dorset restora­tion

This spa­cious fam­ily home has been re­con­fig­ured with a highly prac­ti­cal lay­out that gives it a charm­ing in­for­mal­ity

Homes & Gardens - - CONTENTS - Words Jen­nifer Gould­ing PHO­TO­GRAPHS Mel Yates

Re­work­ing an ex­ten­sion has cre­ated a ver­sa­tile open-plan liv­ing area, mak­ing this coun­try house an even more warm and wel­com­ing home.

When James and Sarah Ainsworth re­lo­cated to Dorset with their two daugh­ters, they en­listed the ex­pert help of in­te­rior de­signer Emma Sims-hilditch to cre­ate the fam­ily home they had al­ways as­pired to. Here, we talk to James and Emma to dis­cover more about the project

How well did you know the area?

JA We were not fa­mil­iar with it and had no idea where we wanted to live, so we rented while we looked for some­where to buy. Past mis­takes had taught us to wait for the right house. Sarah and I are con­fi­dent of our likes and dis­likes, and we fully ex­pected to be ren­o­vat­ing which­ever house we even­tu­ally found.

What did you dis­cover while rent­ing?

JA The house we rented had out­build­ings, 27 acres of land and no im­me­di­ate neigh­bours. It made us re­alise that although we wanted peace and quiet, we also wanted to be near the shops and within walk­ing dis­tance of the girls’ schools. We now live in a peace­ful cul-de-sac in town with ev­ery­thing we need nearby. Best of both worlds.

How long did it take to find the right house?

JA It was about a year. On pa­per the house did not meet any of our cri­te­ria, but the agent sug­gested we look at it any­way. It was not as big as the other houses we viewed, but we liked the feel of it. I sup­pose you don’t know what you want un­til you see it.

Was the house in good con­di­tion?

JA The pre­vi­ous own­ers had con­verted it back to a fam­ily home from flats around five or six years ago. They had also tanked the cel­lar and made it into sev­eral rooms. How­ever, it was not to our taste, par­tic­u­larly the kitchen, which for us is the most im­por­tant room in the house.

Did you make any struc­tural changes?

ESH We pre­served the orig­i­nal, grand parts of the house while open­ing up and ra­tio­nal­is­ing the sec­ondary spa­ces that had been added later on. Key to achiev­ing this was re­plac­ing the rear ex­ten­sion with a much larger, open-plan kitchen, din­ing and seat­ing area.

What sort of brief did you give Emma?

JA We asked for some­thing mod­ern with lots of nat­u­ral light that felt like a coun­try home with­out any as­so­ci­ated stuffi­ness. It had to be both prac­ti­cal and com­fort­able, but we also wanted it to look stun­ning.

ESH James and Sarah are very fam­ily ori­en­tated and it was im­por­tant to re­flect that. They wanted some­thing calm but warm that was func­tional and not at all pre­cious.

Is the kitchen still the most im­por­tant part of the house?

JA It is a great and much-used room. Ev­ery­one can have their own space even when we are all in there to­gether. There is a big ta­ble, lots of nat­u­ral light and won­der­ful views of the hills, es­pe­cially when the doors are wide open.

SIT­TING ROOMA lime­stone fire­place gives this space a suit­ably for­mal fo­cal point. The Burling­ton fire­place, £2,154, Ch­es­neys, ch­es­neys.co.uk. Cur­tains in Mor­ri­son in Icy Blue, L9035-01, £145m, Larsen at Cole­fax & Fowler, cole­fax.com.

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