Converting a village pub

When Debra and Paul Goodwin couldn’t decide between buying an old or new property, they ended up with the best of both worlds by taking on a former pub, mid-development, and redesigning it to suit their style and needs

When Debra and Paul Goodwin began house-hunting in the beautiful Oxfordshire villages bordering the Cotswolds, they found themselves in a seemingly impossible situation. ‘We love the look of old houses, but we like the light that comes with new builds. However, all the period houses we saw had low ceilings and were dark inside, while the new ones just didn’t have the character we wanted,’ says Debra.

It was while driving through another picturesque village that they spotted a boarded-up former pub and car park that had been bought by a property developer. ‘The building was lovely and was in a great spot in a village we really liked,’ says Debra. The couple decided to contact the developer to find out more and discovered that he was planning to gut the pub and refurbish it as a five-bedroom family home. He would also maximise use of the car park space by adding another house and creating gardens and double garages.

Fact file

The owners: Debra Goodwin, a marketing manager, and her husband Paul, a builder, live here with their seven-month-old son, Louis

‘The developer explained that we would be able to buy the pub and have the work completed to our specifications,’ says Debra. ‘It was the perfect solution – a period house but with all the advantages of a new build – so we went ahead and bought it. At that time we were living in a converted inn, so now it’s a family joke that the only way I’ll get my husband to move is to take him to the pub!’

Planning permission for the work had already been granted, but the council kept a close eye on the development. ‘The local council are rightly proud of the look of the village, so any extensions, landscape changes or new buildings have to be in a sympathetic style,’ explains Debra.

‘We only hit a problem with the council when the builders cut off the natural spring flowing to the side of the house during the work on the garden. That didn’t go down well, but it was resolved and there were no further issues.’

The builders had stripped the building back to the bricks, with all walls removed from the ground floor apart from those that were load-bearing. So Debra and Paul were able to design the layout they wanted from scratch.

There was a pitched-roof extension planned for the back of the property, so they decided that they would have the dining and living rooms at the front of the house, with a large open-plan kitchen/ family area in the new space to the rear. This would have full-height glazed doors opening out onto the garden.

On the first floor, there was room for a guest bedroom and en suite, plus two good-sized bedrooms and a family bathroom. The second floor would comprise a further two bedrooms and a shower room. ‘We found it hard to decide on things like the placement of doors and where light switches should go, but the developer helped us make these kind of decisions,’ says Debra.

The couple did their research when it came to designing their new kitchen in the extension at the back of the house.

‘We had decided that we wanted a large island unit, but the developer advised us against it as he thought it would take up too much space in the room,’ says Debra. ‘However, we were adamant that’s what we wanted. It was the only time our visions didn’t match, but we’re really pleased with the result. There’s plenty of storage and it doubles up as a breakfast bar as well.’

The couple looked through catalogues of high-end kitchens and decided they wanted glossy white units. ‘We had decided on the style we liked and found just the thing in IKEA, saving money in the process,’ says Debra.

The double-height roof and reclaimed beams give an airy, rustic feel to the lounge area by the kitchen. To maintain that mood, the couple also wanted to keep the rest of the new open-plan area white to maximise the natural light. ‘Although white is the dominant colour, I can change the feel of the space with coloured accessories or flowers,’ continues Debra. ‘And when it came to seating for this space, we realised that being in close proximity to food preparation – and now with a baby on the way – wipe-clean surfaces would make sense, so we decided on leather sofas. We found these at IKEA.’

The rest of the house follows a similar scheme to the extension, with white being the predominant colour. Original beams and floorboards have been kept in the dining room, with the brick fireplace the focal point. The exposed chimney breast and wood-fired stove – along with the white-painted dining table – help to give the room the Swedish rustic feel that Debra wanted to emulate. The family bathroom and the en suite have been fitted with timeless white sanitaryware, from Bathstore, and wall tiles for a contemporary look. The bedrooms have been painted white, again with splashes of colour coming from bedding and a variety of cushions, throws, rugs and other accessories.

Where possible, the couple have kept to wooden floors throughout the house, matching the new to the original. The combination of white walls and natural wood flooring has helped to open up the rooms and create a sense of space.

‘The project did overrun, so we actually moved in six weeks before the work was completed. We ended up living in what had originally been the beer cellar for that time. It was quite tricky, as I was seven months pregnant by this stage,’ adds Debra. ‘Friends helped out by inviting us to dinner, but we had to put a microwave in the garage.’

The couple did go over their original budget. ‘I had to dip into some savings to get the look we wanted, but it was definitely worth it,’ Debra continues. ‘We scoured car-boot sales and junk shops for the finishing touches to try to keep our costs down.’

Disaster almost struck the development not long after the couple had moved in. ‘We were still camping out in the beer cellar and decided one night to cook out in our garden on a disposable barbecue. When I was sure the fire had gone out, I put the barbecue on top of a pile of builder’s rubbish before going to bed – only to be confronted in the morning by a small pile of ashy remains and a big black smoke stain up our beautiful back wall,’ explains Debra. ‘It’s frightening to think how easily the whole place could have gone up in flames.’

The couple love their unique home. ‘I would urge other people not to be scared of buying an empty shell,’ says Debra. ‘It’s your chance to have the space you’ve dreamed of, so the earlier you take full control the better. But we had a fantastic relationship with our developer, though; we got on amazingly well. In fact, I think if we were considering moving again we’d have to see what he had to offer first.’

But for now, Debra and Paul are very happy in their home. ‘Although, if I could change one thing, I’d have been bolder and left the kitchen, hallway and lounge as an open-plan and had one huge living space. We spend most of our time in the kitchen/family living area at the back of the house,’ she says.

‘The only other thing we want to do is turn the old beer cellar downstairs into a den, so that in the future Louis and Paul can watch sport and have a beer together. I’ve got plenty of time though, as Louis isn’t even one yet, but I like to plan well in advance!’


Building work was included in the purchase price of the property, as was flooring, bathrooms and décor.

Wood-burning stove£1,000
Rugs, cushions and carpets£3,000
Window dressing£2,000