Creating foundations on which to build that timeless quality
Just under five years ago we decided to make the move from London to the Gloucestershire countryside. We were enchanted by the area with its steep wooded landscape, meadows divided by ancient stone walls and narrow winding lanes lined high with cow parsley.
We were lucky enough to find a home in the most beautiful position nestled into the side of a bucolic valley. Our land leads down to a meandering brook which exits through an ancient beech woodland filled with bluebells and wild garlic in the Spring. When the sun rises from behind the wooded valley, there is an ethereal beauty to the light which is just breath-taking.
Above are photos I took one gloriously snowy morning
The original part of the property is Georgian, dating back to the 1750s, built in a soft grey Cotswold stone peppered with lichen. Although pretty, the house had been added to over the years, resulting in an awkward internal layout with lots of doors, narrow corridors, a small kitchen which was more like a passageway, and low ceilings, with what I refer to as “runway” spot lights. Most of the original features were either gone or whitewashed over.
The façade after I altered the porch and added dormer windows
I wanted to get the bones of the property right; adding “original” features in keeping with the property, creating a large family kitchen, and forming a layout which naturally flowed. I personally, if possible, like to create a home in which every room is used. A functional home with modern comforts, but with a settled feel as if nothing had changed for centuries. That elusive quality which appears to have evolved over time, and a sense of playfulness that reflects the personalities of our family.
I always find it helpful to start with the original plans on projects like this, taking into consideration light and also the grounds. Taking photos of the exterior of the property to make sure any changes are in keeping aesthetically – any windows and doors moved or added, as well as extensions, need to improve the exterior. It was very clear when looking at the original plans, that the centre of the house didn’t work; too many narrow corridors and doors created with inappropriately placed plasterboard divisions. On the whole, we took the house back to its original walls, as I often feel, especially in old properties the rooms and walls are just meant to be – it is no good trying to turn a property into something its not. However, this does not mean that one cannot be bold when it is fitting.
The sitting room, in my mind, was the natural location for the kitchen. It already had a lovely open fire, something I love in a kitchen. The conservatory was replaced with a larger glass extension, which opens out onto the terrace and gardens beyond through huge sliding doors. It brings so much light into our home, and takes full advantage of the spectacular views.
Above left, how the kitchen looks now, with the large glass extension. The right photo shows the interior of the kitchen.
Above left, how the kitchen used to look, and above right, the sitting room before it became a kitchen.
Above, a music room where the original kitchen used to be.
The original kitchen was turned into a music room. We added the fire surround, reclaimed from another Cotswold property. There was no fire here previously, and the warmth it creates through the centre of the house is just fabulous. The plasterboard room division was removed, and window replaced with French doors opening onto the terrace. The ceiling, previously lowered for recessed spotlights and to cover the steel joists, was raised back to its original height. For me ceiling height is so important. We plaster-boarded the steel joists, chamfered the edges and added a cornice.
Above left, the Entrance Hall before renovating and above right, the Entrance Hall as it looks now
In the Entrance Hall I was lucky enough to find the original Inglenook fireplace hidden behind a modern surround, which especially when the fire is laid, creates such a welcoming impact on arrival. Again I raised the ceiling back to its original height, removing the plasterboard. Unfortunately, I revealed some rather ugly floor joists! I ordered some far more attractive structural oak joists, and with a competent team of builders managed to replace each joist individually without affecting the floor above.
On a final note, it is essential to place scaled furniture on plans. It is no good when everything is finished to suddenly discover a radiator where a beautiful piece of furniture should be placed! Also lighting, sockets, location of TV’s, possible data points, speakers, etc.., all need careful planning before a project starts. A foundation on which to layer the interiors.
As for the interiors, the project has achieved a relaxed, comfortable and inviting home. A home with 21st Century comfort, but with a sense of time and evolution. As with all interiors, this is also created by the people who live in them, their personalities and love for a property – which is certainly the case for my family, and home, which will continue to evolve over time.
Next month I will be discussing tips on how to achieve an effective lighting scheme…