When artist Nellie Shepherd was looking for a new home, it wasn't just herself and husband Andy she had to consider. She planned to run an art school so the setting and views around the house had to be picture perfect to her trained artist's eye. And the landscape beyond had to hold inspiration for the students who in time would be arriving to paint.
Luckily, the former farmhouse she found was beautiful inside and out - or at least Nellie knew it could be with a little work. Five years later, with the work completed the renovated house, its setting and sensitive renovation combine to create a truly special place to live.
The oldest parts of the former farmhouse date back to 1660, with additions made throughout its history. Nellie soon discovered that very little had been done to maintain the seven-bedroom property for years. So with the help of a specialist heritage builder she set to work putting the house back together again.
The roof had to be removed and all the ceilings came down as most of the rafters were rotten, and every single lintel needed to be replaced. It was stripped back to the brick, but Nellie was adamant that the old farmhouse shouldn't lose its character and the beautifully rounded newly lime plastered walls are one of the renovation details she is most proud of.
It would be quite wrong, however, to suggest Nellie is stuck in the past when it comes to interior design. She agrees that houses need to evolve to suit the way we live today, provided you get the bone structure right first – the beams, roof and lime plaster all had to come first. So the interiors are fresh, colorful and even contemporary in places. There's a boho-country look that fits with the fabric of the old building, but also with the colorful modern artworks and the dramatic Peak District landscape outside. We've picked out our favorite and most inspiring spaces – take the tour.
There are actually two kitchens in the old farmhouse. Nellie uses this one to cook for her art school students. There's plenty here to inspire anyone looking for kitchen ideas. Nellie designed the floating storage unit above the island, incorporating lights, and had it made by a local blacksmith. The bespoke cabinets were also built to her design by a local cabinetmaker. Having items made to your own plans in this way not only saves money, but also ensures you get the finished look you want.
A worn old butchers’ block provides welcome extra display space by the back door. The landscape painting is by Richard Kitson.
Backing onto the home's second kitchen, this open-plan dining area merges the two spaces. Dining room ideas worth borrowing include the use of old church pews, which provide plenty of extra seating for visitors and add character to the space. The large pendant light above the table, was designed by Nellie and made by a local blacksmith in rusty steel to give an industrial look. The brick wall was discovered when the ceiling was raised and has been pointed in sandstone. It provides an extra textural layer and adds a focus to the open-plan space.
It’s hard to imagine that this sunny living room space started life as a garage, before Nellie converted it and added folding doors. The two landscape paintings are Nellie’s own interpretation of the inspiring view outside the farmhouse. Her living room ideas include incorporating plants, flowers and art as part of the décor, and recognising the importance of lighting in creating atmosphere.
Once some of the rotten timbers and glass had been replaced, the 1980s conservatory was given a striking new look with a coat of fresh green paint. The window seat conceals storage and was made by a local carpenter. The woodwork is painted in Invisible Green from Edward Bulmer Natural Paint.
There are plenty of hallway ideas worth noting in the farmhouse's central hall, which runs from the front to the back of the original section of the house. A run of ceiling pendants have been combined with gallery lights – an important detail in an artist's house. A palette of restful blues frames the view through the glazed front door and a scalloped edge jute rug is the perfect fit for the main section of the hall.
There is no shortage of bedroom ideas in this house with its seven bedrooms. Here in the attic, the bed is perfectly positioned to enjoy the full height of the loft space, its height emphasised with off-white paint and soft shades of pink and warm whites to add texture, along with the fringed lampshades. The painting above the bed was bought on husband Andy’s travels in China.
Nellie decided to turn this bedroom into a guest room/dressing room space. Soft pastel shades creates a restful, romantic look with the original fireplace providing a central focus, with a vintage armoire, tailor’s dummy and antique painting above fireplace all sourced from a local antiques market.
Taking advantage of every inch of the roof height, a modern four-poster bed shares the limelight with the original beams in the second loft bedroom. Pretty pink bedlinen complements Nellie's choice of paint finish for the walls, while the original floorboards have been painted to further lighten the space.
If you're looking for bathroom ideas, there's plenty of inspiration right here. This luxurious space combines a period-style roll top, with a totally practical wet room style shower in the corner of the room. Original stone walls have been left exposed at either end of the room, an attractive detail that works well with the original wooden beam across the ceiling.
The outside space
Lucky students at Nellie's art school get to eat lunch al fresco, with views of the landscape they paint. For details of Nellie's art courses at the old farmhouse, visit Bullclough Art School (opens in new tab).
Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine, starting to write album reviews just as they switched from vinyl to CD releases. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.
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