Period Property of the Month - November 2007
Sarah and her husband Andrew fell in love with this beautiful farmhouse which they have made their own.
Life's rich tapestry...
"It was like living in a beautiful painting. I sat on the terrace wall and looked over the landscape and it was just breathtaking." This is what Sarah Shearer thought soon after she moved into her Cotswolds farmhouse with her daughter Sophie, (now 14), to join her husband-to-be, Andrew. That was in 1999 and Andrew had bought the place as a single man less than a year before. Since then, baby Charles, now aged four, has arrived.
Situated in an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty', the farmhouse was built in around 1760. When Sarah arrived, she found that it still had its original doors, 18th century fireplaces and good-sized rooms. There was even the original dairy attached to the house but the couple have since converted this into a one-bedroom annexe with bathroom, sitting room and kitchen as the perfect place for friends and relatives to stay.
"Structurally, the house was sound but although the previous owner had renovated it, he had done little to the general decor and it felt like a house, not a home," says Sarah. However, many of the outbuildings were in a bad state of repair, some actually falling down so Sarah and husband Andrew had little choice, but to stabilise or convert them.
As for the four acres of land, three are given over to paddock (although the family don't have any horses) and the fourth is the garden. The land was very neglected and, over the years, Andrew and Sarah have had to work very hard on it, creating terraces and lawns to stop it from sliding into the trout farm below. The couple did a lot of hands-on work as well as having professional landscapers in to help.
The first thing the couple did was to install a new kitchen as the original consisted of little more than an Aga, a sink and a few base units. Someone in the past had removed a wall to create a long kitchen-dining room with an original Cotswold stone fireplace at one end. "We've kept it that way as we can cook, eat, talk and relax all in the one room," says Sarah. They asked Nick Reeves, an old farming friend of Andrew's, to hand-make more units to match the existing ones. At the time, he was running a kitchen company called Chisels in Stow on the Wold and has created quite a few kitchens in the Cotswolds for various celebrities. Since then, he has now moved to France.
The couple kept the Racing Green Aga, but bought shelving from the Aga Company in Cirencester to place above it and added new tiles behind. Sarah bought a pale pine butcher's block and stained it for a rustic effect. The floor before was sea grass matting over a concrete screed so they replaced it with Karndean 'Rhino', which is especially tough-wearing.
In fact, the couple used it throughout the entire ground floor except for the drawing room where they carpeted over the old floorboards.
Once the kitchen was finished, work on the new extension began, as Andrew had applied for planning permission for this before even meeting Sarah.
"It took some time to be granted because we are in a conservation area," Sarah explained. However the builders - Chappel & Dix - took only five months to build on an entrance hall, cloakroom, utility and pantry. They made a point of matching the style and colour of the pantry units to those in the kitchen.
When it came to furnishing their home, the couple had quite a few pieces they had inherited. Their kitchen-dining table and chairs are oak and are very old, having passed down through Andrew's side of the family, as did their dinner service in a blue-purple pattern, which is at least 150 years old.
In one of the guest bedrooms a magnificent suite of French Empire mahogany furniture can be found, which also came from Andrew's family and dates back to the 1800s. Here and there, throughout the house, are lovely old Georgian pieces, such as the demi-lune table in the couple's bedroom and the Damascan games table in the French room.
However, Sarah also likes to haunt antique shops and reclamation yards and in Sophie's bedroom are some very attractive items, which Sarah has painted herself.
"I love my mocha bedspread as it looks quite dramatic, but it is an Ikea find," she says. "And the flowery bedspread in the French room is also from there as are the navy blue bedspreads in the Blue room."
The last word comes from Andrew, who says: "When I found the place, the house, outbuildings and grounds had all become dilapidated. But Sarah and I have worked hard to restore it sympathetically and it's now a true family home. Everyone comments on how beautiful and peaceful it is so I know it was worth all the hard labour and cost."
A true period property
The farmhouse was built in the mid to late 18th century and it's believed to have remained a working farm until 1999 when Andrew bought it. The village and surrounding estate was once owned by the Hale family, the most famous of who was Sir Matthew Hale, a renowned 17th century judge.
Many of the doors and door frames are original to the house, as can be seen by their height, 5ft 10ins. It took Andrew some time to get used to them being 6ft 3ins!
In the door frame of the large kitchen/living room, there is a rounded indent and the theory is that it was to get the barrels of ale through - an important priority! It is stories such as these that make it a pleasure to live in a period house with all its nooks and crannies and a real sense of living history. Andrew and Sarah especially love the symmetry of the back of the house, which looks down the beautiful Ozleworth Valley while from the front it overlooks a once-thriving woollen mill called Monks Mill; this has been a ruin for over 150 years, but gives them a beautiful romantic view from the garden.
The stone for the extension came from a farm building that had been demolished before Andrew bought the property. The couple felt that it was important to retain a historical perspective by keeping the local stone.
If you would like to stay in this delightful property, either as self catering or on a B&B basis please contact Sarah on tel: 07930 367621
Aga Company (green aga), tel: 01285 644193 or visit www.aga-rayburn.co.uk
Crown, (Sophie's bedroom), tel: 01285 644193 or visit www.crownpaint.co.uk.
Farrow & Ball (wallpaper), tel: 01202 876141 or visit www.farrow-ball.com
Ikea (mocha bedspread), tel: 0845 3583363 or visit www.ikea.co.uk
Laura Ashley (paint), tel: 0871 230 2301 or visit www.lauraashley.com