Need inspiration for your own renovation project? Or simply fancy having a look around a gorgeous period property? This rural farmhouse is one of our favourites.
Read on to find out how its owners went about rescuing it from the brink of dereliction and then gave it an elegant new look, then browse the rest of our real home transformations. Read our guide on renovating a house, too, for more guidance.
Happy childhood memories of endless sandy beaches, majestic castles and fresh forest walks stayed with Emma Crabtree, so when she was looking for a property to buy, she instantly thought of the beautiful county of Northumberland where she had holidayed as a child. No matter that she was working in London, before long she was adding a pretty stone-built farmhouse in the wilds of Northumberland to her growing portfolio of properties in the area, that she managed remotely from London.
Owner Emma Crabtree, who owns a holiday letting agency in Scotland and Northumberland (crabtreeandcrabtree.com). Emma’s husband, Robbie, works in finance. They live here with their two-year-old daughter Otilie.
Property A four-bedroom farmhouse, built in 1880 in north Northumberland, just south of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
What they did Emma removed several walls to create a spacious kitchen-diner. She added a downstairs bedroom and bathroom and altered the upstairs layout, too.
The house was empty and in a terrible state, and Emma planned what she was going to do with it for several months before making a start.
‘I was in no hurry, I wanted to think about the light and the views and the way I would use the house,’ she says.
Once the renovation was up and running, Emma project managed from London, travelling up and down to Northumberland at weekends.
‘We had an excellent team of trades who were great at keeping in touch with images and videos so I could make decisions from my desk in London,’ she says.
One of Emma’s key decisions was to knock together two smaller ground-floor rooms, possibly a former scullery and kitchen, to create the spacious kitchen-diner she’d always wanted.
‘I am very informal, so I wanted a cosy sitting room and an open-plan kitchen-diner, rather than grand spaces for entertaining and a separate dining room that I probably wouldn’t ever use,’ she explains.
Preserving original features was really important to Emma and she worked hard to maintain the authenticity of the farmhouse, keeping the original windows and many period details. Sadly, the flooring was in such poor condition it had to be replaced. ‘I found some attractive black slate that looked suitably old for the kitchen and used fitted sisal in the rest of the house, overlaid with rugs for a homely effect,’ she says.
The kitchen was fitted by a local cabinetmaker and Emma found a secondhand Aga and had it reconditioned. The décor is a subtle palette of mainly heritage shades enlivened by vivid designer fabrics and some bolder colours.
‘I took inspiration from designer Kit Kemp’s work for Firmdale Hotels,’ says Emma, ‘I love her use of colour and she creates exactly the sort of vibrant, welcoming atmosphere I wanted for my own home.
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‘Overall, I wanted a restful and tranquil feeling so although I love colour and pattern, I didn’t allow the décor to become too intense,’ she adds.
Furnishing the main living spaces from her London base was a challenge, but a pleasure too, as Emma enjoys going to auction houses and subscribes to The Saleroom’s live auction website.
She also likes to buy from French brocantes and fleamarkets, topping up her collection of copper pans whenever she can.
The house slowly took shape as Emma’s business continued to flourish and within four years she had given up her job in London and moved north to manage Crabtree & Crabtree full time.
‘The farmhouse had become a very popular holiday rental so I had to rent a cottage myself when I first moved up, but in 2015 when Robbie and I got married it made sense for us to make it our home,’ says Emma.
‘Things just seemed to fall into place perfectly and our daughter Otilie was born two years later to complete the picture.’
Happily settled now, Emma and Robbie love their home’s rural location, and the sense of space and community that comes with it. ‘When you live in a relatively isolated setting you need to be able to depend on your neighbours,’ says Emma. ‘People are so friendly here and are happy to help each other out, and we appreciate that every day.'