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How a blank can­vas left by the builder be­came a quirky ru­ral home

Em­maBond’s home is sur­rounded by the War­wick­shire wood­lands, thanks to pub­lisher Felix Den­nis, who left much of his £500 mil­lion for­tune to cre­at­ing the coun­try’s largest new na­tive for­est. ‘Ap­pro­pri­ately, his char­ity is called Heart of Eng­land,’ says Emma. ‘It’s com­mit­ted to re­vers­ing the de­cline of our wood­lands and has planted more than 1.3 mil­lion broadleaf trees across 3,000 acres. Cen­turies ago our home would have been in a for­est; now the trees have re­turned.’ So have the deer, which in­spired Emma to give her home a hunt­ing-lodge theme.

‘It’s an 1870s con­verted barn, built with lo­cal brick and a claytiled roof, and was once a farm­house,’ she says. ‘Ten years ago a builder had con­verted it into a five-bed­room house. Ex­ter­nally, it had tremen­dous char­ac­ter but ev­ery room had been painted bland cream. It had lovely fea­tures, such as oak beams, and ev­ery room was a dif­fer­ent size, shape and height! It had an odd sprawl­ing lay­out, too, and over­all there was a quirk­i­ness that ap­pealed.’

So the fam­ily moved from their Vic­to­rian ter­raced house in Strat­ford-upon-avon. ‘Six years pre­vi­ously we had left the coun­try­side,’ says Emma. ‘But we all missed the trees.’

The L-shaped barn con­sists of a long cor­ri­dor, with three bed­rooms and bath­rooms lead­ing off it, which used to be sta­bles. The barn was in per­fect struc­tural con­di­tion. ‘But even if we wanted, we wouldn’t be al­lowed to do any build­ing work as our land has the re­mains of a me­dieval set­tle­ment, pro­tected by English Her­itage,’ says Emma. ‘We are on a very old site. Close

by is Coughton Court, a Grade I-listed Tu­dor build­ing on an es­tate.’

All the oak beams had been blasted to re­store their natural colour, now faded, and most of the ground-level floor­ing is oak. ‘I chose a very un­usual wall­pa­per for the cor­ri­dor,’ she says. ‘It re­sem­bles grey, dap­pled deer skin – won­der­ful against the sil­very beams. In the din­ing room and kitchen I chose wall­pa­pers re­sem­bling old oak pan­elling, and I painted the din­ing room ceil­ing light blue to draw the eye up­ward to the mag­nif­i­cent beams.’

The ceil­ing in the main bed­room is even higher. ‘We think it’s where they stored hay,’ says Emma. And the hunt­ing-lodge theme con­tin­ues, with a deer-print fabric head­board as the fo­cal point. ‘I’ve cho­sen tar­tan cush­ions for the two so­fas that I’ve had re-cov­ered in a tweed wool,’ she says. ‘Through­out I’ve cho­sen an­tique oak, wal­nut and ma­hogany fur­ni­ture – in­clud­ing Richard’s old din­ing ta­ble, sawn in half to make two demi-lune side ta­bles!’

How­ever, the two girls’ bed­rooms are a mod­ern con­trast. ‘Olivia chose a gi­ant pat­tern wall­pa­per be­cause her room is so high – at least 12 feet,’ says Emma. ‘Scar­lett’s room is even taller so we’ve built her a mez­za­nine-level bed.’

Out­side, the old un­even pa­tio flag­stones were lifted, cleaned and re-laid and Emma has planted sev­eral dozen more shrubs. And in the old or­chard are 14 rare-breed Pekin, Rhode Is­land and Marin chick­ens, for eggs. ‘We re­ally have re­turned to the heart of the coun­try­side,’ she says.

Kitchen A coat of paint and new tiles trans­formed this room into the heart of the home. Cab­i­netry, painted in French Gray by Far­row & Ball.

Wall tiles, Strat­ford Tile Ware­house.

Liv­ing room Ex­otic ac­cents mix with clas­sic fur­nish­ings. An­tique In­done­sian win­dow, con­verted into a mir­ror, Bonds Life­style. Arm­chairs, Made; re-cov­ered in her­ring­bone linen, The Fabric Hut.

Gourds in a slip­ware bowl, with small, colour­ful In­dian dishes from Home­sense.

Guest bed­room The wood­land theme is con­tin­ued with plant­mo­tif fabric. Head­board and bed­spread fabric, Flora & Fauna; large cush­ions, Wild & Free, both Vanessa Ar­buth­nott.

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