The dilapidated state of this Wiltshire cottage was just one of the reasons it was such an attractive purchase for the owners. There was quite a bit to be done. The rooms were dark, the decoration was dated and the layout needed to be reworked to reflect the homeowners' lifestyle.
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With regular visits from their family, including three grandchildren, they wanted plenty of room for guests. 'At one end of the original building, we added a two-storey extension to create a sitting room and a kitchen-dining room on the ground floor, with our bedroom and bathroom above,' they say.
'We also decided to reconfigure the narrow staircase, enlarge the entrance hall and knock down internal walls upstairs so we could create two more spacious bedrooms and a bathroom.'
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A definitive age for the property has been hard to pinpoint as it is actually two cottages that have long since been knocked into one, but parts of the building date back to the 16th century, as the elm beams and aged floorboards testify. 'Uncovering smaller cross beams behind a false ceiling in the snug was definitely one of the highlights of the renovation,' says the owner. 'But sandblasting them to remove the many layers of thick dirt and stubborn black paint was a nightmare – it created clouds of dust that found their way through the house.'
To make a bright backdrop for the couple’s classic paintings, family heirlooms and intriguing bespoke furniture, the owner chose pale wall colors throughout. 'I must have had the coffee table in the sitting room for about thirty years,' she says. 'I had a carpenter build it and cover it with a tapestry I bought.'
Many of the French pieces were collected when the owner worked as an interior designer, and when they had a holiday home in Brittany. French chairs in the sitting room, which were originally upholstered in a pale blue silk, have since been recovered in a Laura Ashley fabric. With refreshing candour, the owner says that she has no qualms at all about weaving high-street buys in with her antique finds. 'I was over the moon when I spotted the French-style rug in Devon’s Trago Mills; it complements the armchairs perfectly.'
With the renovations now complete, the owners are able to make the most of their children and grandchildren’s frequent visits. There is plenty of room for all to stay, and everyone enjoys mingling in the new kitchen-dining room and sitting room. Christmas is particularly special in the renovated home. 'I decorate in a traditional way and on Christmas Eve, the grandchildren leave letters for Father Christmas on a table beside the fireplace, together with mince pies and sherry for him and a carrot for Rudolph. Then we all hang stockings on the beam, including ones for the dogs,' she says. 'I also like to follow the French tradition of throwing a big dinner party that evening, just as my mother used to do.' A joyeux Noël indeed.
'I spent ages sketching plans for the inglenook fireplace,' says the owner. 'Once I was happy with the design, I bought a reclaimed wooden beam then the stone was given an aged effect so it would look original.'
'I adore painted furniture, but I prefer French over English as the pieces tend to be finer, more detailed and shapelier,' says the owner.
Part of the reason for extending the property was to create a kitchen-dining space for large family occasions. The Wilsons also wanted to make the back of the house symmetrical by ensuring it matched an existing extension on the opposite sideof the original building.
'This is our favourite room,' says the owner. The couple light a fire in here almost every night. 'We installed Dovre wood burnersin both the snug and the sitting room – you can open them up to enjoy the fire in all its glory.'
The unevenness of the floor in here meant it could not be tiled like the other bathrooms, so the couple chose Amtico flooring. The owner found the sailing picture in the loft of one of their previous homes.
Accents of blue balance the ornate furniture in a room that the owners’ twin grandchildren call their own. 'They feel grown-up in here,' she says.
To give the sawn timber beams used in this new space an aged look, the owner commissioned Renaissance Beams to treat them using a specialist water-based process.