a blaze of glory
Kate Sissons moved from the capital to revamp an old country fire station
Revamping a former fire station in the Cotswolds has resulted in a unique home full of charm
Kate Sissons had lived in London for several years, but decided the time had come to leave the capital for a leafier location. ‘ We wanted a small, well-situated property in the countryside with more space and a garden,’ explains Kate, whose son Jack, 19, often comes home to stay. So when she found this end of terrace in Charlbury, she was thrilled. ‘The town has everything we need and is in the middle of beautiful countryside.’
As well as fulfilling the requirements of having more space and a garden, the house also offered a few extras. ‘Most of the other properties in the village have quite small ground floors, but because this one had a rear extension added during the Seventies, it’s actually really spacious,’ she says.
In addition, there were some unusual features that gave a hint of the building’s former life as a fire station, including the two big old fire doors and a long room for the fire engines, which is now the kitchen area. The only problem was that another buyer was interested in the property, too.
‘The sale took several months and at one stage we thought the other party would win – my competition was someone who wanted to turn the place into a spa,’ says Kate. ‘ We persevered though, and the house finally came back to us later that year.’
Although the property was originally an office and came with a change of use to residential purposes already in place, there were some tweaks to be made before it could feel like a home again. ‘It had dry lining on the walls, and generally looked very functional and safe,’ recalls Kate.
‘One of the first things we did was to rip the dry lining away, which exposed the old, original stone and immediately gave the
place character,’ she says. ‘The next step was to add a staircase to the unconverted loft, which we then turned into a bedroom.’
Kate also added a mansard window to the new bedroom at the front of the house and extended into the garden at the rear. Fortunately, there weren’t any problems when the changes were being carried out, although there was one tricky moment.
‘Installing the decorative Gothic-style cornicing in the long room, now the kitchen, was a bit of a challenge. It took a lot of time and effort getting it to match up and making it look perfect,’ she says. After this, Kate could concentrate on the fun, decorative elements. ‘I’m not sure where I get my ideas from, but I like to keep things quite simple, often using plain light greys, greens and oak browns, which I think work particularly well in a rural setting. I’ve added kilim designs to this neutral background and I think together they give a feeling of being smart, but not too formal.
‘In the sitting room, I’ve ins a ceiling lantern and log burner to create the perfect relaxing atmosphere in which to read the Sunday papers,’ she says. ‘Finally, I’ve tried to put my own unique stamp on the place by introducing plenty of one-off accessories,’ she says. ‘I love my ever-increasing collection of toy fire engines, which are a whimsical reference to the building’s past.
‘It’s often tempting, with hindsight, to consider how I might have done things a bit differently in terms of renovating and decorating, but I can safely say I wouldn’t have changed anything. This is a welcoming house with a wonderful, calm feel and lots of light. And although it’s in the middle of the town, it’s very private with a sense of peace and tranquillity. It’s a comfortable and happy place to be, and I love it.’
MAIN BEDROOM For a touch of luxury, the bedroom has its own freestanding bath. The Nabis slipper bath with chrome ball and claw feet, £796.51, wolseley, is similar. Kaleidoscope tiles, £32.60sq m, Tons of Tiles
GARDEN The courtyard terrace is the perfect spot for relaxed alfresco meals with family and friends.
BATHROOM Beautiful decorative tiles add interest to this space. Metropolis Star tiles, £27.42sq m, Tons of Tiles