Before this project, the owner and her husband and their two boys were living in a Fifties house nearby. ‘My husband is in property,’ says the owner. ‘He has a passion for renovating houses, and we were looking for a new challenge.’ The couple spotted a pretty 17th-century cottage for sale in a tiny hamlet near to where the owner’s parents live. ‘The hamlet is hidden away and has a secrecy to it,’ she says. ‘We knew it would be perfect for bringing up the boys.’
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The cottage needed lots of work, however. ‘It hadn’t been touched in 40 years but we could see its potential. The beams throughout had been painted black, so the interior was dingy, with dark carpets and mustard walls. But it had so many original features that gave it character, such as the period floor tiles and an old bread oven. We knew we could transform it into something fantastic.’
The house needed new electrics and plumbing but the owners also felt it needed rejigging and extending so that it worked as a family home. ‘We lived here for a year first and planned what we were going to do,’ says the owner. The couple came across a local company, Hartwood Oak, that specialises in oak-framed buildings, who they hired not only to build an extension for a new kitchen, but to renovate the whole house. ‘We couldn’t live in the house while work was going on, so we lived in a static caravan in the garden for nearly a year,’ says the owner. ‘It was exciting to see the work taking place.’
This 17th-century cottage, with an oak extension built in 2015 is in a tucked-away hamlet in Berkshire. ‘The house is set in a hamlet in beautiful surroundings and our boys have complete freedom to roam,’ says the owner. ‘It had a wonderful inviting feel, which we recognised as soon as we came across it. We definitely feel we have put our hearts and souls into making it our home.’
Once the structural work was completed, the owner sought the help of interior designer Lisa Cook, who lent a hand with the colour palette. ‘I’d found many of the fabrics but needed help with the final choice of paint colours,’ says the owner.
‘It’s a cottage, so it was important it had a cottage feel, but I wanted it to have a little sophistication, too. Our last house was decorated with soft pinks and greens so I chose greys and blues this time. The tones fit with the house and what it’s about – cottage style with flair.’
In the cosy living room, the blue and grey scheme complements the honey-hued beams and a linen sofa creates a relaxed feel. The owners have gone for furniture pieces with a smart, tailored look, but the fabrics and colours make sure the room still feels comfortable and inviting.
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When it came to the extension, the owners were keen to create one that wasn’t just ‘a box on the end of the cottage that didn’t fit’. Their priority was a design in keeping with the cottage and its surroundings.
The oak-framed design they chose comprises a weathered timber façade, with large windows to the side and rear that allow uninterrupted views over the fields. Inside, a vaulted ceiling creates the wow factor and makes a stunning setting for the kitchen, as well as a relaxed seating area. ‘It was a massive project,’ says the owner, ‘but the kitchen has become the heart of the home.’
The pretty gable window is framed with elegant floor-length curtains. Pops of gold add a spring feel.
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Although the layout of the bedrooms remained the same, the owners created a large en-suite bathroom for the main bedroom from a small dressing area and bathroom. A contemporary freestanding bath injects a modern touch.
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Now, the family are delighted with the renovation as the house flows from the lofty, wood-framed kitchen through to the beamed rooms elsewhere in the house. ‘The colours and tones bring the interior to life,’ says the owner. ‘It’s a lovely family home. On our doorstep is the most wonderful countryside. We go for beautiful walks and bike rides, yet we’re only 20 minutes from a town so the convenience factor is huge. Everything we need is on our doorstep.’