Christie Gavin recalls how when she and her family drove down the steep leafy lane to the farmhouse they were viewing near the south Devon coast, there was an audible ‘wow’ from the back seat.
Enlisting a local carpenter to add bespoke bookcases
At the end of the house was a two-storey open-fronted barn that was used as undercover parking, with a storage room above. Christie, Peter and local architect Roderick James have turned the open space below into a playroom and created an en suite master bedroom above
A guest bathroom was also added
‘The kids loved it immediately. We got out of the car and they ran round the garden and up and down the stairs.’
That was 17 years ago, when the children were very young. She and husband Peter were also excited by the property, which was a complete change from their small three-bedroom home in Shepherd’s Bush in London, which they had outgrown.
‘Peter loves sailing and for some years we’d been coming here for holidays and weekends, and for perhaps two or three years we’d been looking in a casual way in estate agents’ windows,’ explains Christie. ‘But it was a mad sudden plunge when we did go ahead.’
‘We were always keen to move to a big house when we could. I spent my childhood in a sprawling home in a village in Wiltshire and hoped our children could enjoy a similar childhood in the country, too.’
The six-bedroom house in the South Hams area of Devon is set in two acres of land. It is Grade II listed, with older sections dating back to 1602. Other parts were added in the 18th and 19th centuries. The property was in good condition, but the Gavins still wanted to make their mark on it straightaway.
The large hallway, with its magnificent 18th-century staircase, doubles as a music room. The striking wall colour is David Oliver’s Beetlenut. The Victorian painting of a dog was inherited and the rug is from a Marrakech market
The small painting of a young girl wearing a clown’s hat and the Staffordshire pottery piece on top of the piano were both inherited
A Dovre wood-burning stove and comfortable sofas create a warm welcome in the hallway. The Devon seascape is by acclaimed local artist Sarah Gillespie
The old pine dressers came from a shop on London’s King’s Road
A Britannia range cooker by the doorway and an Everhot range keep the family warm and well fed. The walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Babouche, and bespoke units by Nick Kary in Little Greene’s Celestial Blue
The strongly coloured walls – many based on colours that the couple enjoyed in their former home – also make a good backdrop for the large and varied collection of prints and paintings displayed throughout the house. The French dining table, which seats 22, is from The Old Cinema in London. The floorboard paint is Fired Earth’s Storm
The living room wall colour was specially mixed by a local craftsman to suit the couple’s coastal palette. The round mirror dates from around 1890
With its green oak ceiling structure, walls in Caribbean Blue by Dulux and an oak bed made by Peter, the master bedroom is a blend of coastal and country styles
The exterior of the farmhouse