All change

pur­chas­ing a run­down vil­lage house with a few acres Of land al­tered sally and andy lit­tle­stone’s lives in ways they had never imag­ined

Country Homes & Interiors - - KENT PERIOD PROPERTY -

When

Sally and Andy Lit­tle­stone de­cided to move from Lon­don to kent in 2014, Andy was plan­ning to com­mute to work. the cou­ple were look­ing for a fam­ily house, so when an agent tried to tempt them with a pe­riod prop­erty in Siss­inghurst vil­lage that needed to­tal restora­tion, they wouldn't even look at it, not be­liev­ing they had the skills or ex­pe­ri­ence for such a project. But as weeks passed with no suit­able prop­er­ties to view, they were fi­nally per­suaded to take a look. ‘We walked in, saw its di­lap­i­dated state and all the over­grown land, smiled at each other and knew this was it,’ says Sally. it was the start of a com­pletely un­planned and life-chang­ing learn­ing curve for the fam­ily.

the old­est part of the house dates from 1530 when it was a two-up, two-down cot­tage. it was ex­tended in the 17th cen­tury and again dur­ing the ed­war­dian pe­riod. Be­fore the Lit­tle­stones bought it, the same fam­ily had lived there for more than 80 years, but no mean­ing­ful re­pairs had been car­ried out since the Seven­ties. ‘on our first night in the prop­erty, there was a sum­mer storm and the roof sprung 28 leaks,’ says Sally. ‘We were hur­riedly un­pack­ing, try­ing to find bowls and buck­ets to catch the rain. For months we con­tin­ued to put tow­els at the bot­tom of walls to catch wa­ter.’

their first year was taken up with go­ing through the plan­ning process with their ar­chi­tect, and the sec­ond year was spent liv­ing with the builders. the wiring had to be

re­newed ur­gently, with plumb­ing and heat­ing to fol­low as work pro­gressed. Life in the house be­came a move­able feast, though Sally says, ‘Our won­der­ful builders al­ways left us with a kitchen and two bed­rooms through­out the works.’

Their ar­chi­tect de­signed a new oak tim­ber-framed kitchen as an ex­ten­sion to the Ed­war­dian liv­ing room, giv­ing them a large, open-plan fam­ily space. Andy and Sally’s task was to work out ex­actly what they needed from this new kitchen. ‘I wanted it to al­ways look tidy,’ says Sally. ‘Andy loves cook­ing and has a huge amount of gad­getry so we spec­i­fied deep stor­age cup­boards with in­ter­nal sock­ets for the ap­pli­ances. That way we could open doors on any­thing, from cof­fee maker to food pro­ces­sor, and use it in situ.’ Be­tween banks of tall cup­boards is a four-oven elec­tric cook­ing range, and the large is­land in­cor­po­rates a sink, in­duc­tion hob, un­der-counter fridge and dish­washer.

The char­ac­ter of the house changes as it moves through the cen­turies and Sally has made choices that take note of this. ‘We’ve used rugs rather than car­pets, so all the floor­boards are ex­posed, which gives con­ti­nu­ity and looks right in a pe­riod house,’ she says. ‘I chose an old white tint to paint both the walls and ceil­ings, as the shade helps rooms with low ceil­ings and no straight lines feel more spa­cious.’

An ex­cep­tion has been made in the main bed­room suite be­cause it re­ceives lots of nat­u­ral light. Here, Sally de­cided to use a mid-grey for the walls and built-in fur­ni­ture as

a way to in­ject a re­peated con­tem­po­rary note and move the in­te­rior style of the house for­ward. Through­out the ren­o­va­tion, Sally and Andy were keen to work along­side the builders and, as Sally was the one on site most of the time, she acted as project man­ager. ‘Each month I took a job from the builders’ to-do list, such as pulling up car­pets, sand­ing floor­boards and of course, paint­ing.’ The pair used old doors and oak off-cuts from the kitchen to con­struct stor­age in the hall for the fam­ily’s coats, and in the liv­ing room Sally’s gift for dé­coupage trans­formed an unloved low table into a unique cof­fee table.

Sally was also keen to get out­side and plant a gar­den for flow­ers and veg­eta­bles. ‘Then Andy de­cided it would be cool to keep our own pigs,’ she says. ‘When friends tasted our pork they asked us to keep a cou­ple of pigs for them, too, and within the first year of liv­ing here we found our­selves with 20 pigs. We’ve since started breed­ing them and now have more than 100.’ As the rep­u­ta­tion of Siss­inghurst

Pigs grew and work on the house was ap­proach­ing its fi­nal stages, Andy gave up his Lon­don part­ner­ship to con­cen­trate on de­vel­op­ing this new small­hold­ing busi­ness. ‘It had never crossed our minds that we might be­come pig farm­ers,’ says Sally. ‘As you can imag­ine, pigs cause a lot of mud, which doesn’t go too well with clean in­te­ri­ors… Yet we want this house to be truly lived in so my so­lu­tion is to al­ways have a mop at the ready!’

Kitchen To al­low space for more cup­boards, Sally com­pro­mised with bi­fold win­dows in­stead of doors, which open out onto the gar­den. Un­der­floor heat­ing dis­creetly warms the room. Bi­fold win­dows, Sus­sex Con­struc­tion. Oak floor­ing, Naos Floors.

Kitchen Ar­chi­tect Ju­lian Bluck de­signed the lofty tim­ber-framed ex­ten­sion in new oak. Range cooker, Ever­hot. Clock, John Lewis.

Shower room Painted MDF pan­elling clev­erly hides away all the pipework, while a mir­ror con­ceals the open­ing of a stor­age re­cess. Vi­cenza stone basin, Clear­wa­ter Baths. Vestry wall lights, Dar Light­ing. Pan­elling painted in Far­row & Ball’s Manor House Gray.

Guest bed­room Sally has mixed in some an­tique fur­nish­ings, which com­ple­ment the pe­riod fea­tures. Nurs­ing chair, find sim­i­lar on Etsy. Illustrations,Emma Cowlam.

Guest bath­room The cou­ple love the warm colour and tex­ture of the plas­ter, so de­cided to leave the walls bare. Taps, St James Col­lec­tion. The Sal­is­bury bath is sim­i­lar, Bath­store.

Small­hold­ing These woolly Man­gal­itsa pigs, orig­i­nally from Hun­gary, are one of the rare breeds reared by the Lit­tle­stones.

Gar­den Sally grows flow­ers in raised beds, which she sells in bunches at her gate.

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