This Grade ll-listed for­mer parish hall had open-plan charm but lacked stor­age space…

Country Homes & Interiors - - THE HOME OF MODERN COUNTRY - BIS­CUITEERS, 0870 458 8358, BIS­CUITEERS.COM.

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.’

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