Real home: a Grade II listed farmhouse, built in the 17th century

Having upped sticks and moved from London, Sally and Rob Appleyard are embracing the good life in their lovingly restored period farmhouse

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Navigating the country lanes on their way to view a remote farmhouse, Sally and Rob Appleyard couldn’t help but wonder why the estate agent’s details had no photographs of the interior. 

‘We were instantly captivated by both the pretty exterior and wide views over hills and fields,’ recalls Sally. ‘However, once we began our tour of the property, we understood exactly why the rooms hadn’t been photographed. Inside, the house was a wreck. Plaster was crumbling off the walls, there was no central heating and it was crying out for a careful and thorough renovation.’

Find out how they completed the loving restoration, then see more of our stunning real home transformations. Find out how to renovate a house, too.

THE STORY

Owners Sally Appleyard, who manages the property as a film shoot location (lidhamhillfarm.co.uk), lives here with husband Rob, a financial director, and their children Zack, 11, and Aggy, six.
Property A Grade II-listed, 17th-century farmhouse, with Victorian additions, set in six acres in East Sussex.
Essential repairs The couple installed a central heating system and the house was rewired and replumbed. A new kitchen, family bathroom and two en suites were fitted. The inglenook and chimney were restored, the walls were replastered and windows replaced.

At that stage, in 2011, the couple made the brave decision to change their lifestyle completely and relocate from the Georgian home they had recently renovated in London.

‘Our son Zack loved being outside and, although Greenwich was great, he didn’t have the freedom to build dens and explore,’ says Sally. ‘Then, when Rob hinted that he’d always fancied rearing cattle on a smallholding, we were propelled into a whirlwind of house-hunting.’

Reminiscing over holidays spent in and around Rye and Camber Sands, the couple started their search in East Sussex. They saw dozens of houses before happening upon Lidham Hill Farm, situated between Rye and Hastings.

‘From the outside it was attractive, a great size and surrounded by farmland,’ says Sally. ‘Inside, the house in its raw state was hideous. As we wandered into the back garden, however, and paused to take in the spectacular Brede Valley views, I knew that with a lot of effort and imagination, it could, one day, be wonderful.’

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A striking painting by artist Luke Hannam, of Rob and Sally’s daughter Aggy, hangs next to the doorway from the dining room to the kitchen. A sheepskin, from The Golden Fleece in nearby Rye, softens an original Ercol two-seater bench
(Image: © Richard Gadsby)

Unfortunately, purchasing the house took much longer than the Appleyards had anticipated, as they couldn’t find a buyer for their London home for more than a year. However, in October 2012, Sally and Rob finally moved in, wasting no time installing a large wood-burning stove in the living room’s impressive inglenook fireplace.

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French bistro chairs from Vintage Stockroom set the tone for this colourful farmhouse kitchen, with its original brick floor and bright terracotta tiles around the new Mercury range cooker. To bring in more light, the Appleyards replaced an old window with French doors. A statement chrome Quad clock from Newgate Clocks adds a retro vibe, and the Il Fanale spotlights are from LSE Lighting
(Image: © Richard Gadsby)

‘This was a huge bonus on two fronts,’ explains Sally. ‘Not only did the guy who fitted the wood-burner recommend a fantastic builder but, as temperatures plummeted, the living room and kitchen became the only rooms that were in any way warm. One side of the house was so cold that it became a complete no-go zone that winter.

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By choosing a soft palette of pale colours, Sally has kept the interiors fresh and added retro-inspired and antique pieces, such as the large rug. The table, made by Benchmark in Hungerford, is teamed with Møller Model 78 side chairs sourced on eBay

(Image: © Richard Gadsby)

‘The conditions were pretty grim but, somehow, we managed,’ she says. ‘As the first snowflakes fell, the garden and farmland were transformed into a winter wonderland. We couldn’t believe we had so much space to go sledging, build snowmen and have fun as a family.’

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When the couple first moved in there was no central heating, so the open fireplaces and plentiful supply of wood from the farmland were essential

(Image: © Richard Gadsby)

In the spring, the badly needed central heating was installed and the whole house rewired. After that, builder Richard Holloway and his team began tackling the first major project – knocking two of the bedrooms into one and fitting an en suite, as well as replumbing the entire property.

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Carefully restored by builder Richard Holloway, the inglenook is a dramatic focal point in the cosy living room. The muted tones of Farrow & Ball’s Bone paint create the perfect backdrop for the Claude sofas from Pinch, covered in Icelandic Poppies grey velvet fabric from GP&J Baker. The Stovax wood-burner was supplied by Ripley Forge & Fireplaces
(Image: © Richard Gadsby)

‘Gaining permission to make alterations to our listed house was far more complicated than we’d imagined,’ says Sally. ‘Essentially, all Rob and I wanted to do was enhance the home we’d fallen in love with. Adhering to the conditions, such as using specific materials, took time and cost much more than we’d thought. But Richard had worked on period properties before, and took tasks, such as using lime plaster, totally in his stride.’

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Ochre velvet Peoneden cushions from House of Hackney add a vibrant splash of colour in the master bedroom. For a similar velvet and linen quilt in dove grey, try Cox & Cox

(Image: © Richard Gadsby)

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The bed is an antique, but this guest room has a modern feel. A bright chunky knit throw from Toast is paired with an Eames rocking chair from The Conran Shop.
(Image: © Richard Gadsby)
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Next, fitters from Devol Kitchens stripped out the tired old units and replaced them with smart cupboards, marble and oak worktops, plus a handy dresser. ‘The old Aga was full of plaster dust and totally inefficient,’ says Sally. 

‘We swapped it for a Mercury range, with a good blend of both contemporary and traditional elements.’ Indeed, the Appleyards have worked hard to achieve a mix of period and modern styles throughout this welcoming house, packed with antiques, curios and personal touches. 

‘Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I look out of the kitchen window and see the cattle strolling by – it’s quite a change from London rooftops,’ she adds. ‘This is a wonderful place to live and we’re so pleased that we’ve been able to breathe new life into a home that’s giving us, and other people, so much pleasure.’  

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 The floor had to be strengthened to take the weight of this tub from The Cast Iron Bath Company. The mounted shower mixer is from Burlington

(Image: © Richard Gadsby)

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Sally and Rob fell in love with the pretty farmhouse before venturing inside. By the time they realised how much work it needed, they had already decided it was their perfect home – Sally  knew that ‘with a lot of effort, it could be wonderful’
(Image: © Richard Gadsby)

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