Louisa and her husband Charlie took on the renovation of a Grade II-listed five-bedroom cottage in north-east Oxfordshire. The house dates back to 1806, with the living room and master bedroom above added in 1902.
Owners: Louisa Butters, a professional caterer, and her husband Charlie, an investment director, live here with their children Cecilia, six, and Hugo, three.
Essential repairs: The first big job was replacing the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room and master bedroom as they were buckled and rotting. The house had to be propped up during the work.
The also couple refurbished the master en suite and loft bathroom.
Just minutes from Bicester, the cottage sat on the edge of the village, in a plot of just under one acre with its own secluded garden backing onto rolling farmland. Built in Cotswold stone, with early-19th-century origins, it had high ceilings, big windows and plenty of period features.
Since moving in, the owners have learnt that the cottage was originally a smallholding farmed by monks, and has been the site of a hunting lodge for the Royal Equerry.
The kitchen was small and dark, with little work space and seating, except for two bar stools. A utility room/pantry was attached, but neither room was quite big enough. The dining room next door was too large and formal for family meals.
Having been recently rewired and replumbed, the work required initially was cosmetic. Structural work was put on hold as the family settled in, and got to know the rooms, and how the light moved around the cottage throughout the year.
Louisa craved a large kitchen where all the family could convene, but the wall couldn’t be knocked through, so a semi-split layout was created instead. This works brilliantly, with one half for preparing food, and another in which to cook and eat
Four years later, work on upgrading the kitchen started. There is now a cosy kitchen-diner where the kitchen used to be, and the utility next door has been gutted to transform it into a food preparation area. ‘This had a low ceiling with a small room above, which was removed to raise the ceiling to the rafters,’ says Louisa. With destruction came discovery, as the builders unearthed a pre-1900 range cooker, implying that this room had once been the kitchen.
The building’s listing prevented the couple from knocking through the wall of the utility to expand the space for a family kitchen, so they made the connecting door wider and had the family kitchen-diner built alongside, in place of the old kitchen extension. With its roof lantern and tall windows, it is lighter than the other half, but the lofty ceilings of the two blend well.
The cosy kitchen-diner
The neglected garden was relandscaped after Charlie unearthed some photos of the garden in the 1950s. Charlie returned it to its former glory, replanting borders and trees, and reinstating the paving stones where an orangery had once stood. The drive was also updated.
Louisa and Charlie’s tranquil garden
The couple painted the house in pale, neutral colours to lighten it, and had new ceiling and wall lights fitted to replace the spotlights favoured by the previous owners.
Louisa has a flair for interiors, and her best friend Bee O’Connell, an interior designer, was there to help when decisions were needed. Together they reintroduced as much of the house’s period character as possible, while keeping it contemporary for the family’s lifestyle.
Family heirlooms, including the pictures and chair – Hugo’s christening present – personalise the children’s bathroom, fitted by previous owners
One of the oldest rooms, the atmospheric dining room is perfect for large dinner parties and gatherings. Chairs from Oka are paired with an elegant table from Woodstock Antiques. The carving above the fireplace is also antique – a lucky find at a sale in Lewes
Stylish objets d’art complement the ornate plasterwork. The seasonal floral display gives colour