One weekend, visiting friends in their country house near Bath, was all it took to change the direction of Joanna and Simon Binder’s life from long-term city dwellers to committed countryside lovers. The epiphany happened 20 years ago, when the couple stayed in a picturesque valley near Bath.
‘We were smitten with the area and by the end of the weekend we had found a property to rent in a small village near to where we currently live. That was the start of a life-changing direction,’ Joanna recalls.
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Their move to a country house wasn't immediate. Joanna’s job in fashion and Simon’s in the restaurant business meant they needed to stay in London during the week, but every weekend returned to Wiltshire for the wide rolling landscapes and peaceful slow tempo of life.
The pair found their current home while looking for a place to keep their cars. ‘Simon had sent a note around the village asking if anyone had any dry storage for cars. We received a reply saying we could have the storage but would also need to buy the house,’ Joanna elaborates.
Drawn to the location, with its extra space, garden and opportunity to develop the barns for additional guest accommodation, the couple made their move.
Since buying the property, the couple have embarked on an ambitious renovation that unfolded over two stages – first the main house and then, several years later, the barns.
Throughout the cottage, the rooms have a pared-back, unpretentious yet chic feel achieved through pale wall colors, industrial looking pendant lights and elegant modern furniture.
When the work was complete, the couple finally took the plunge to uproot and move to the country permanently.
‘We’re both Londoners, born and bred, and we love the city, but we so looked forward to coming down every weekend. Over the years, we have got to know the area and the people better, making it feel more like home.'
The boot room is a functional, hard wearing space where the original cottage walls have been sealed with a lively raspberry shade of limestone paint.
Paint in ‘Red Ochre’ from heritage paint company Rose of Jericho.
The cottage entrance was small and enclosed, so the couple opened it up to create a larger hallway. They also changed the position of the staircase, which had felt like it was pointing in the wrong direction.
‘We opened up all the windows to get more light in,’ Joanna says. 'We also cut back the walls, which had been added to over the years for insulation, but were thick and cumbersome. We raised the ceilings in some cases and dropped them in others.'
Joanna wanted the kitchen to feel like a large, open and friendly entertaining space with the large table central to the action. The table was made from a tree by Ahmed Sidki of BowWow. Much loved chairs from The French House were reupholstered in hardwearing leather.
Reclaimed terracotta tiles from a French farmhouse give an authentic hardworking aesthetic to the kitchen, which contrasts nicely with the stainless-steel surfaces. As the kitchen has a low ceiling, it's designed without upper cabinets to give a more spacious, open feel. Ceiling lights, Trainspotters.
See: Kitchen ideas – decor and decorating ideas for all kitchens
The couple have given the cottage a ‘modern country’ interior. In the cosy living room, textures of fleece and tan leather bring an earthy, natural feel.
Sofa, The Conran Shop. Coffee table made by Ahmed Sidki of Bow Wow.
See: Living room ideas – clever ways to decorate living spaces
The hall was updated with a smart tongue and groove cladding, while a local ironmonger made the new banisters.
Joanna's grandfather’s chair was reupholstered and now creates a decorative spot to pause, beneath a painting found at an antiques shop.
Stripping back the ceiling and cladding the internal roof in oak gave the bedroom a more spacious yet cosy feel. The couple sacrificed a third bedroom to make their master suite.
See: Bedroom ideas – designs and inspiration for beautiful bedrooms
En suite bathroom
The bathrooms in the property were refreshed with large slabs of Moroccan stone and Tadelakt waterproof plaster. Smart joinery for window sills and bathroom surfaces, in the same light oak as the floorboards, brings a sleek unifying appearance to the interiors.
In the couple's en suite, placing the bath under the low eaves makes excellent use of the space while the same paint colour used for ceilings and walls makes the room appear larger.
See: Bathroom ideas – stylish decor ideas for all bathrooms
Since moving permanently to Wiltshire, the couple have had many visitors. Joanna describes a social life that revolves around long suppers at their large kitchen table surrounded by friends.
‘We always have a full house, and it's lovely to be able to give them a wonderful room of their own to feel comfortable in,' she says.
The oak headboard, made by a local joiner, doubles as a display shelf.
An original stone window gives a view over the garden. The minimal scheme is practical and stylish, with the shelf either side of the basin offering plenty of room for guests' toiletries.
The couple gave the gardens and grounds surrounding their country house the same care and attention as the interior.
‘At the front of the house was a massive area of gravel so we laid turf and created beds, planting trees at the front of the house,’ Joanna describes.
They also planted two large orchards of over 50 trees, as well as a wild flower meadow to encourage bees and butterflies. ‘Bulbs planted in November fill the garden with a riot of colour in the spring and the garden is in bloom until late autumn,’ says Joanna.
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