A farmhouse in the middle of a nature reserve in North Kent became home to Georgina and Gareth Fulton when they returned to the UK after living in Cyprus.
When Georgina's father came to Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey, he originally farmed the land. But when the area was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, he encouraged wildlife to flourish and turned the arable land back to extensive grazing for cattle.
Today, Elmley is a nature reserve and an important breeding ground for migratory birds. The birds are so unaccustomed to predators, they don't bother hopping out of the way when a car drives along the two-mile track to the farmhouse.
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Georgina and Gareth returned here in 2013, turning their attention to Kingshill Farmhouse after first building a set of shepherd’s huts, the barn and a cottage – all available as accommodation for visitors to the nature reserve.
‘The farmhouse really is the hub of it all,’ Georgina says.
It had fallen into disrepair, having been used sporadically over recent years. Structural repairs were needed to the 18th century, Grade II listed building, plus plumbing and power upgrades.
‘We are off grid and create all our own electricity,’ explains Georgina. ‘We now have a reliable battery-pack generator as well as solar power, but when we first moved here the only source was a noisy generator.’
Inside, the couple wanted the house to feel luxurious and homely.
Georgina brought in interior designer Francesca Rowan Plowden (opens in new tab) very early on, working alongside architect Tom Dunn. ‘Francesca understood our vision and kept us involved at every stage,’ Georgina says.
Take a tour of the property to see the renovation of the rundown farmhouse, and its transformation into a stunning home that perfectly complements the natural setting.
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From the spacious, light-filled kitchen to the cosier snug with its woodburner stove, the emphasis is on deep, luxurious textures and colours that subtly link with the landscape beyond the windows.
A contemporary extension, finished in traditional local brick, houses a large kitchen-diner that has extensive views over the countryside. The worn textures of the antique table and a vintage cabinet bring character into this seamless addition.
In the more modern kitchen, a vintage cabinet, earthenware pots and industrial-feel lighting are reminders of the farm’s working past.
Bare brickwork, part of the original exterior wall of the farmhouse, adds authentic texture to the extension.
Cabinetry, Portrait Kitchens (opens in new tab). Light pendants and tiles, bespoke by Rowan Plowden Design.
Bespoke lighting and artisan tiles bring a pop of pattern when used as a splashback behind the Rangemaster (opens in new tab) range cooker.
The tiles also add a touch of traditional farmhouse kitchen style, and bring warmth to the practical, sleek surfaces. Lights and tiles, made to order for Rowan Plowden Design.
See: Kitchen ideas – decor and decorating ideas for all kitchens
Despite the scale of the space and large fireplace, the dining room feels warm and intimate.
The worn texture of the sideboard and the vintage painting create a sense of ease and atmosphere. A flat-weave rug anchors the dining area, while vintage shell plates make an interesting wall display.
The table was made bespoke by Henley And Kille (opens in new tab). Walls painted in Bone by Farrow & Ball. Rug, The Oriental Rug Merchant (opens in new tab). Sideboard, The Rye Emporium (opens in new tab).
See: Dining room ideas – inspiration for decorating and furnishing your space
The farmhouse was furnished from scratch, so Georgina and Francesca made many trips together to nearby Ardingly Antiques Fair (opens in new tab).
‘Each piece was bought because it felt like Elmley to us – eclectic, individual and much loved. Using vintage and antique pieces also reflects our commitment to sustainability,’ Georgina says.
In the living room, deep teal blues, butter-soft vintage leather and gleaming vintage finds makes this a restful retreat at the end of the day.
Walls are painted in Inchyra Blue by Farrow & Ball (opens in new tab).
See: Living room ideas – clever ways to decorate living spaces
In the living spaces, deep paint colors, well-worn leather and artisan woven fabrics add to the cool country mood. In the snug, the fireplace was restored and a woodburner installed.
As the sun sets, the golden light brings out the richness of the ochre, blue and earthy greens in the rooms, colors that take a cue from nature but are then worked into far more indulgent interiors schemes.
Walls painted in Studio Green by Farrow & Ball. Yellow sofa, Made (opens in new tab).
Soft blush shades make this a peaceful space, enlivened with antique finds.
The soft pink sofa is from Made. Curtain in Romo (opens in new tab) linen.
The bedrooms, in particular, were designed to make the most of the views of the surrounding nature reserve. They can be seen from the carefully placed armchairs, the beds and even a roll-top bath.
‘The mood is all about being still and enjoying the peace, so we decided not to have any TVs in the bedrooms. There are, however, plenty of birdwatching books,’ Georgina says.
In the main bedroom, an escapist feel reigns thanks to a nostalgic wallpaper and an evocative bed frame.
Wallpaper by Lewis & Wood (opens in new tab). Bed frame, Oka (opens in new tab). Bench, Graham & Green (opens in new tab). Halabala armchair, covered in Rooksmore velvet by Lewis & Wood, Rowan Plowden Design.
A freestanding bath with a view offers unabashed luxury.
Bath, William Holland (opens in new tab). Curtains in Romo linen. Wallpaper, Beech by Lewis & Wood
Tongue and groove panelling was replicated to match original sections elsewhere in house. A bespoke sliding barn door divides this ochre-tinted room from its matching en suite bathroom.
Walls painted in India Yellow by Farrow & Ball. Rug, painting and tub chair, Ardingly Antiques Fair.
Shots of intense color breathe natural warmth into the rooms.
See: Bedroom ideas – designs and inspiration for beautiful bedrooms
The sunshine yellow shade gives a cheery morning welcome. Walls painted in India Yellow by Farrow & Ball. Bath, Victorian Plumbing (opens in new tab).
See: Bathroom ideas – stylish decor ideas for all bathrooms
Velvets and moody hues lend this room an indulgent air.
Headboard in Lewis & Wood velvet with Merchant & Mills buttons, bespoke by Rowan Plowden Design. Walls painted in Hague Blue by Farrow & Ball. Table lamp, Pooky (opens in new tab).
The couple couldn't be prouder of the completed project. ‘We wanted to reflect the unique character of the farmhouse, while creating a much loved home,’ smiles Georgina. ‘It feels as if we’ve put the soul back into the place.’
Andrea has been immersed in the world of homes, interiors and lifestyle since her first job in journalism, on Ideal Home. She went from women's magazine Options to Frank. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where she stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. She then shifted into freelancing, and spent 14 years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. She was then offered the job as Editor on Country Homes & Interiors, and now combines that role with writing for sister title homesandgardens.com.
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