One of the homeowner’s great passions in life is renovating properties and he has done up a number of houses over the years, including ones that he and his family have lived in.
None of them, however, has been as old as this one, a romantically situated 17th-century farmhouse in the Dorset countryside. The owner discovered the house by chance while browsing a property website and, as he had promised his wife that their existing home would be the last house he would renovate, he went to see it on his own first.
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‘I went to view this house in the height of summer and the house, which has extensive grounds, looked beautiful,’ says the owner.
The house had not been touched for years so, not surprisingly, they needed to repair the roof, rewire and put in new plumbing, but in doing so they found they also needed to rebuild chimneys, replace the iron guttering and the down pipes, and put in new windows and doors.
The couple installed a two-storey oak frame extension at the back, so that they could enlarge the kitchen and have a boot room leading off it, with a guest bedroom on the floor above. ‘I love oak frames and since putting in the extension, I have used the same kind of construction to convert the garage, to turn the pigsty into a gymnasium and to build an outdoor kitchen,’ says the owner.
‘I wanted to emulate the eclectic style of designer Kit Kemp, and the colours for the sitting room and our bedroom were inspired by the rooms in our favourite Crosby Street Hotel in New York,’ says the owner.
This delightful farmhouse has undergone many changes in the course of its history, and the new owners have spent many months restoring it to give it a new lease of life.
This space, which doubles as an informal sitting room, is decorated with traditional country and industrial-style pieces, and sets the tone for the rest of the home.
A favourite painting inspired the choice of the rich cobalt blue, which brings a colourful not to this north-facing room. ‘The family bought several artworks with them, so finding the right spot for each was so important,’ says interior designer, Emma Sims Hilditch.
The owners decided to remove the original, dark-wood staircase as it made the hall feel rather gloomy. In its place stands a new design, albeit with the original handrail. The full-length mirror on the half landing draws natural light down from the windows above.
‘This is my favourite room,’ says the owner of this restful space. ‘It’s used for the day-to-day running of the property, but I also like to escape in here sometimes.’
This newly extended space, with its rustic wood inset ceiling, meets the needs of the young family as well as being a relaxed area for entertaining. ‘Guests can sit at each island, with the person cooking in between and everything within easy reach,’ says the owner.
The brick floor of what was once a tack room has been renewed and Emma chose cabinets from Neptune to house the boots and shoes, leaving space behind them for a shower for the dogs. ‘Everyone insisted on installing it for our two golden retrievers, but I said we’d never use it,’ says the owner, ‘and we don’t. Well, not for the dogs; I use it when I come in from kite surfing.’
The off-centre fireplace is original and remains a striking focal point in this formal room. The owner’s collection of old framed maps adds character throughout the home. ‘When my wife and I were first dating,’ says the owner, ‘I bought her a map of the Bronx, which is where she lived before she moved to Britain.’
The couple brought a few items of furniture with them to their new home, preferring to start from scratch with pieces in keeping with the age of the farmhouse and the size of its rooms. ‘In the bedroom, the bold colours and eclectic mix of furniture were inspired by the couple’s favourite Kit Kemp hotels,’ says Emma, ‘and instead of a pattern, we used linen wallpaper to give the room an extra textural touch.’
The walk-in shower area, a new addition to the couple’s bathroom, brung a lustrous sheen and luxurious feel to this elegant space.
A new flight of steps links the extension with the original house. Unable to find a handrail similar to the original one, the owner called in a set painter from the Downton Abbey television series to paint the new rail to match it instead.
The original plan was for the girls to have separate rooms, but they insisted on sharing. They decorated the chandelier with fluffy pompoms, butterflies and chicken-shaped bells to help stop their father from constantly banging his head on it.
To create a classic country farmhouse feel, half-height tongue-and-groove cladding was chosen for this compact space.
Photography/ Paul Raeside