No matter how beautiful your home or how idyllic its setting, there comes a time in the lifespan of a property when rooms no longer function as intended, or the connection between spaces is wrong. That is the situation in which the homeowners found themselves after living in their Regency house in Stockbridge, in Hampshire's Test Valley, for seven years.
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The owner, a private investor, explains: ‘Dating back to 1808, this was originally the country house of the sitting MP. The previous owner lived here for thirty years and, when we moved in, the house hadn't been touched for ages. The kitchen was cut in two by a chimney running through it, so we removed this and knocked through some rooms to make a bigger space. We also made the Lodge (a wing that had been added later) liveable and decorated our sons' rooms, but did little apart from that.’
Eventually, three years ago, the moment was right to tackle the house and garden, so they called interior designer Stephanie Dunning. ‘I’d known Stephanie for a while, from her commercial developments and through an architect colleague,’ says the owner. ‘She's very talented and had a feel for the kind of country house we wanted. She also has good spatial awareness, which was essential, as we knew we needed to reconfigure the layout; we just weren't sure how.’
‘The first thing I noticed was the lack of a proper entrance,’ Stephanie says. ‘The family and visitors barely used the front door; instead, they came in through the back and directly into the kitchen, which did not give the impression a house of this size should.’
Stephanie had a half-glazed extension built outside the kitchen, on what was a rather dank terrace where the family kept their bikes. ‘It's a light entrance that's improved the flow of the house, while enhancing its solidity by linking it with the Lodge,’ says the owner. ‘Now, when we have guests in the Lodge, they can come and go without disturbing us.’
The other issue Stephanie solved was a redundant walkway between the dining room and the conservatory at the back of house. The conservatory was L-shaped and wrapped around the sitting room, but the shorter end was not used. Stephanie blocked this up, squaring off the shape, and turned the former passage into a wine cellar, appropriately accessed from the dining room.
The largest structural change, however, was the reworking of the main bedroom, dressing room and bathroom. When the couple first moved in, they had converted two of the eight bedrooms into dressing rooms, but by the time Stephanie set to work, these had spilled over into other spaces and the owner required much more organised storage.
The main bedroom was at the end of a corridor, with a smaller bedroom next to it. Stephanie partitioned this to create the new dressing room, as well as a bathroom for the guest bedroom; she also siphoned off part of the corridor to increase the size of the couple’s room. Finally, to create the best aspect for enjoying the outlook over the garden to the valley, Stephanie raised the bed to give an unhindered view directly out of the window.
Formerly L-shaped, the conservatory was squared off to make better use of the space. Its relatively modern interior reflects the fact that it is not original to the Regency house. Double doors lead onto the large terrace, which offers separate dining and seating areas from which to enjoy the views down to the river.
The landscaping of the garden created space for a new pool house, the exterior of which is based on a traditional barn style. The homewoners passion for fly fishing is well served by the River Test, which runs through the grounds.
‘The interior design has a real talent when it comes to flooring,’ says the owner. ‘The rugs used in the old part of the house are mostly Persian antiques.’
As this room is part of the original Regency building, the homeowners asked for it to be decorated in a more traditional style.
‘We wanted the island as the central point for cooking and eating and the lights help the ambience,’ says the owner, who designed the pendants and had them made by an independent manufacturer in Scotland.
As a glazed door is the only source of natural light entering this space, the designer used mirrored glass to line the alcoves either side of the fireplace to create a more open feel. The striped chair fabric brings traditional notes of deep red to the scheme, while abstract oil paintings add a modern touch.
Walls painted in grey-blue carry through from the dining room to this new space, which was created from a redundant passage.
This scheme was designed with the owner’s mother very much in mind. She lives overseas, so this room, which has an adjoining bathroom, is her home from home when she comes to stay.
The couple's teenage son chose this colour for the walls; its blue-green hue is a perfect foil for the garden and river views.
Space was skilfully reconfigured to enlarge the homeowner’s bedroom and add a dressing room. The bed, with its comfortable oversized headboard, is set high to allow a clear view through the window.
Careful planning went into the layout of this bespoke room, to ensure sufficient hanging space for clothes, as well as storage for shoes and accessories.
To make this room fit for purpose, it had to be completely rebuilt; the walls, floor and ceiling are new.