Stripping an Edwardian property back to its bare bones has paid dividends for seasoned house developers Angela and Paul, who, after tracking down the perfect builders for the project, ensured that this huge renovation was completed in a staggeringly speedy 11 months

open plan kitchen and living area
An extension was added to the ground floor to create space for an open plan kitchen and living area

I don’t mind sharing with you that I suffer from a chronic condition known as house envy. The symptoms normally flare up on visiting a beautiful home, and grow more severe around decent cornicing, pendant lighting or statement wallpaper. The treatment usually involves a large credit card bill. I have had it for years and have been able to manage it, until that is, I meet Angela in her six bedroom Edwardian home in Churt and am struck down by a new symptom: transformation awe.

Angela and her husband were no strangers to house renovation when they moved out of London to be nearer their son’s school. “Paul and I are quite seasoned house developers, from our first flat to our first house to our next bigger house. I’ve never been someone who wants to buy a house that’s ready to move into. I’ve always wanted properties that need everything doing to them so that I can make them my own and add value.” Angela was clear that she wanted a period property, and instantly recognised the potential of the house, on the market for the first time in 50 years. “The central heating was extremely basic,” Angela says, “but it still had lots of Edwardian beauty and original features as well as good room proportions.”

Wasting no time, Angela instructed a local architect to do a survey and check the position regarding planning early on in the purchasing process. “We had a pretty clear idea of what we could and couldn’t do,” she explains. “So as soon as we moved in, we immediately started putting together our plans for planning approval.” The art of being one step ahead is one that Angela, a financial services professional, used throughout the build. Planning permission was slow on account of Covid, but Angela used the time to line up a builder – Hurstmore Developments – and a place to stay. “As soon as planning was approved, we broke ground straight away,” says Angela. “But we rented a property nearby for a year. I think on a project of this size, it just pays for itself to be out of the way because the project moves so much more quickly.”

While the footprint of the house did not change a huge amount – bar an extension on the ground floor to create space for an open plan kitchen and living area – almost everything else about the rest of the house did. “One of the major things that we changed was the orientation of the house,” explains Angela. Originally, the façade facing the driveway housed a blocky downstairs loo, but now the (stripped back and restored) front door is the first thing you see, and as you enter the house you are greeted by a jaw-dropping triple height hallway. Were there any challenges to achieving such a spectacular entrance? “Well, we had some quite hefty steels supporting the structure! The thing that made it structurally possible and affordable is that we’ve got the beam which the chandeliers now hang from.”

Light floods into a TV area, and the connection to the outside is enhanced through windows which stretch right down to the floor
Light floods into a TV area, and the connection to the outside is enhanced through windows which stretch right down to the floor
Herringbone parquet runs throughout the ground floor. The new flooring was chosen to closely match the original parquet that was sadly unsalvageable

A glass partition adds to the drama of the space, through which you can see the dining room and out to the garden beyond, designed to highlight a traditionally under-used area. Angela says, “If you’ve got a formal dining room when you’ve also got a dining table in your kitchen, it can become a bit of a lost space. So for me it was really important that the glass allowed it to become a room that you know and is in your consciousness because you see it all the time.” This concept is reinforced by an open doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, and all importantly, it is where the wine is kept!

Angela designed the “wine wall” herself, utilising bricks salvaged from other parts of the house during the build, and found the wine racks from a supplier who normally supplies commercial cellars. Coupled with some strategically placed downlighters, Angela achieved for a few hundred pounds what would have cost thousands to outsource.

The brick façade is mirrored on the other side of the wall in the living room. This sense of cohesion is at work all over the house but is subtle enough not to overwhelm the décor. “My first golden rule is that there will be continuity throughout the whole house in some shape or form, which I call my ‘yellow brick road’,” explains Angela. “The concept is something I learned from my good friend Sam (an artist, photographer and designer) who has mentored me over several years and projects to develop my own interior design skills. She is an indispensable source of wisdom on colour choice and originally suggested the Slaked Lime which has been a triumph.” Slaked Lime features in every room bar one – “that ensures that as you go around the house, as you move from one room to the other, it feels harmonious. It all flows and has a journey.” There are also one or two pieces in each room that act as an anchor in terms of colours and textures. In the living room, the original Jo Barrett painting and Chinese rug, both previously owned, served as a springboard for the colour scheme, not just in this room, but throughout. “I’m not just doing each room in isolation. If I’m choosing a fabric for the sofa it still needs to harmonise with all the other tones that I’ve got through the house.”

This sense of flow has also been applied to layout, and nowhere more so than the open, light-filled first floor landing, which was originally dark, pokey and had several disconnected rooms leading from it. “Now when you’re standing on the landing on the first floor, I think it feels like this is how the house always should have been. We’ve got a kind of heart of the house that goes from top to bottom and everything radiates and flows around it beautifully.”

It was important to Angela that each of her three children had decent sized double bedrooms on the same floor as her, to create a family space, while the top floor (converted from loft space) could be more self-contained for guests. “For our bedroom we took the two largest rooms on the first floor and created our suite,” says Angela. The suite centres around a main pillar, allowing the bedroom, bathroom and dressing room to be interconnected, another brain-child of Angela’s and a clever solution to a practical issue – who gets to sleep on the side of the bed nearest the bathroom!

The inspiration for the wallpaper in her daughter’s bedroom came from the beautiful surroundings of the house. Angela says, “The pattern is tawny owls and pine and oak trees and that is exactly the wildlife that we have on the common, so it’s perfect.” Celebrating the natural habitat in which the house sits is a recurring theme, “The other wallpapers that I’ve chosen for the other bedrooms – the swallows and ferns – we have surrounding us. I wanted patterns and images that suit where we are.”

In her son’s room, a window was added to the wall under the pitched roof, adding a flood of light and incorporating the beautiful views of the garden and forest beyond. “Now that the window is there, I can’t imagine the room without it. From the outside it used to be a big blank wall, now it makes sense both inside and out.” On the top floor there is now a long gallery landing with a bedroom at each end and a bathroom in between. Having lived in London for 20 years and leaving behind a cosy network of friends when they moved, it was imperative to integrate a place for friends to stay into the house.

The panelled dining room is a great space for more formal meals, and features a striking piece commissioned from artist Dan Hillier.
The panelled dining room is a great space for more formal meals, and features a striking piece commissioned from artist Dan Hillier.

By this time my condition is peaking, but the moment my ailing jaw really hits the floor is when Angela tells me how long this all took. “We were back in the house exactly 11 and a half months later.” How was this achieved? “I’m a project manager professionally, so I’m very used to doing things according to the critical path. I think I made it quite an exhausting project for Hurstmore because there were no fallow periods at all! We worked well together to stick to the deadline. If the weather got in the way, I would always be ready with something else that could be done, and we were fortunate in that Hurstmore always happily obliged.”

I’m not sure a credit card is going to fix it this time, unless I can buy an Angela.

Address Book:
Angela is now able to help others realise their dream homes as she has set up her own self-build, renovation and extension consultancy service. From getting projects off the ground and finding the right contractors and professional partners, through to full project management, design input and help with sourcing, she can be contacted at angela@gatefield.co.uk
To speak to Hurstmore about a project, visit hurstmore.co.uk
Austin Landscapes austinlandscapes.co.uk
Designed by Sam designedbysam@icloud.com
Nicholas Morton nicholasmorton.co.uk

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