Driving past the 1950s bungalow that was to become her home, Danielle Tolson’s first thought was that it was ‘fairly unsightly’. But the building was on a good plot and looked robust, so she and her husband, Bobby, couldn’t rule out a viewing. The family was rapidly outgrowing the stone cottage they were living in at the time, despite a series of extensions and refurbs. ‘With two boys, we knew we would need more space when they were older, and kids seem to return home after university into their twenties these days,’ says Danielle.
Walking around the bungalow, her initial reluctance began to fade away. ‘I felt comfortable that we could create an upstairs and started sketching plans which, two years on, were pretty much what we ended up with,’ Danielle says.
Danielle and husband Bobby's radical remodel of that humble bungalow raised its roof and turned it into one of the world's best homes, a striking barn-style family home that now stretches proudly up to an additional floor.
Danielle is no stranger to making things cozy and comfortable – with her business partner Helen McRae, she runs Tolly McRae, selling luxury, 100% natural blankets, throws, towels and sheepskin rugs. As Danielle embarked on the huge building project, those all-important finishing touches seemed a long way off – first she had to create the setting for her own interpretation of modern farmhouse style.
To save budget, she worked to the original footprint of the bungalow, with the idea of turning it into a barn-style house. This meant costs like moving drains and digging foundations were kept to a minimum, and the garden was undisturbed. ‘It still turned out to be a massive project,’ Danielle says. ‘I thought we could live in it while an upstairs was added, but that was rather naïve. We ended up moving in with my mum for the duration of the seven-month build.’
The roof came off, the plumbing and electrics were stripped out and at one point there were just four walls standing. ‘We built the walls up by just over three feet and did a hip-to-gable conversion with vaulted ceiling throughout. This required about 30 steels but we maximized the upstairs floor space and doubled the size of the property,’ says Danielle.
If this project has got you thinking about how you could remodel your home, it's worth looking into how to commission an architect.
‘There were a couple of things I always wanted for the house, which were black cladding and steel windows,’ says Danielle. ‘We eventually got planning permission for the cladding but decided against the steel windows because they’re not thermally efficient. Instead, we decided to invest heavily in the windows, which are made of hardwood clad in aluminium, knowing they would look impressive, provide good insulation and require minimal maintenance.’
Inside, Danielle wanted to create a modern space, with big, light and airy rooms but without it feeling stark and cold. There are plenty of inspiring living room ideas in the new open-plan layout. She kept to a limited colour palette of white, beige, grey, black and gold, with lots of blonde wood. She restored the original 1950s parquet flooring but replaced it with porcelain tiles in high-traffic areas such as the hallway and kitchen.
Danielle wanted a scheme that would be comfortable for both working and relaxing in. The living space showcases a monochrome palette while texture adds interest. To add warmth and texture, Danielle layered furniture with natural textiles such as wool throws and sheepskin rugs, which give an overall feeling of coziness, especially at Christmas.
The kitchen was a real project for Danielle and she came up with a whole host of budget-friendly solutions and practical kitchen ideas. ‘I knew if we were to stay on budget, I’d need to source cabinets, worktops, knobs, handles and shelving online,' she says. ‘I designed and planned the kitchen myself and spent about two years searching and going direct to manufacturers to get the best deals.’
Danielle decided to inject some impact with a dramatic botanical wallpaper from Cole & Son. Wallpaper ideas are a wonderful way to add color, pattern and interest to your interiors.
The flooring in the open-plan dining space is the original 1950s parquet flooring which Danielle was keen to keep. It's a good way of differentiating the space from the kitchen. The table was repurposed from her previous cottage as a temporary measure but now, mixed with the modern chairs, she likes the look.
‘We opted for four large bedrooms, which meant everyone got their own space and we still had a guest room. I was never tempted to compromise on this by squeezing in a fifth bedroom,’ says Danielle. She runs her business from home so also needed enough space for an office and plenty of storage. Among many great bedroom ideas in the main bedroom is a Juliet balcony that emphasises the high ceiling. The neutral palette is tempered with a mix of monochrome and pink, and offset by a modern side table from John Lewis & Partners.
In the guest bedroom, Danielle injected a pop of color by adding Fired Earth’s Carbon Blue on the walls. ‘The ceiling created interesting angles in this room, and I wanted to add some warmth. The other rooms are so big I don’t think such a dramatic color would’ve worked, but I love it in here.’
Danielle was determined the ensuite would be her haven. ‘It’s a big space for a bath, toilet and a basin but it’s just for me!’ The black and white hard-wearing porcelain tiles from Fired Earth add a timeless, modern feel to the bathroom. The bath towel is from Tolly McRae.
‘My vision isn’t finished yet,’ says Danielle. ‘We still need to build a garage and landscape the garden. We decided to invest in good-quality materials and, inevitably, that meant we had to compromise to stay on budget, like putting the garage build on hold for a while. For now, it works perfectly for our family and we’re looking forward to a big Christmas in a space where we can house everyone comfortably.’
And with the pretty pink wreath in place on the new front door, everyone is sure of a very warm – and stylish – welcome.
Words / Anna Pattenden
Anna Pattenden is a freelance lifestyle journalist, copywriter and editor. She enjoys exploring the personal stories of homeowners, from what lies behind their choice of where to live to the influences reflected in their interior design decisions. She lives in an Edwardian terrace in south-east London and is about to embark on her own renovation project.
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