This enchanting Georgian country house, built in the 1880s, features an elegant Regency facade added to during the Victorian period. Surrounded by 40 acres of its own farmland, the rooms range from grand to snug and cosy with beams and open fireplaces.
The couple’s love affair with the New Forest, where the six-bedroom house is located, began when they decided to leave London to retire. On their very first visit, the owner remembers driving gingerly past stray cows, donkeys and ponies to view a house she had spotted in a magazine.
‘We were enchanted,’ says the homeowner. ‘The New Forest is not all trees; it has wild, beautiful unspoilt heathland wrapped in a horizon of distant blue hills. When we finally arrived, we were looking at things through rose-tinted glasses and everything about the house seemed equally perfect.’
A Christmas wreath idea greets guests at the front door made from greenery gathered from the garden. For these homeowners Christmas starts early in November. It’s when they like to search out markets and small fairs to find sole traders or family businesses selling unusual presents. ‘It is a relaxing and enjoyable way to shop and saves us that last-minute dash to the big stores,’ says the owner.
Old 1960s tiles and a pine kitchen have been replaced with a clean-lined all-white kitchen supplied by Highham Kitchens with a four door Aga. The Ledbury glass pendants are from Fritz Fryer. A practical oiled oak kitchen flooring idea compliments the kitchen scheme.
Christmas Day is usually 12 people for lunch. ‘I order a homebred local turkey and make Yorkshire puddings and bread sauce’ explains the owner. ‘We’re not keen on Christmas pudding so I make a sherry trifle instead. There is nothing like real cream custard made with our hens’ eggs.’
Gradually the owners have been transforming the house to suit their style – a pared-down contemporary take on the classic English country house. Grouped around the original fireplace in the living room are two cream sofas.
‘For the moment the room is red and white,’ says the homeowner who gives the look a seasonal twist with a change of cushions.
Over the years and after many trips to local auctions, the rooms have been lovingly filled with characterful vintage and antique items. ’I like the pretty pieces – old glass medicine bottles, china or large mahogany pieces that I think I can do something with’ says the owner.
Most recently, the oldest part of the house, which had a 1980s kitchen, has been brought up to scratch. ‘The wall between the large formal dining room, which we hardly ever used, was taken down and opened up to create a new sitting-dining room space.’
The dining room is lavishly dressed with country Christmas decorating ideas. Fir and ivy are hung from the chandeliers in the dining room to make festive showstoppers. ‘Don’t hold back on glitzy ribbon – tied around silver candelabra or simple white linen napkins, it looks glamorous and extravagant.’
The table and Convex mirror were found in an auction and the Echo dining chairs are from Oka.
The new sitting room linked to the dining room has a colour scheme that picks up colours in an old Ikat rug. A traditional-style sideboard is decorated with a seasonal Christmas candle ideas. ‘To set the party spirit, extravagant gestures like swinging ivy off the chandeliers works magic,’ says the owner, who likes to go all out when it comes to festive decorating.
Failure to find the right bed for her daughter’s room turned out to be the catalyst for their new furniture business, Blue Isle. ‘I decided to design and make a four-poster bed for her – the experience persuaded me to start up a company selling pieces with simple lines in weathered oak.’
‘This bedroom had such good curtains which came with the house,’ the homeowner explains, ‘I never changed them.’ The four-poster bed, matching bedside tables and pink Ikat bedspread are all from Blue Isle.
As a qualified building surveyor the owner started with the bathrooms. ‘I like dealing with the nuts and bolts,’ she says. ‘From then on we pared back, taking out old pelmets and fitted carpets to expose the lovely windows and original floorboards.’
The top-quality bath which came with the house is matched with a traditional wallpaper, St Antoine, from Farrow & Ball. Wooden panels are painted in Rolling Fog from Little Greene Paint Company.
Feature originally written by Maggie Colvin