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Seeing all their dreams and the hard work they had put into building their family home go up in smoke, just five years after they had completed the finishing touches, was, obviously, utterly heartbreaking for these homeowners.
Country-lovers, they’d made the decision to move from the outskirts of Christchurch in Dorset to the centre of the coastal town. ‘The children were growing up and we were a car ride from the centre. We wanted to be within walking distance of things for them, but retain a sense of rural life,’ says the homeowner.
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After finding a suitable bungalow for sale, the couple spent a year remodelling it to create a spacious five-bedroom house. The family enjoyed their new home for five years, until disaster struck.
‘We were on holiday when we got a phone call from our son, to tell us there had been a fire in the house. The fire itself wasn’t the main problem – it was the smoke damage,’ says the homeowner. ‘Everything was stained black. It was complete devastation.’ But the couple weren’t beaten, and set about salvaging what was left, so that they had a warm and welcoming family home yet again.
When the couple decided to move, they rented in the town until a suitable bungalow came up for sale. The property they eventually bought, only 100 yards from the house they were living in, hadn’t made an impression at all initially. ‘It was an unassuming house with the front door at the side, two bay windows and a very large roof.
When I saw the roof space, I instantly knew it had potential,’ says the homeowner. But it was the garden that clinched the deal for her. ‘Despite the neighbouring houses, it was completely private; all I could hear was birdsong and all I could see was sky. There was little sense of the town around us at all.’
The homeowner knew they could make the layout work for them. ‘We had the space and the wherewithal to do it,’ she says. ‘So I started drawing footprints of the house with a door at the front. I gave these to my brother, who is an architect, and he came up with the idea of having double-height bay windows on the new first floor.’
A ground-floor extension was then built on to the back to create an open-plan family room and kitchen-diner with lots of glazing and huge, full-width bifold doors that open out to the garden.
‘I wanted this to be the part of the house where everyone spends time together. It’s where we all naturally gravitate – the rest of the house flows from here,’ says the homeowner. A glazed pergola, complete with decking, was added on to the extension to create a sheltered alfresco entertaining area.
Then came the fire. ‘The fire had started in the glazed family room so everything had to be taken back to the brickwork in there and the double glazing all need to be replaced,’ says the homeowner. Luckily, she was able to salvage the kitchen cabinets. She chose to paint the island in an aubergine shade to add a touch of drama to the space.
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Buy now: Main units painted in Worsted, £62 for 2.5L, Farrow & Ball
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The homeowner carried the aubergine accent colour throughout the rest of the family room, too. ‘I prefer shades that gently recede. Then I’ll lift the scheme with a feature colour,’ says the homeowner. Now lots of natural wood, quirky patchwork tiles and soft wool upholstery in damson shades give the open-plan space the modern country look she favours, and sumptuous fabrics bring a luxe feel.
Upstairs, a further three double bedrooms, two of which are en suite, plus a family bathroom, were created in the roof space. French-style furniture gives this bedroom a sophisticated, feminine feel.
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The homeowner stuck to neutral shades and greenery to create a sanctuary feel in the bathroom.
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‘It’s a lovely home and we appreciate it all the more since the fire,’ says the homeowner. ‘When we first moved back in, it felt a bit like a showhome, but now that it’s been lived in for a little while, it’s really comfortable and very us.’