ESSEX COUNTRY HOUSE
DESPITE A STRING OF MISHAPS, LYNSEY AND PAUL CROSS HAVE TURNED THEIR MOATED PERIOD HOUSE INTO A FAMILY HOME THAT'S THE HEIGHT OF ELEGANCE
Obstacles overcome, this moated period home is now the height of elegance
'The house is magical at Christmas when we have toasty fires on the go,’ says Lynsey Cross. She moved here two years ago with her husband Paul and children Nathaniel, Lucas, Isabella and Leonardo. The couple weren’t particularly looking to move house – they were living in a nearby town with everything on their doorstep – but when they spotted the idyllic property with parts dating from the 16th century, they decided to view it and instantly fell in love with it.
‘We had a good feeling about it,’ says Lynsey. ‘The previous family lived here for 30 years and their children had grown up here. A lot of love had been poured into it and they wanted another family to cherish it.’ Although the house had been renovated, Lynsey and
Paul were keen to put their stamp on it. ‘We wanted to keep the original features, such as the meat hooks that game was hung on, the wooden beams and the solid wood doors, but then to decorate it in a way that’s modern yet in keeping with the age of the house.’
The couple enlisted the help of Alexander James Interior Design, with a brief to create a country interior that was sympathetic to the period of the house and its original features but contemporary enough to cope with a young family. Lynsey liaised with interior designer Marina Demarchuk over the schemes, fabrics and furniture. ‘I emailed her photos of the house and she spent a lot of time understanding our style. She did an amazing job.’
The project took a year, with the house gutted to a shell. The building was rewired, new heating and flooring were put in and new bathrooms were installed, as well as a new kitchen. ‘We lived in one half of the house with the other half screened off while the work was being done. We have a poolhouse in the grounds so we were able to live there some of the time, too.’
The project wasn’t without its mishaps, however. The previous owners had found a pair of child-size Victorian boots during their renovations and stored them in a glass case. ‘They warned us to keep them in the house,’ says Lynsey. ‘We put them in the snug but then decided to move them into the poolhouse – and everything started to go awry. A gas pipe was ruptured and the house nearly blew up; an electricity cable was severed; our kitchen units went missing in Italy. I’m not usually superstitious but we moved the boots back into the snug and everything stopped going wrong!’
The work began in October 2016 and Lynsey hoped to have the first half of the house – the living room, snug and children’s bedrooms – finished by Christmas. ‘The living room was a shell when I went away on business but when I came back it was finished and decorated with a Christmas tree. I burst into tears as I was so overwhelmed! I’ve always loved Christmas and it just looked so festive.’
The house creates the ideal backdrop for seasonal festivities.
‘The grounds are lovely to walk around in wintertime, and we have lots of holly bushes outside,’ says Lynsey. ‘It’s perfect for having people over at Christmas.’ ☎ ALEXANDER JAMES INTERIOR DESIGN, 0118 932 0828, AJI.CO.UK. »
Living room A roaring fire and flickering candles create a cosy scene. sofa, cushions and curtains, all Alexander James Interior Design. table, Julian Chichester. Wallpaper, Fox Linton. Wall lights, Chelsom. table lamps, Heathfield & Co. »