The judges of Period Living's Home of the Year awards were all wowed by Tom and Jenny Williams’ family home. A former laundry and dairy, the Grade II-listed building belonged to a hall that had been handed down through five generations of Tom’s family. They stripped the laundry to the brick, creating a glorious five-bedroom house, moving the staircase and adding a bootroom to give them the space they needed. Keep reading to find out more.
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Owners Tom and Jenny Williams live here with sons George, 20, John, 15, and Luke, 14, and working retriever Amber, and Jack Russell Digger. Tom is a builder and Jenny runs their bed and breakfast The Laundry Retreat.
Property A Grade II-listed former laundry and dairy built in the 1700s on a country estate in Denbighshire, Wales. It had been turned into flats, and is now a five-bedroom family house.
What they did Tom and Jenny fixed the roof, rebuilt the chimneys, stripped the property back to the brick, replastered in lime plaster, and added ground-source heating. They had to build a staircase at the centre of the house, and added new wooden windows and doors before replacing floors and fitting a new kitchen. They are currently creating a luxury glamping ‘roundhouse’ in the grounds.
‘The Laundry is truly a dream home, but what I love about it is how relaxed and lived-in it feels. It’s not pretentious or showy. It’s a welcoming family home with a history that has real significance to Tom and Jenny,’ says Editor Melanie Griffiths. Their aim was to restore the house, but make it even better than when it was first built. We think they’ve succeeded.
Tracing back through many branches of his family tree, Tom is the fifth generation of Willams to have lived in this beautiful corner of Wales, on an estate that’s been in the hands of his ancestors for 140 years. Tom spent the first two years of his life in the big hall, before his parents sold it to a hotelier, keeping hold of the land and all the outbuildings, including the estate’s old dairy and laundry, which had been divided into flats and had a sitting tenant.
When the tenant died and Tom and Jenny were looking for a home for their growing family, it occurred to them that with a bit of imagination the former laundry might prove the perfect place.
‘As Tom and I looked round we started to get a clear idea about what we wanted to do,’ says Jenny. ‘We also had to get our heads round dramatically changing the layout and putting a brand new central staircase in, as although there were two staircases already, one was a set of outside metal steps across the front of the house, and the inside stairs were at one end of the building.’
Tom already owned the property, but before they could make any changes to it they had tovapply for planning permission. Local chartered building surveyor Arwel Davies worked with Tom and Jenny to help them decide on the layout and take on the planning application. ‘Arwel had worked on other Grade II-listed properties in the area, so we knew he would give us good advice,’ says Jenny. ‘He told us that the more detail we put into in our application, specifying things like wooden windows and lime plaster, the more likely we’d be to get planning permission.’
His approach suited Tom and Jenny perfectly as they wanted to be as authentic as possible in their renovations. ‘Lime plaster is breathable and gives soft rounded edges around the windows,’ says Jenny. ‘It was all those little touches that helped
us to keep the old, original feel about the place.’
The couple decided to start work on the garden while they waited for planning permission. By the time it was granted in 2010 the pair, who share a passion for gardening, had planted up a lime avenue, mapped out where the lawns were going to be, and created a sheltered flower border against a wall that Tom’s grandfather had built in the 1950s, nicknaming it Regent Street because of its curve.
Back in the house, the first job was to fix the roof and rebuild the chimneys before stripping the walls back to the bare brick and adding a new wooden front door and windows. ‘Tom project managed it all,’ says Jenny. ‘It was his baby and he was totally engrossed by it. We agonised over every small detail and reused as much as we could as we wanted to keep everything original and improve it slightly and pretty it up in places too.’ A case in point were the quarry tiles, which the couple lifted from one of the front rooms. ‘I painstakingly scrubbed every single tile clean in the depths of winter, before we put them into the bootroom,’ recalls Jenny.
The couple also removed a wall to enlarge the galley kitchen and make it lighter. ‘A kitchen should be flooded with light all day long,’ says Jenny. ‘So taking out the wall that divided the old kitchen from a small front sitting room created the perfect space with big windows on both sides of the house.’ The enlarged room also provided a tailor-made spot for the range cooker – the alcove where the sitting room fireplace had originally been.
Jenny had seen a traditional painted kitchen in a magazine, and asked local cabinetmaker Gwyn Dowell to create something similar for her, knowing it would really suit the house. And now it’s finished? ‘I love it – it’s the kitchen of my dreams,’ says Jenny. ‘We wanted a kitchen that would stand the test of time and grow old with us and our family. We’re not precious about things, we prefer to be comfy and welcoming. So if you want to put a mug on the table, that’s fine. If it leaves a ring, then it leaves a bit of history here.’
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There’s no shortage of history at The Laundry, with many items of furniture and decorative accessories rescued from the old hall where Tom’s parents used to live. And what do they think of their son and daughter-in-law’s efforts to revive this part of the estate?
‘They’re secretly proud,’ says Jenny. ‘When they ask to show their friends round the garden it makes me so happy. We’ve put our hearts and souls into the house and garden, and the more we live here the more we fall in love with our surroundings. It’s a happy home that we’ve created together and we love sharing it with our family and friends, and our B&B and garden visitors.