Creating a special place for their kids to grow up was the driving force behind Faye and Dave Campbell’s house renovation, and even though it was a stressful experience, Faye admits it was one of the best things they’ve ever done. After all, if your kids are happy, chances are you are too.
Take a peek inside the couple's eclectic, child-friendly house in Surrey – and don't forget to check out our other stunning real homes for more interiors inspiration.
What attracted you to the house in the first place?
'I must admit that I was pretty smitten as soon as I saw the garden and the views over the open countryside,' says Faye. 'We’d spent two years looking for a plot where we could build our own house, but nothing suitable ever came up.
'We eventually saw this 1950s house eight years ago and, although it was nothing special in terms of how it looked, we could see it had the potential to grow with our family.
'We always had in mind the kind of open-plan, welcoming home it could become, plus there was enough space outside for us to build a separate art studio for me to work from home. It’s definitely proved to be the right move for us – when the kids were younger it was great to know I could just open the doors and let them run round the garden to burn off some energy.'
How long did you wait before starting your renovation? Did you rush straight into it?
'We couldn’t afford to renovate straight away, so we had to live in the original house for three years while we saved up. In some ways it was a blessing in disguise as it gave us time to think about how we could improve the house to make it work for us as a family. I’m not sure we would have ended up with the house we’ve got now had we raced into it.'
What was your priority for the house?
'We love having parties and wanted a big, sociable space with a kitchen, dining and living area leading out to the garden so the party could spill outside in the summer. With four kids, we also needed more bedroom space – extending into the loft has given us three extra bedrooms and a bathroom.
'As the kids get older, it’s less likely they’ll want to spend all their time with us, so converting the garage into a separate living area means they can also go and watch TV on their own now.'
Did you live in the house while it was being renovated?
'It makes me shudder just thinking about it again, but we stayed here throughout the build! We moved into the half-finished art studio space, and we basically camped out in one big room for five months. We didn’t have any hot water so I had to take the kids to the gym to give them a shower, and we lived on microwave meals.
'It did make me question what on earth we were doing, but the kids seemed to take it all in their stride. I suppose to them it was just a big adventure.Thankfully the weather was fairly mild – it could have been a lot worse, but it’s definitely not an experience I’d like to repeat any time soon.'
Faye Campbell, an artist, lives here with her husband Dave,
a lawyer, and children Joshua, 15, Elijah, 12, Jude, 11,
and Grace, eight
A six-bedroom, 1950s detached house with an artist’s studio in the garden near Guildford, Surrey
What did you find was the hardest part to deal with?
'Just trying to get on with family life, I suppose. It’s difficult enough to get the kids out of bed, dressed and ready for school on time on a normal day, but it’s 10 times worse when you’ve got builders there asking you questions before the school run!
'Living with the builders became part of our daily life, but I was relieved when the work was finished and we had the house to ourselves again.'
What’s made the biggest difference to the house and how has it changed family life for you?
'Adding the two-storey extension has given us this fantastic double-height dining area overlooking the garden. That, coupled with the more open-plan layout, has transformed our home and the way we live in it.
'I love spending time in the kitchen, and the kids naturally find their way to this part of the house when they come back from school – probably for something to eat rather than to speak to me, though!'
What really stands out is the way your artwork brings your home to life. It shows what an instant impact it can have. What advice can you give to other people on choosing the right pieces for their home?
'Artwork can really change the feel of space and it’s so easy to update if you fancy a change. You need to consider the size, proportions and shape of the room where you’re going to hang it, but try not to overthink it. Go for designs and colours that you love and you can’t really go wrong.'
Here at Real Homes, we're most envious of the fact that you can work from home every day and only have a short stroll across the garden to get to your studio. Is it as idyllic as it sounds?
'When the kids were younger it was invaluable – it made it so much easier to juggle work and home life. It’s definitely a luxury to have my own studio, but one of the downsides is that I can’t get that separation from home life. It can be difficult to completely switch off, but it’s a small price to pay for it all, though!'
So with the house finally finished, was all the stress and hard work worth it?
'Most definitely. The house is exactly what we imagined it would be. It’s perfect for our family, and that’s the best you can hope for.'