Owners: Kate and Paul Gerrish live here with Jack Russells Charlie and Coco. With her daughter Isobel, Kate runs Bliss, a home and vintage shop. Paul is now retired and the couple’s four children no longer live at home
Property: Built in 1850 and originally used as cowsheds, the barn in the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside was converted into a dwelling in the late 1990s
What they did: Kate and Paul decorated throughout and installed a new hand-built kitchen, along with a cloakroom, bathroom and shower rooms
A desire for beautiful views across open countryside and a longing to live in a period property were what sealed the deal for Kate and Paul Gerrish when they found their ideal rural retreat: this converted barn in the middle of a tranquil farming hamlet, within the scenic Oxfordshire countryside.
‘The children had left home so we took the opportunity to downsize, selling our three-storey, six-bedroom modern house in a nearby town,’ says Kate. ‘The children had left home so we took the opportunity to downsize, selling our three-storey, six-bedroom modern house in a nearby town,’ says Kate.
The Grade II-listed building dates from the 1850s, and was converted in the late 1990s into a characterful home. ‘We knew the area and had always liked the peaceful location,’ says Kate. The house was empty when the couple viewed the property, which gave them ample time to decide that they could make it their home. The kitchen and bathrooms were fitted with good quality cabinets and sanitaryware, but the style was rather dated.
‘Our plans for the kitchen included simple, traditionally built cupboards, leaving space for a dining table and seating,’ she says. With plenty of ideas and colour combinations in mind, Kate and Paul set about their first project, and enlisted local company Hunt Bespoke Kitchens and Interiors.
‘Handmade cabinets were designed and painted to give a freestanding, country style, and the finished look is just what I was hoping for,’ says Kate. ‘In fact, I was so happy with the kitchen that I asked them to transform a cramped shower room into a smart cloakroom, which looks great!’
A rustic farmhouse dining table and painted bench have been teamed with a patchwork of vintage-inspired tiles above the range cooker. ‘They were handmade by a Cornish company recommended by the kitchen designers, called Welbeck, and I am thrilled with them,’ says Kate. ‘I handpicked each one and was so pleased with the nostalgic pretty look, that I decided to use them in three more rooms.’
At the heart of the home is the living room, with its vaulted ceiling and a stylish combination of plush velvet sofas and French antiques. ‘I opened a small unit in a local antiques centre eight years ago, and built up a good customer base,’ explains Kate.
‘So in November 2015 I opened my own interiors shop in Chipping Norton, with Isobel, my youngest daughter and business partner. We sell a selection of French homeware, vintage furniture, contemporary accessories and paint – all my favourite things - and I tend to try out things here first.’
With their new home to furnish and the shop to stock up, Kate and Paul embarked on a series of buying trips, sourcing furniture and accessories along their way. ‘We have a house in France and visit as often as we can,’ says Kate. ‘Buying from French markets is very exciting – we go to as many as possible, always searching for that special find.’
In between trips the couple have transformed the barn’s interiors, updating and decorating with a soft palette to create the perfect backdrop for their furniture and treasured possessions. ‘I chose Old White by Annie Sloan for the walls and added colour with furniture and textiles,’ says Kate. ‘I enjoy painting vintage pieces. Giving them a new lease of life is very satisfying, and chalk paint comes in gorgeous colours with a lovely matt finish.’
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The barn now has a pleasing spacious quality, enhanced by Kate’s blend of furniture, art and accessories.
‘We are fortunate to have several really good places for vintage furniture and homeware nearby. I have bought many items from The Old Pill Factory in Witney and from Station Mill,’ she adds. ‘I like to combine different styles, as I think it creates a more interesting interior.’
As well as the main barn there’s a small garden building. ‘One of the main attractions for us was the mini cottage at the bottom of the garden,’ says Kate.
‘It’s now a spacious guest bedroom, with an en-suite shower room and a study. Friends and family love it and always comment on the serene atmosphere and restful stay they’ve had.’
Kate and Paul are now working on the garden itself. ‘We decided to improve the layout by removing some of the older shrubs and hedging, and introduce a new planting scheme in pastel shades,’ explains Kate.
‘It’s made a huge difference and looks much more spacious and very pretty. We enjoy family gatherings, and the children are regular visitors along with Lottie, our five-year-old granddaughter. Just like us, they all enjoy spending time in this tranquil home in the country.’