OUT OF THE ASHES
Having been badly damaged by fire, a Nottinghamshire farmhouse has now been lovingly restored
Claudia Alwitry, a GP and aesthetic practitioner, was on her way to visit a patient when she spotted a For Sale sign in front of a former farmhouse. She made an appointment to view it with her husband, Amar, an eye surgeon, and they were sold on it even before they had a chance to have a proper look around. ‘It was a lovely sunny day and the owners were sitting in the garden, drinking Pimms,’ recalls Claudia. ‘It looked so idyllic, I knew there and then it was for us.’
Although the interior of the house had altered dramatically since the days when it was a farmhouse in the middle of a dairy farm, it wasn’t to the couple’s taste. ‘There were net curtains on every window, which meant that you couldn’t see the wonderful view. It was very Eighties,’ explains Claudia.
Money was tight when they first moved in as Amar was still a junior doctor and Claudia had not been a practising GP for long. To keep within budget, they took on some of the work. ‘Amar even retiled the whole ground floor himself,’ says Claudia.
Their eldest child, Max, now 12, was born a year after they moved in, followed by Toby, 10, Oscar, eight, and Safia, six. There is also Woodie and Winnie the cockapoos and cats Bertie, Boots and Wilbur.
To accommodate their growing brood, Claudia and Amar extended the house in 2009 to create five bedrooms, but in 2011, disaster struck. An electrical fault in a fridge in the internal garage caused a devastating fire. ‘We had a car with a full tank in the garage and it exploded,’ says Claudia. ‘Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the whole of the left side of the house was burnt out and the rest of the house had smoke damage.’
The family were happy with their home before the fire, but as the entire house had
LESSON LEARNT ‘I recommend putting things in storage if you’re building a large extension. We didn’t and it was so upsetting when some of our things got broken’
to be restored, it was an opportunity to change a few things for the better. ‘I didn’t want the car to be in the house any more, so we turned the garage into a games room and added a separate garage,’ explains Claudia.
Then, in 2016, the couple extended the house again and turned what had previously been a conservatory into the main sitting room and pushed the kitchen out into the garden. They also added a boot room and utility room downstairs and two en-suite bedrooms upstairs.
‘I drew the plans up myself, as I knew exactly what I wanted,’ says Claudia, ‘and to finalise the drawings we employed the same architect who had put the house back together after we had the fire.’
When it came to the interior design, Claudia continued the theme that she had begun previously. ‘I didn’t want the house to be a designer home that couldn’t be used,’ she says. ‘I wanted it to feel comfortable and welcoming, and for the interior not to date. For example, I avoided a glossy handleless kitchen, that might have showed every finger print. With all our children and pets it had to be hard-wearing, practical, but also inviting. I had always envisioned a big country-style kitchen here and I often drove past the devol showroom and knew that I wanted one of their designs. It was nice to be able to pop by and see it being made.’
Even though the house is just as she wants it now, Claudia specifically opted for a backdrop of neutral walls so that the decor can be added to and tweaked. ‘I know I can easily change curtains, cushions and accessories when they get tired,’ she says. ‘There’s nothing we would alter about the overall look and feel of our home, though. It’s beautiful, but liveable, too. We feel we have created a home for life.’
DESIGN TIP ‘Collect together cuttings of all the designs, colours and fabrics you like in a folder that you can constantly draw upon when you need inspiration’
KITCHEN-DINER Claudia chose benches over chairs so as to accommodate many more people around the farmhouse-style kitchen table. Bespoke handmade bunting, price on application, from Seed Home Designs. Benches, £ 400 each; table, £1,250 all Dove & Grey. Dresser, £2,410, devol
KITCHEN-DINER This room is large enough to accommodate an oversized island with a breakfast bar that the whole family can sit at together. Deben pendant lights, £114 each, Jim Lawrence. Stars from £20, Notonthehighstreet.com. The Cox & Cox weathered oak bar stool, £180, is a good match