By Ruth Doherty published
A welcome sense of calm washes over you as soon as you step inside the impressive entrance hall of this stunning home in the Cotswolds. A wide staircase sweeps up one side of the double-height space while a fire burns brightly beneath, creating an air of comfort and relaxation that is impossible to resist.
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This sense of serenity, combined with plenty of scope for entertaining, was exactly what the couple were looking for when they bought the house as a retreat from their busy London lives.
Although the property was tired and in need of modernisation, they were determined not to compromise its essential character.
As this was the first time the couple had owned a second home, they brought with them no furniture and no preconceived ideas about how the interior should look. 'We knew we wanted the style to be sympathetic to the age of the building, but at the contemporary end of that,' they explained. They realised they would need the help of an interior designer to make this happen, and research led them to Sims Hilditch, an Oxfordshire-based practice with experience of working on properties in the area.
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The oldest part of the house was built in 1650, but additions were made two centuries later, and a key task for Garry Meakins, head of design at Sims Hilditch, was to create a harmonious scheme that would unite its different period features.
Garry started with the double-height Victorian entrance hall, choosing a rich shade of moss green for the walls. This became the keynote for the palette in the rest of the house, where it is echoed in softer shades depending on the size and style of each room. 'That green tone and everything branching off it is crucial to the continuity of the design,' he says, 'so while the room shapes vary quite wildly, the journey through the house feels comfortable.'
Comfort, in both aesthetic and physical terms, was another essential element of the homeowners’ brief, as they often invite friends and family to stay. 'We didn’t want people to come in and feel that they couldn’t sit down because it would mess up the cushions,' they said. 'This is quite a big house and it would be easy for it to seem imposing, so it was important to us that it should feel like somewhere you can immediately relax.'
To achieve this, they worked with Garry to choose furniture that not only looked good, but was not too precious to be used regularly, and several rooms were carefully repurposed to suit their lifestyle. To this end, a storeroom was turned into a handy boot room and an area of the kitchen was sectioned off for use as a practical utility area, while one of the original five bedrooms upstairs was sacrificed in order to make a bathroom for the main bedroom suite.
The couple, together with their young son, spent their first night in the house just eight months after buying it, and their lifestyle here could not be more different from that in London. 'We lead an outdoor life when we’re at this house,' they smile. 'We go on lots of walks, ride horses and cycle. It’s lovely to watch our son grow up learning about nature and wildlife, and using his imagination rather than looking at a screen. We’re very lucky.'
The staircase makes a pleasing contrast to the green walls, which inspired the color scheme throughout the house.
Elegant seating, arranged for convivial conversation by the fire, exemplifies the relaxing mood of the home.
This modern addition to the property has been perfectly positioned next to the kitchen for easy entertaining. Painted tongue-and-groove walls offer a modern take on traditional country style.
As it is in the older part of the house, the kitchen has lower ceilings, so only base cabinets were selected to prevent it feeling enclosed.
An unused storeroom was transformed into a practical space to suit the country lifestyle.
This second sitting room is less formal in style and is used for watching television.
Warm creams and browns, which echo the tones of the mullioned windows give this room an inviting feel.
A former bedroom was turned into a bathroom, with an indulgent slipper bath that offers views of the garden.
Delicate shades of green and pink make for a restful color combination, allowing the dark wood beams to sing out.
Stairs lead from the guest bedroom into this space, which is simply furnished with a hand-painted vanity unit.
Previously rather dark and gloomy, the attic room has been transformed with white-painted beams and a fresh palette. The neutral backdrop ensures it will be easy to adapt as the couple’s son grows up.
Ruth Doherty is an interiors writer who has worked for Homes & Gardens and Ideal Home magazines among many others.
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