now and again to look for inspiration,” a source there tells PEOPLE. “She is always by herself and very low-key. She browses and stops for a coffee.”
On one recent trip, Kate looked at traditional lighting at Vaughan Designs, fabrics at Sanderson (the arts-and-crafts Morris and Co. range was a favorite), as well as fabric at Mulberry Home where she was particularly taken with a jade green and teal paisley stripe material.
A shop assistant at Ann Sacks, which specializes in luxury tile and stone products, tells PEOPLE, “She was looking at the sort of thing you would imagine for a period property – reclaimed terra-cotta flooring from France and a particular reclaimed stone used in French castles that she liked too.”
The royal couple will likely go for another Natural Choice 4500 mattress from Healthbeds for their Norfolk home. Kate was so taken with the handmade pocket spring mattress in super king size – as was used for their four-poster frame at Kensington Palace – that she wrote a thank-you letter to the company saying “how pleased she was” with the bed.
Kate is still getting help from interior designer Anne Allen, who often calls in for products and offers advice. And, while Kate normally shops alone, she and William have reportedly hired Ben Pentreath, an architectural and interior designer.
“Her mother also has a very good eye for design – she has furnished a number of large country houses,” says Knight. “I think the Duchess of Cambridge has an interest in it, and it’s something that she really enjoys doing.”