heav­enly trans­for­ma­tion

An old listed vicarage in Ox­ford­shire ripe for ren­o­va­tion proved a god­send for this cou­ple

25 Beautiful Homes - - NEWS - Fea­ture JANET MCMEEKIN pho­tog­ra­phy RICHARD GADSBY

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.’

best buy ‘I love our sump­tu­ous vel­vet cush­ions in the bed­room, which I spot­ted in Home­sense. At un­der £20 each, they were a real bar­gain’

SIT­TING ROOM To max­imise light, the cou­ple opted to re­store the prop­erty’s orig­i­nal shut­ters rather than hang cur­tains. Casablanca wall light, £219, Heath­field & Co. For a sim­i­lar mir­rored cof­fee ta­ble try Re­flect, £ 499, Dwell. Be­spoke cush­ions by Aiveen

DIN­ING ROOM Mod­ern meets tra­di­tional to daz­zling ef­fect in here. Pet­worth french wal­nut ex­tend­ing ta­ble, £1,835, oka. agnes chan­de­lier, £525, lmod­ern­light­ing. star dust silk wall­pa­per in pan­els, £100sq m, Phillip Jef­fries

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