When the owners decided to trade their smart London postcode for the tranquil beauty of the South Downs, they envisaged an idyllic, carefree existence away from the hubbub of city life.
However, the lure of an elegant Georgian coach house threw an unexpected curveball at the couple and their two young sons: the historic property had been split into two in the early 1970s, and a substantial, not to mention disruptive, renovation was needed in order to make it whole again.
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'It was two separate, and very different, properties. We bought one half first, which was a recently renovated private residence, and we were able to move straight in, although it required some redecorating. The second part was being used as a hydrotherapy centre when we bought it eight months later, and was unsuitable for habitation,' explains the owners.
The couple worked with an interior designer to help create their dream home. ‘I met interior designer Sophie Head through a friend, so I was already familiar with her work. The brief was for a welcoming, comfortable family space, with a nod to the property's heritage. Sophie introduced us to unfamiliar designs and different textures, and helped us to unify the scheme and improve the flow. We spent a lot of time perfecting the lighting, particularly in the kitchen and the garden room, where the glass and high ceilings were a challenge,’ explain the owners.
Kitchen dining room
The couple began by stripping out the hydrotherapy centre to create a double-height kitchen-dining room, adding depth to the layout by gently extending into the garden. It's a generous space, so they carved out a separate dining room and a boot room as well. As the work progressed, however, it became clear that the historic trusses in the kitchen needed to be replaced.
The architect, Richard Witcher of Witcher Crawford, did an incredible job of replicating the original design, which he finished with well-seasoned, air-dried oak that will age beautifully over time. The weathered paintwork of the furniture, exposed brick and pattern of the flooring bring texture and character to this lofty, light-filled space.
Antique furniture, which was inherited from the owners mother, sits comfortable alongside new pieces in this restful space.
The couple commissioned artist Paul Treasure to paint a view of the coach house as seen from a lake on the estate. ‘Our view of the lake is now obscured, so it’s wonderful to see it immortalised,’ says the owner.
Kitchen and garden room
The owners turned to architect Richard Witcher to mastermind the design concept for their new home; their brief was to open up one end of the coach house to create a space with clear sight lines. The glazing is a striking feature of the design.
The exposed wall, made with bricks reclaimed from elsewhere on the estate, provides a rustic contrast to the classic elegance of the furniture. The lighting throughout was painstakingly chosen for each room. ‘Every leaf of this chandelier was hand-finished with bronze,’ says interior designer Sophie Head.
This I9th-century bardic chair (right) was awarded to Gareth's great-grandfather for his skill in a regional eisteddfod, a competitive Welsh music and poetry event.
The owner sourced the eye-catching tiles having seen them used effectively in a nearby hotel.
The owner fell in love with this metallic bathtub during a visit to the luxury design show, Decorex. She and Sophie created the rest of the scheme around it.
The chrome washstand adds period elegance to this simply decorated room.
Kitchen designer Tom Bayley designed and built the shelving for the owners son, who chose the blue and green palette himself and which she says reflect his playful personality.
The paisley pattern on the Nina Campbell wallpaper add a note of drama without compromising the tranquil mood of this space.
‘The coach house is part of a much larger estate that was broken up in the 1950s and is Grade II listed, so it was important to do our homework,’ says the owner. ‘We worked closely with English Heritage during the planning phase to ensure our proposals were as detailed as possible.’
Photography/ Jody Stewart