The area and setting were Sarah and John Watkins’ biggest priorities when they decided to move house. ‘This was more important to us than finding the perfect property,’ says Sarah. ‘We believed that as long as it was in the right place, the “wrong” house could be extended, adapted or altered to suit us.’ The couple were keen to stay in the Gloucestershire region where they lived, but in a quieter and more picturesque area, with excellent schools for their children, Harriet, eight, and Charlie, six. With a clear idea of what they wanted,
Sarah and John found a 1960s derelict house set in a large secluded plot, and began to figure out how they could substantially increase its footprint.
OUT OF THE WOODS
‘We wanted to quadruple the size of the house and extend at the rear, which was tricky due to ancient oak trees being in the way,’ explains Sarah. Even though it was at a greater expense, the couple diligently worked around them. ‘It was the best solution because the house looks less like a new-build stuck in the middle of a plot of land and more like a home that belongs in this setting among glorious mature trees,’ says Sarah.
Once the building work was finished, Sarah could finally unleash her creativity. Until moving here, the couple had always regarded their properties as short-term investments — buying, renovating and selling them on — which meant Sarah had only ever done the bare minimum of decorating. ‘No sooner would we move in than it felt like we were packing up again to go to the next house,’ she says. ‘This place represents putting down roots for the first time, which is a great relief, and we’ll stay here until the children have finished their education.’ Straight away, Sarah found that choosing wall coverings, flooring and general furnishings for a long-term home was quite different to buying for an investment project. She relished shopping for luxurious items that would stand the test of time and survive the daily wear and tear of family life. Sarah also enjoyed being able to indulge in bolder designs and brighter colours rather than the usual neutral finishes property development demands. “It’s been really exciting,’ she says. ‘I had stunning new flooring installed throughout the house — something we’d never have contemplated before, and I’ve been able to personalise each space with gorgeous wallpapers and sumptuous curtains.’
One thing that the Watkins didn’t have, however, was enough artwork. Both are art lovers, and now living in a much larger house than before, Sarah and John found themselves with swathes of blank walls to fill. So when a family member said that they needed to put their art collection into a storage facility, the couple readily volunteered their home. ‘We painted many of the walls white because it’s much easier to touch up scuffs and marks,’ explains Sarah,
‘but it also works brilliantly as a backdrop on which to display all the wonderful paintings on loan to us.’
Sarah and John are thrilled with the end result, and plan to enjoy the fruits of their labour for years to come, adapting and updating it as their needs change.
“It’s been an incredible experience for us all,” she says. “Now we have the perfect house in the perfect location.”