This for­mer Vic­to­rian school store now hosts its own­ers’ lov­ingly edited col­lec­tions

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - words by he­lena at­tlee pho­to­graphs by alex ram­say styling by ben ken­drick

Katie Tyler can still re­mem­ber her first im­pres­sions of The Store House when she and her hus­band, Jon, first saw it in 2003: “The floors were cov­ered in cheap car­pets, wood­chip pa­per was on the walls, plus it had a 1970s kitchen and a leak­ing roof.” Heading out­side to look at the over­grown gar­den, they heard the bell ring­ing in the play­ground of the red-brick pri­mary school that stands on the hill above the house. As the cou­ple have two daugh­ters, a meet­ing with the “lovely” head­teacher was all it took to con­vince them that they had found their new home.

The fol­low­ing 15 years have seen Katie and Jon work­ing slowly and care­fully to re­store the prop­erty from top to bot­tom, ap­proach­ing ev­ery task with a light touch and gen­uine sen­si­tiv­ity to its cu­ri­ous past. The Store House was built in 1859 for a local char­ity com­mit­ted to ed­u­cat­ing the chil­dren of three parishes, and pro­vid­ing ‘physick, pro­vi­sion or clothes’ for the poor in­hab­i­tants of the area. A hand­some, brick-built, Tu­dor Re­vival build­ing with three floors and a base­ment, it once dou­bled as a home for the clerk of the char­ity and a store for the meat, blan­kets and boots he would give out. The windows at the back of the prop­erty look to­wards almshouses and the school, which were built by the char­ity at the same time.

This in­trigu­ing his­tory is writ­ten into both the name and the ar­chi­tec­ture of the prop­erty, which has two front doors – a pri­vate one for the clerk and an­other for trades­men and the parish poor. And then there is Katie and Jon’s bed­room on the top floor. “We al­ways as­sumed it used to be the ser­vants’ quar­ters,” Katie says, “but we couldn’t un­der­stand why the stair­case wasn’t nar­rower and why there were no fire­places.” Even­tu­ally, they dis­cov­ered that the space had orig­i­nally been an un­heated store­room

for boots and blan­kets, while the hooks in the base­ment sug­gest that meat and other pro­vi­sions for the needy were stored there.

De­spite its prac­ti­cal, util­i­tar­ian past, ev­ery­thing about The Store House is gen­er­ous, from the size of its high-ceilinged rooms and the breadth of its stone mul­lioned windows to the width of its doors and the ex­pertly crafted turn of the ban­is­ters. The only dec­o­ra­tive de­tail is a stopped cham­fer, del­i­cately carved and faith­fully re­peated on doors, spin­dles, windows, shut­ters and pan­elling. “This sim­plic­ity trans­lates well to a mod­ern aes­thetic,” Jon re­marks, and it is true that the in­te­rior has the feel of a bright, con­tem­po­rary and un­clut­tered space.

Both Katie and Jon are in­vet­er­ate col­lec­tors – habitués of house sales, auc­tions and flea mar­kets. The hall at the foot of the stairs is not large, but, by dis­man­tling and re­assem­bling the shelv­ing from a derelict mill, they have created enough stor­age for a li­brary’s worth of books, along­side such cu­riosi­ties as an ar­ti­fi­cial ham that was used for dis­play by an Ital­ian gro­cer, Ed­war­dian ice skates, an­tique bot­tles, sewing silks, a small mar­ble bust and some old leather walk­ing boots. Up in their bed­room, a bevy of wooden hand mir­rors con­gre­gates on a chest of draw­ers, while close by is a small col­lec­tion of hats and a tow­er­ing pyra­mid of leather suit­cases. Paint­ings, prints, chil­dren’s draw­ings and a lovely scarf in a frame line the walls on the land­ings, and a glass-fronted cab­i­net in the sit­ting room is filled with in­trigu­ing in­stru­ments for for­got­ten trades and pas­times, as well as more del­i­cate finds, such as an an­tique tor­toise­shell box. “I never put any­thing new into the cab­i­net,” Katie ex­plains, “with­out tak­ing some­thing out.” This cu­ra­to­rial in­stinct is in ev­i­dence all over the house, and as a re­sult ev­ery ob­ject works hard to earn and keep its place. Katie shares her

ad­mirable skill for cre­at­ing in­ter­est­ing spa­ces through Cu­rated Room, the de­sign com­pany and styling ser­vice that she of­fers in part­ner­ship with her friend Jus­tine Cook.

She also spe­cialises in creative up­hol­stery – run­ning the busi­ness from the house, where she keeps an eclec­tic mix of mod­ern and vin­tage fab­rics – and has a pas­sion for chairs, from the an­tique to the cut­ting edge. When it comes to choos­ing them, her only cri­te­rion is “quirky unique­ness”. Some­times, a par­tic­u­lar chair and a fabric will cre­ate the per­fect match, and the de­light­ful re­sult of th­ese happy cou­plings can be seen all over the house. The seats bear such dis­tinc­tive up­hol­stery that they set the tone wher­ever they are, and it’s easy to un­der­stand why Katie gives them all names to suit their styles and per­son­al­i­ties.

The Store House may have a new chap­ter in its long his­tory as a fam­ily home, but it still throws up sev­eral sur­prises from the past. Take Jon’s dis­cov­ery of dozens of ta­ble-top man­gles gath­er­ing cob­webs in the pot­ting shed, a relic from the days of the char­ity school be­hind the house, when local girls came for train­ing be­fore go­ing into ser­vice. And, as if the house is keen to keep Katie and Jon on their toes, only last year they dis­cov­ered a hid­den, pan­elled wall in the spare room, with the same stopped-cham­fer de­sign as the rest of the wood­work in the house. You can’t help won­der­ing what they will dis­cover next.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT The Store House; the sit­ting room is home to a con­stantly ro­tat­ing col­lec­tion of fur­ni­ture, in­clud­ing a ta­ble made from a church pew seat sup­ported by ap­ple crates (above) OP­PO­SITE The hall shelves fea­ture an­tiques mar­ket finds and in­her­ited trea­sures

OP­PO­SITE The kitchen is painted in Far­row & Ball’s Shaded White, as are many rooms in the house THIS PAGE, FROM TOP LEFT The splash­back for the but­ler’s sink was made from a slate man­tel­piece found in the gar­den; shelv­ing in the hall came from a derelict mill

OP­PO­SITE Jon and Katie’s bed­room is a serene space in the at­tic THIS PAGE Katie’s de­signs add char­ac­ter – she made the black lamp­shade in her daugh­ter’s room from a skirt fringe; the bath is edged with fabric cut from car­a­van cur­tains; one of her hand­made cush­ions in the spare room

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