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