An old listed vicarage in Oxfordshire ripe for renovation proved a godsend for this couple
While many homebuyers might be intimidated by the prospect of completely restoring a grand Georgian house, experienced renovator Gemma May-brown relished the opportunity. ‘From the moment I saw the vicarage online, I had a good feeling about it,’ she says. ‘I could see it had the right proportions and that there was vast potential to transform it into the elegant home my husband Nick and I were desperate for and that had so far eluded us.’
Back in 2014, the couple had been propelled into a house-hunting frenzy, having unexpectedly received the full asking price on their London apartment the day before they got married. ‘We postponed our honeymoon so that we could take up the offer,’ explains Gemma. Despite initial hopes of finding a city home, nothing suitable emerged so the couple decided to look in Oxfordshire, an area they both liked. ‘As soon as we spotted the vicarage, we went to view it and I could hardly contain my excitement,’ recalls Gemma. ‘ We were overjoyed when our offer was accepted straightaway.’
Once the sale had gone through, the pair began planning how they would alter the property to enhance its period features. ‘The whole place was drowning in heavy, dark curtains and patterned wallpaper,’ says Gemma, a project manager and owner of Kingdom Projects. ‘So I got straight to work creating mood boards, trawling the internet and visiting stores and showrooms to find the perfect furniture, lighting and pieces needed for the each room.’
However, with so much work to do, the couple needed extra help, which came in the shape Stuartbarrcdr construction, based in nearby Thame. ‘We met Stuart and I could tell that his philosophy and attention to detail would match our expectations,’ says Gemma. While the couple removed the old curtains and tired carpets themselves, Stuart’s firm overhauled the electrics and plumbing, before plastering the walls and retiling the new bathrooms and floors. The sash and French windows were replaced with new ones, and the original shutters, fireplaces, cornicing and the magnificent mahogany staircase were all carefully restored.
‘Nick and I did the painting and anything else we could to help,’ says Gemma. ‘I remember one Saturday night, standing on scaffolding boards in the hall at two in the morning, with a beer in one hand and a paintbrush in the other, wondering what on earth we were doing all this for!’ But thankfully, after seven months, all the hard work came together and they were able to move into their exquisitely restored home.
‘It was such an amazing feeling to finally move in, and every day I still feel excited about our home,’ enthuses Gemma. ‘It’s been an absolute honour to give such a special house a new lease of life.’
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