New be­gin­nings How one cou­ple cre­ated a new home and a life change

House Beautiful (UK) - - Contents - WORDS FIONA REID

Trans­form­ing an old build­ing has cre­ated a mod­ern home and in­spired a life change

For Su­san Bur­nell, Christ­mas is all about fam­ily, and every year she and hus­band James wel­come 20 guests to their spa­cious farm­house for a meal. ‘Every­one brings some food, so it’s re­ally re­laxed and I don’t have to do all the cook­ing!’ says Su­san. Cre­at­ing a con­tem­po­rary, so­cia­ble liv­ing area was at the heart of the ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion the cou­ple car­ried out on the farm­house af­ter they bought it in 2009. ‘We con­fig­ured the whole house to get the open and flow­ing space we wanted,’ Su­san ex­plains. ‘And at Christ­mas there’s enough room for every­one.’

Seven years ago this open-plan fam­ily home couldn’t have looked more dif­fer­ent. The cou­ple were then liv­ing in the neigh­bour­ing farm­stead and loved the lo­ca­tion, but they needed some­where big­ger for their grow­ing fam­ily, so when the old farm­house came up for sale, they jumped at

the op­por­tu­nity to buy it. Apart from the ex­ten­sive floorspace, the prop­erty also had a big drive­way at the front, which was the per­fect spot to build a stu­dio for Su­san.

‘I could see what I wanted to do here straight­away,’ says Su­san. The house it­self was in tired state and on the rec­om­men­da­tion of Su­san’s dad the cou­ple em­ployed Adam Tole­man of Arka Ar­chi­tects. ‘We knew that Adam was some­one who could think out­side the box and solve prob­lems,’ Su­san says.

But they still had chal­lenges to face, not least plac­ing their pre­vi­ous home on the mar­ket just as the re­ces­sion hit. ‘It took us two years to sell, so we had 24 months of mort­gage pay­ments on two houses, and then af­ter we’d sold we had to rent for six months un­til the new house was com­pleted,’ Su­san ex­plains.

‘It was mas­sively stress­ful.’

Ini­tially, the cou­ple had in­tended to ex­tend the farm­house, but the local plan­ning au­thor­ity re­jected their ap­pli­ca­tion and the house plans had to change sig­nif­i­cantly. ‘We were able to build a big stu­dio out­side, which is where I now work, be­cause that’s clas­si­fied as an an­cil­lary build­ing and didn’t re­quire plan­ning per­mis­sion,’ Su­san ex­plains, ‘but we weren’t al­lowed to add that kind of ex­ten­sion onto the house, so Adam had to think again.

‘I have so much re­spect for the way he re­worked the plans yet still in­cor­po­rated the de­sign fea­tures that were im­por­tant to us,’ she says. ‘I didn’t want a huge house as I find smaller houses more in­ter­est­ing, and by using the space well, Adam’s cre­ated some­thing that doesn’t feel small.’

A small ex­ten­sion forms what is now the din­ing area, and a wall of glass was added to draw in the light and give open views across the neigh­bour­ing fields. ‘This is ev­ery­thing for me,’ says Su­san. ‘I walk down­stairs in the morn­ing and the sun­light streams in here – it’s so up­lift­ing.’ The ground level con­tains all the liv­ing spa­ces, while three bed­rooms, in­clud­ing one en­suite, and a fam­ily bath­room are up­stairs.

There were low points dur­ing the build, which lasted from Oc­to­ber 2010 to April 2011. ‘We had the worst win­ter weather in years,’ says Su­san. ‘The snow was so deep we couldn’t ac­tu­ally get the farm gate open to let the builders in!’ But there were high­lights too, such as when the cou­ple were able to see their be­spoke stair­case be­ing built in the fac­tory be­fore it was brought into the house in two sec­tions. ‘The stair­case and the wall of glaz­ing were the fea­tures we were most ex­cited about,’ says Su­san.

The cou­ple poured all of their ef­fort and most of their money into the build. ‘We re­alised that we needed to in­vest in the fabric of the build­ing. You’re never go­ing to go back and add a Velux win­dow, but you’ll be able to af­ford the sofa you want in a year or two’s time,’ she rea­sons.

Her min­i­mal ap­proach to the in­te­rior was in­stinc­tive, she says. ‘I love go­ing to Ice­land and Copenhagen – the land­scape, cul­ture, food and peo­ple you meet, but most of all the amaz­ing de­sign. My Scandi in­flu­ence comes from there.’

De­sign­ing this house both in­side and out had a last­ing im­pact on Su­san, who launched her on­line de­sign store Soouk in Jan­uary 2014. She now sells fine art prints of her own pho­tog­ra­phy, and the chalky white walls through­out her home of­fer the per­fect back­drop to show­case the col­lec­tion. ‘Be­fore we had this house I was spe­cial­is­ing in por­trai­ture, and then I moved into in­te­rior pho­tog­ra­phy, and that evolved into Soouk,’ she says. ‘The de­sign process here was the cat­a­lyst for my life chang­ing.

‘Even though this project was chal­leng­ing, I loved do­ing it.

If I could af­ford it, I’d do it all again to­mor­row.’


DIN­ING AREA A Hay Loop Stand table from Nest is placed in front of floor-to-ceil­ing glass doors to make the most of the stun­ning views across the sur­round­ing coun­try­side. The Noth­ing To See Here print is by Soouk

FAM­ILY HOME Su­san and James with Leon and Do­ran

BED­ROOM Walls in char­coal and white plus sim­ple bed­ding cre­ate a serene feel. Su­san made the rus­cus gar­land be­hind the bed and added lights from Light­s4­fun

BATH­ROOM A black sil­hou­ette im­age is a stun­ning fea­ture in the sleek room

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