Country Homes & Interiors - - NEWS -

Some imag­i­na­tive re­con­fig­ur­ing of the lay­out and a sub­stan­tial ex­ten­sion have cre­ated a made-to-mea­sure fam­ily home

It wasn’t the per­fect house. Well-loved but tired, its lay­out didn’t flow, the space was too small and the decor hadn’t been up­dated since the 1970s. But Alex Flatman took one look at the large gar­den and knew that the cot­tage could be her per­fect fam­ily home. ‘The plot was amaz­ing,’ says Alex. ‘To find any­where near Bath with an acre of level gar­den is just un­be­liev­able.’ At the time, she and her hus­band, David, a pro­fes­sional rugby player, were liv­ing in cen­tral Bath and wanted to move their ex­pand­ing fam­ily to the coun­try­side. ‘We’d been looking for ages and then we stum­bled across this house in the vil­lage right next to David’s rugby train­ing ground just out­side Bath,’ says Alex.

With big plans for their new home, the fam­ily didn’t move in for a year. ‘We rented nearby be­cause I’d just had my sec­ond baby and the prop­erty needed a to­tal ren­o­va­tion.’ Along with new wiring, win­dows and cen­tral heat­ing, the Flat­mans dou­bled the size of the house, ex­tend­ing out into the gar­den where an old barn had been, and up into the loft to cre­ate three fur­ther bed­rooms. They also added two more bath­rooms, a dress­ing room and turned half of the garage into a play­room. ‘I think we got a bit car­ried away,’ says Alex. ‘When you first ex­tend and they put the breeze blocks down, you think, “Oh this is tiny, what have we done?”

Then they build it and you think, “This is mas­sive, I’m sure it’s way big­ger than we need!”’

The down­stairs was re­con­fig­ured to maximise space and light. ‘I grew up in Amer­ica so I love open-plan liv­ing,’ says Alex. ‘In the orig­i­nal lay­out, you had to go through one room to get to the next, so we repo­si­tioned the front door to have a proper cen­tral en­trance and moved walls so that rooms flowed into each other.’

The huge, airy kitchen-diner in the for­mer barn is the heart of the house. ‘I wanted as much light as pos­si­ble, with views onto the gar­den, so we added three sets of French doors,’ says Alex. ‘I had al­ways dreamed of a painted Shaker kitchen and we didn’t scrimp on the cab­i­netry. To save money we shopped around mas­sively for ap­pli­ances. Orig­i­nally it was all made by Richard Baker, then a few years later we in­vested in a Wolf cooker and, rather frivolously, re­did that sec­tion of the kitchen around it, adding cab­i­nets we had al­ways loved by Stephen Graver and chang­ing all the han­dles to pull it all to­gether.’

When it came to the decor, Alex opted for pared-back sim­plic­ity in soft shades of grey with white. ‘I was a bit more ad­ven­tur­ous in our last house and I’ve learned that I tire of things pretty quickly. But I didn’t want ev­ery­thing to be too twee. With our last ren­o­va­tion, we bought a lot of fur­ni­ture in haste, so this time we made do with what we had, and bought things grad­u­ally.’

‘We spent a lot of our bud­get on be­spoke solid wood win­dows through­out,’ says Alex. ‘They are fab­u­lous, to­tally worth the money – the house is silent and our heat­ing bills are much lower.’

Hav­ing cre­ated this made-to-mea­sure fam­ily home, Alex wouldn’t change anything else about it. ‘Ev­ery­thing just works and flows the way we want it to, and I think that’s quite un­usual in a pe­riod house. We ab­so­lutely love it.’

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