OXFORDSHIRE VILLAGE HOUSE
Two period cottages were combined to create an open-plan and surprisingly modern interior
life in the Cotswolds definitely suits Helen Spencer and her husband Richard – so much so that when they moved to their forever home, they not only stayed in the same village, they remained in the same street and literally moved next door.
‘We love the village we live in,’ says Helen. ‘Our location is great for the shops and pubs, yet London is just over an hour’s drive. Richard is from this village and his grandfather used to live along the street. His grandfather was a stonemason and there are lots of memories of him in the village. I used to come to the village, too, as a child because there was an ice cream parlour here. When both cottages next door to where we were living came up for sale, it was too good an opportunity to miss.’
The sale consisted of two separate properties, along with a barn, that had been owned by an old man who lived in one half. ‘Richard remembers watching the Queen’s coronation in the lefthand cottage as it had the only TV in the street!’
Helen and Richard weren’t planning to live in either of the houses. ‘We were originally going to develop the buildings to turn them into three different properties and sell them all, but then I became pregnant with twins and we realised we would need more space, so we decided to renovate the cottages into one property and live there ourselves.’
The couple knew extensive work would need to be done to create their dream home, but fortunately Richard runs a
What makes this house a homeé ‘The layout around the courtyard creates a homely atmosphere and is great for parties, too!’
What we love most about living here... ‘We have large windows so it is very light, and it’s great being able to see across the courtyard into each room’
building company so was well placed to do the renovation. The family moved in, living in the left-hand property, which was more modern and had central heating. ‘The other side, which is older, had mud floors, really low ceilings and no heating so needed a lot of work doing to it,’ says Helen.
The first major structural work tackled was adding a kitchen extension. ‘It was a long rectangular structure originally and we wanted to make it into a U-shape surrounding a courtyard by building on each side,’ says Helen. A green oak-framed dining room extension with vaulted ceiling, plus a utility room, were added to the kitchen.
The dividing wall between the two cottages was taken down to create a large central living room. ‘It would have been poky otherwise,’ says Helen, ‘but it took four men a week to take down the thick dividing wall. Richard then used all the stone to build a pool house across the courtyard from the kitchen.’
At the same time, the staircase from the left-hand house was removed and a new one designed to replace the right hand one, located centrally in the joined-up property. The circular oak frame was made in Wales and curved windows were fitted in the wall above to complement it. Next, one of the two front doors was removed and filled in and a pretty porch added to the other, with wisteria now contributing to the picturesque exterior.
Two years ago the Spencers installed a new kitchen. ‘The kitchen was quaint and fussy before, so I wanted to move
forward and create something more contemporary,’ says Helen. They chose a design from Chamber Furniture. ‘They were absolutely amazing and a pleasure to deal with, and they paid great attention to detail.’
More recently, Helen has redecorated the house throughout. ‘Originally when we renovated the house, the decor was quite French in style, but as time went on we wanted to change it. I wanted everything clean and simple so that it was easy to look after.’ In keeping with the contemporary, pared-back feel of the kitchen, the interior has a modern country look with a hint of Scandi. ‘I love simple pieces and lots of texture and layering – I’ve used different textured rugs in the living room, for example,’ says Helen. ‘I like the house to look cosy and welcoming.’
Although the house is old, it now features plenty of mod cons, such as underfloor heating and a Rako lighting system, which make it ideal for 21st-century modern country living.
‘The house involved a lot of hard work, but it’s great to come home and relax here,’ says Helen. ‘I love the U-shape with the courtyard in the centre – I can be in the kitchen and see the kids in the swimming pool or see through to the living room.
‘The house is so light and airy – it’s deceptive from the front as it has the appearance of a period cottage, but it looks like a different building from the back. I just love being at home.’
Living room The contemporary feel is achieved with statement pieces and layered rugs.Gold table, Heal’s. Geometric table, Atkin & Thyme. Tresse rug, Green Decore. Icelandic sheepskin rug, Hide Rugs.
Kitchen Helen has created a modern look with clean lines. Texture plays its part with wooden units and log stools, topped with sheepskin covers Helen made herself. Bespoke units and worktops, Chamber Furniture. Flooring,Stone & Wood Tiles.
Dining area A vaulted ceiling and stained-glass window create the wow factor, while vintage cinema chairs add a quirky touch. Table and chairs, Titchmarsh & Goodwin. Cinema seats,The Old Flight House.
Bathroom The neutral scheme features an oversized bath. Bath, Bathrooms International. Tiles, Fired Earth. Walls, painted in Shaded White byFarrow & Ball.
Main bedroom Aquas and greys mix in this elegant space. Quilt, blanket and cushions, Zara Home and Oliver Bonas. Pendant light, Liberty.
The curving staircase was made in Wales from oak. Runner, The Carpet & Flooring Company. Copper pendant light, The French House.
Pool house The A-framed space is a beautiful place for swimming all year round. Wicker chair, Wyevale Garden Centres.
Courtyard The U-shaped house surrounds a pretty courtyard.Garden furniture,Posh Garden Furniture.