This Grade ll-listed former parish hall had open-plan charm but lacked storage space…
This was a brilliant opportunity to create an escape away from the hectic pace of London, in a place that we already loved,’ says Harriet Hastings of her home in Suffolk. The Grade Ii-listed timber house had originally been built as a parish meeting hall, then converted into almshouses after the war before falling into disrepair. In the 1960s, architects Michael and Patty Hopkins bought the property and transformed the space into a family retreat while maintaining the integrity of the original structure.
‘At university I became great friends with Michael and Patty’s daughter, and spent many weekends with them here,’ says Harriet. ‘Years later, when I heard they were selling the house, my husband Stevie and I made the spontaneous decision to buy it.’
Harriet and Stevie were happy with the structure and arrangement of rooms, so simply updated it for their young family when they first bought the property. ‘We both loved the simplicity of the open-plan design,’ Harriet says. ‘It is quite puritanical in feel, and we wanted to keep the layout as it was.’ At the heart of the ground-floor space, the welcoming fireplace has a double-sided hearth that unites the kitchen and main living area and brings the added benefit of heating the entire house.
As the owners of two food-related businesses – Biscuiteers and Lettice Party Design – both Harriet and Stevie are avid foodies and were keen to have a working kitchen that they could enjoy. ‘Low windows and limited space made it impossible to build a new kitchen around the outer walls,’ Harriet says. ‘Instead, we built a central kitchen work area with an open-screen dresser-style back, enabling us to hang things, without restricting the natural light.’
The one thing this amazing property does lack, however, is storage, which is hard to include in a quirky historic property.
This means that every storage opportunity has been maximised. The back of the kitchen dresser, for example, provides space for hanging coats and shoes; washing machines have been built into upstairs chimney recesses; and a wet room has been designed around wonky beams and uneven floors.
Throughout the house, mid-century modern furniture is mixed with a few high-end design classics and vintage pieces that have either been inherited or sourced from local shops, fairs and auctions. ‘Our space is very eclectic and colourful as a result,’ says Harriet.
As the children got older, the family found they needed more living space, so the couple designed and built a new barn parallel to their existing home. ‘We were keen to create a barn structure that complemented the rustic architecture of the main house,’ says Harriet. ‘This also gave us the chance to build in lots of storage, along with an integral kitchen and shower room.
‘We all feel very at home and relaxed here,’ she adds. ‘The house and local area have been a huge part of our lives, and
I love the sense of belonging that comes with that for us all.’