When the owners decided to trade their smart London postcode for the tranquil beauty of the South Downs, they envisaged an idyllic, carefree life. However, the lure of an elegant Georgian coach house threw an unexpected curveball at the couple and their two young sons: the historic property had been split into two in the early 1970s, and a substantial, not to mention disruptive, renovation was needed in order to make it whole again.
The coach house is part of a much larger estate that was broken up in the 1950s and is Grade II listed, so it was important to do our homework. 'We worked closely with English Heritage during the planning phase to ensure our proposals were as detailed as possible.' When the owners first bought the property, it was two separate, and very different, properties. 'We bought one half first, which was recently renovated private residence, and we were able to move straight in, although it required some redecorating. The second part was being used as a hydrotherapy centre when we bought it eight months later, and was unsuitable for habitation.'
The couple commissioned artist Paul Treasure to paint a view of the coach house as seen from a lake on the estate. 'Our view of the lake is now obscured, so it's wonderful to have it immortalised.' They also enlisted the help of interior designer Sophie Head. 'I met her through a friend, so I was already familiar with her work.' The brief was for a welcoming, comfortable family space, with a nod to the property's heritage. 'Sophie introduced us to unfamiliar designs and different textures, and helped us to unify the scheme and improve the flow.'
Antique furniture, which was inherited from the her mother, sits comfortable alongside new pieces in this restful space. 'Sophie and I did a lot of shopping together, and I would pick out ideas from magazines which she would then develop. The house is wonderful for entertaining, but with two young boys and a dog, it had to be practical as well as pretty.'
The couple turned to architect Richard Witcher to mastermind the design concept for their new home; their brief was to open up one end of the coach house to create a space with the clear sight lines. The glazing is a striking feature of the design. 'The lovely arched windows in the kitchen were a little tricky. Originally, these were doorways, and they all lean slightly to the left and tilt at the top, which meant each window and trim had to be specially made. It was worth it, though. They enhance the openness of the design, which was Richard's main concept for the space, and provide wonderful visual access to the garden through the glazed extension.' They spent a lot of time perfecting the lighting, particularly in the kitchen and the garden room, where the glass and high ceilings were a challenge.
The couple sourced the eye-catching tiles having seen them used effectively in a nearby hotel. A beautiful and contemporary mint colour was used on the cabinetry to great effect.
The exposed wall, made with bricks reclaimed from elsewhere on the estate, provides a rustic contrast to the classic elegance of the furniture. The lighting throughout was painstakingly chosen for each room. Delicate floral and striped fabrics add personality, while the wooden flooring and sisal rug feel robust.
The paisley pattern on the Nina Campbell wallpaper adds a note of drama without compromising the tranquil mood of this space. A snug two-seater sofa sits proudly at the end of the bed. It is the perfect place to perch with a good book at the end of the day.
The owner fell in love with this metallic bathtub during a visit to the luxury design show, Decorex. The interior designer created the rest of the scheme around this traditional yet contemporary space.
Kitchen designer Tom Bayley designed and built the shelving for this space. The owners son chose the blue and green palette himself and which she says reflects his playful personality.
Get the look
Buy now: Cushions, cushions in Vientiane Ikat in Plam, Schumacher
The chrome washstand adds period elegance to this simply decorated room, which is entirely in keeping with the rest of the home.
'The overall finish is an expert blend of traditional and contemporary elements; the perfect reflection of our family.'
Get the look
Buy now: Basin and washstand, Kensington basin and washstand, Fired Earth
This house tour originally featured in Homes & Gardens, July 2017
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Heather Young has been Ideal Home’s Editor since late 2020, and Editor-In-Chief since 2023. She is an interiors journalist and editor who’s been working for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines for over 20 years, both in-house and as a freelancer.
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