A place of sanc­tu­ary

Ful­fill­ing a life­long dream with the ren­o­va­tion of her tra­di­tional Welsh long house, Rose­mary Pugh called in the ex­perts to cre­ate in­te­ri­ors that com­ple­ment the farm views and beau­ti­ful coastal set­ting

Period Living - - Contents - Words Natalie Flaum

Rose­mary Pugh sym­pa­thet­i­cally ex­tended a Welsh long house and re­vived its in­te­ri­ors with clas­sic, country-style decor

Once a di­lap­i­dated cow shed, Soar Cot­tage is now an el­e­gant pe­riod home with a con­tem­po­rary twist. The work to trans­form it started in earnest in 2011, when Rose­mary Pugh took the plunge to ful­fil a life­long dream. ‘We in­her­ited the farm and its 180 acres in 1969, from my late­hus­band Eryl’s fa­ther,’ she says. ‘We al­ways said that one day we’d res­cue the cot­tage, but farm­ing and rais­ing a fam­ily got in the way.

‘Be­fore the cot­tage was aban­doned in the early 1960s, the last known oc­cu­pants raised eight chil­dren here, who used to play in the fields with Eryl. All the lo­cals are amazed at how the cot­tage looks now; most of them re­mem­ber it with the or­chard, and cows and pigs in the fields.’

The cot­tage is built in the ver­nac­u­lar style, from lo­cal ma­te­ri­als with ‘clom’ walls of com­pacted earth, straw and small stones. The thatch con­sisted of heather, gorse and earth clods cov­ered with rushes and lo­cal straw. In­side, the lay­out was that of a typ­i­cal ru­ral Welsh long house, con­sist­ing of a one-room par­lour with a bed­room, dairy, cow shed for milk­ing, a calf pen and pig­gery.

Ten years ago, with the help of lo­cal ar­chi­tect Griff Davies, Rose­mary re­ceived out­line plan­ning per­mis­sion to ren­o­vate Soar Cot­tage and turn it into a home. Just a few weeks into the project, how­ever, a storm caused chaos as an old ap­ple tree fell onto the thatched roof, caus­ing it to col­lapse. ‘Due to rain­wa­ter seep­ing in, the walls bulged and went soft,’ re­calls Rose­mary. ‘Then, to top it all off, the gable-end wall, which is now in the mas­ter bed­room, col­lapsed.’

A year-long de­lay fol­lowed, as the lo­cal coun­cil in­sisted on a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion to de­ter­mine the cause of col­lapse. In the end, it was con­cluded that the gable wall was un­sup­ported, and clear­ing and land­scap­ing the area ready for the ren­o­va­tion works had un­der­mined it.

To move for­ward with the project, Rose­mary had to sub­mit a sec­ond plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion.

The new de­sign had to re­tain the same floor­plan, el­e­va­tions, and the char­ac­ter of the orig­i­nal Welsh long house, but with an oak-frame sun­room ex­ten­sion, and a smaller ad­di­tion to cre­ate a mas­ter en suite, which also in­cor­po­rated an old tin shed.

When it came to choos­ing a builder, there was only one man for the job as far as Rose­mary was con­cerned – Owen Evans, who she had known since he was a child. ‘Owen does a lot of lo­cal work,’ says Rose­mary, ‘so he was fa­mil­iar with the style of prop­erty and the ma­te­ri­als needed for an au­then­tic ren­o­va­tion.’

Owen con­tacted a lo­cal spe­cial­ist firm to sup­ply be­spoke oak frame­work, trusses and beams for the ex­ten­sion. ‘It was pour­ing with rain when we met Paul Edmonds from Welsh Oak Frame on site. He told me he could make the cot­tage into “a proper lit­tle gem”, and that’s ex­actly what he did!’ says Rose­mary. ‘Three builders lived on site and put the whole oak frame­work to­gether in just 10 days.’

The roof was in­su­lated next, be­fore the thatch­ers set to work. They worked tire­lessly for five months, and the crafts­man­ship is clear to see. ‘The thatch is im­mac­u­late, one of the best thatched roofs in the area,’ says Rose­mary proudly. ‘And it’s not just me who thinks that; most of the lo­cals agree.

‘I did strug­gle to find tra­di­tional tim­ber sash win­dows to suit the cot­tage,’ she adds. ‘Thank­fully, Griff in­tro­duced me to Steven Thomas Join­ery, who in­stalled soft­wood dou­ble-glazed win­dows that fin­ish off the ex­te­rior per­fectly.’

As the cot­tage started to take shape, Rose­mary de­cided to call in some ex­pert help to choose fur­nish­ings and decor. ‘You can be­come weighed down with all the de­ci­sions you have to make, so hav­ing a de­signer on hand was great,’ says Rose­mary, who chose to work with Kay Cullen at the Laura Ash­ley de­sign ser­vice. ‘I’m a huge Laura Ash­ley fan and had worked with Kay pre­vi­ously at my Ge­or­gian house in Aber­aeron, when we be­came such good friends,’ she adds. ‘Kay pulled the whole scheme to­gether and did a spot of fur­ni­ture up­cy­cling for me, and we even went an­tique hunt­ing to­gether on her days off.’

With Kay’s in­put, the fin­ished look is cool, calm and col­lected, and Rose­mary is de­lighted with how it has turned out. ‘See­ing the cot­tage fin­ished at the end of a very long jour­ney is such a joy and achieve­ment,’ she says. ‘I love spend­ing time here. The name Soar Cot­tage ac­tu­ally orig­i­nates from a story in the Old Tes­ta­ment. It means a place of sanc­tu­ary – and that’s ex­actly what it is to me.’

| Pho­to­graphs Colin Poole

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