Sarah and Jonathan Wild used space from an adjoining room to create the luxurious yet practical family scheme of their dreams.
The owners: Sarah Wild (right), who works part-time in investment analysis, and her husband Jonathan, a fund manager, live here with their children Oliver, 12 Lottie, nine and Thomas, six
Relocating our family from a smart London property to a sprawling Regency-style country house in need of modernisation was a big decision for us to make,’ recalls Sarah. ‘Our two eldest children were still quite young, and I was pregnant with Thomas when Jonathan and I discussed the idea of moving to the country. We both agreed that we didn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere, though, and set about looking for a home in a village location.’
When they first saw the house, with its landscaped gardens, they were pleasantly surprised, but soon realised that it needed more work than they thought. The elderly owner had spent most of her time nurturing the magnificent garden, but had unfortunately neglected the house. It needed a complete update, but its prime village location was ideal for a family and the couple felt that it was too good an opportunity to miss. ‘We knew the project was going to be an awful lot of work, but we didn’t realise just how much,’ says Sarah. ‘It became a full-time job, and I had never done anything like it in my life.’
The sale went through smoothly and the Wilds employed the services of local architect Elspeth Beard to turn the dilapidated property into a modern family home while retaining its character and quirky features, such as the two separate staircases. The staircases in fact became a great bonus during the renovation work, as they enabled the family to live in the house while the work was underway. ‘The builders divided the house in half and we lived in one side while the other was being refurbished, then swapped over,’ says Sarah. ‘It was still disruptive, but it meant we didn’t have to rent another house, and I was on site to liaise with the tradespeople and make decisions on a daily basis.’
As the house is Grade II-listed, the couple knew they couldn’t make any radical changes, and their architect submitted plans for the renovation on their behalf. With most of the work internal, everything was approved, while outside permission was granted for a single-storey extension in place of a crumbling potting shed and garden store, as it would occupy the same footprint.
While the house was a good size, the upstairs rooms at the back of the property were small, with two bathrooms, a laundry room and a bedroom along one corridor. The architect suggested making one of the bathrooms larger by taking around half the space of the laundry room next door, leaving enough space for a narrower utility room. ‘This meant that we were able to fit a freestanding bath as well as a walk-in shower,’ recalls Sarah. ‘It was a much better, more practical use of the space.’
CP Hart had designed the bathroom in the couple’s previous house, and as Sarah had been pleased with the work, she met up with a designer at the company’s showroom in Guildford to discuss the scheme for the larger bathroom space. Sarah wanted a contemporary scheme in soft, natural tones, with a bath as the centrepiece and room for a generously sized shower. ‘The initial idea was for a big stone bath, but we quickly realised that we wouldn’t be able to get it up the stairs as it was incredibly heavy, so we changed it for a smaller enamel design,’ she says. ‘It’s still a lot wider than a standard bath, so it’s nice and roomy.’
Another key feature on Sarah’s wishlist was a boxed-in, wall-hung WC, with the space above turned into a large alcove intended for shelving. Sarah had trouble finding a style that matched the vanity unit and so initially placed a faux orchid in the space as a temporary measure. She liked it so much, however, that the shelving idea was scrapped in favour of the plant. ‘It adds an organic shape to the room and softens the hard lines,’ she says.
When it came to the tiles and flooring, the couple both wanted to use natural stone – not only for its beauty, but also to create a scheme that wouldn’t date too quickly. ‘When you are trying to renovate a whole house in one go, it’s not a good time to start experimenting with bold colours or patterned tiles,’ says Sarah. ‘I had to stay focused and choose classic pieces that I wouldn’t hate within six months.’
With plenty of space for a good-sized enclosure, the walk-in wet room-style shower is a huge hit with all the family. The fixed Raindance showerhead gives an invigorating spray, while a separate handset is a practical option for washing hair and to clean the shower afterwards.
This project was part of the first phase of the renovation, which took around seven months to complete. ‘Taking space from the room next door was definitely the right thing to do,’ says Sarah. ‘It has given us the scope to create the bathroom we really wanted – practical and easy to use for the children, and perfect for when Jonathan or I need to wind down in the evening. With a few candles, some posh bath oil and a glass of wine, it becomes the perfect space to relax in.’
|Building work and fitting costs||£8,000|
|Sanitaryware and furniture||£5,169|