A FAMILY AFFAIR
How one couple modernised their Oxfordshire farmhouse, which has come down through the generations
For many years, Danish-born Puk Parsons and her husband, Sam, lived in a lodge on the family farm in Oxfordshire, which they had restored and where they had their three sons, William, now 16, Thomas, 13, and Humphrey, nine. Eventually, the time came for Sam to take over the running of the farm and they swapped houses with his parents, moving into their Cotswold stone farmhouse, together with the boys, dogs Yoko and Moss, and cats Birk and Ronja. ‘It was quite an operation, with the two removal vans we’d hired squeezing past each other in the narrow lanes,’ says Puk.
Once in, making their mark was a slow process. The building was packed full of several generations of belongings, including furniture, paintings and china, not to mention an attic bulging with ancestral possessions, including suitcases full of crinolines, lace and wedding attire and, most surprisingly of all, the skeleton of a beloved parrot, still in its cage. ‘It was a unique experience delving into a past that still seemed very present, and quite a challenge for a Dane who loves simple living,’ says Puk. But having trained and worked as a tailor, she was in her element, and careful to preserve the historical linen.
One of the couple’s first tasks was to rip out the carpets. ‘I then made the mistake of starting too many projects at once and quickly realised I had to handle one room at a time,’ says Puk, whose first priority was to get the bedrooms into shape.
Six years down the line, the couple were finally ready to make some structural
changes. They employed builders to level the floors upstairs and create two new bathrooms. The main bedroom was turned into the family bathroom, complete with a roll-top bath and his-and-hers vintage German sinks. The second bathroom was created by strengthening the joists in the oldest part of the house, so that it could be tanked to create a wet room.
Downstairs, the layout of the house was difficult to adapt, as it featured two disparate areas that had once been used for family and staff respectively. ‘It needed some rejigging for the two parts to connect,’ says Puk. ‘The solution was to move the kitchen from the small room at the front into the formal sitting room, putting the office and cloakroom at the back.’ After consulting an architect, the existing low-pitched roof was also raised to full height to make the most of the view from the kitchen to the orchard beyond.
Taking inspiration from pared-back Scandinavian design, the walls are painted white throughout and teamed with bare floorboards or engineered oak flooring dotted with rugs. A block of bold colour on the morning room wall, plus patterned tiles in the bathrooms add vibrance. The drawing room has been painted in a subtle grey, so as not to distract from the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
The couple still have plenty of ideas for their home: the old kitchen is to become a reception room and the cellar a sociable space. ‘I’m so pleased with our farmhouse,’ says Puk. ‘It’s been wonderful to unearth its history and put a modern stamp on it.’
MORNING ROOM A rich green wall makes a striking feature and adds depth to the all-white scheme. Wall painted in mad King George matt emulsion, £39.50 for 2.5L, Fired earth. Louis Poulsen limited-edition copper PH 3½-3 pendant, £1,051, made in design
KITCHEN Streamlined units line both sides of the room in a large galley-style design. white Veddinge doors, from £12 each, Ikea. try the hand-forged hammered beaten knobs, £5.50 each, g Decor at Notonthehighstreet.com
FORMAL SITTING ROOM The large eye-catching artwork makes the most of the room’s generous proportions. Pushing Man original biro drawing, price on application, Myrica Jones
Hall Stair treads were left unpainted to add interest to this pared-back space. the octo multi-coloured cotton runner, £60, habitat, is a good alternative
DINING ROOM Antique furniture and a woodburning stove give this space a cosy, timeless feel. Invicta bradford stove, £1,231, Stoves online. try the cowhide APR108 rug, £189, City Cows
GUEST BEDROOM Precious clothes from past generations are stored in this antique chest. For a similar chest of drawers, try the Dawson, £ 450, Swoon. See the Adjustoform lady valet mannequin, £185, John Lewis
BATHROOM This freestanding bath was bought in 1920 by Sam’s great grandparents. try english Salvage for a reclaimed roll-top bath, from £ 450
MAIN BEDROOM Simple furniture teamed with homely touches create a relaxed setting. the Star pendant lights, £376 each, turnbull & thomas, are similar to these