Cotswold Interiors: Cheltenham Regency Home
PUBLISHED: 14:33 19 October 2015 | UPDATED: 14:33 19 October 2015
Stephen Harper’s Grade 2 listed Regency building has gone through a dramatic transformation, from HQ for his finance company to beautiful family home
Eleven years ago Stephen Harper bought a big Grade 2 listed Regency house in one of the smartest crescents in Cheltenham. He used it as the offices for his finance company, Attivo Group of which he is CEO, until in July 2012 he began turning it back into a family home. It was a huge renovation project as the house covered five floors, but he kept as many original features as possible such as the marble fireplaces, the shutters and the cornicing. Unfortunately, previous owners had taken out all the lovely old sash windows and put in ugly metal ones instead.
“They had also taken out all the interior doors too,” says Stephen, “so they and the windows all had to be replaced. The conservation officer had to approve them in advance as they had to match exactly with the originals.”
Not only that but he also had to rewire, re-plaster, add plumbing and put in a new kitchen and four new bathrooms, especially as his two daughters Amelia and Chloe came to live with him.
“Although the house is Regency, an Edwardian extension had been built onto the back 100 years ago,” says Stephen. “I’d used it as my server room but suddenly realised it was the obvious place for my new kitchen.”
It meant moving the central heating boiler out and into a more central position in the house together with a new Worcester boiler he’d bought to supply hot water. But it also meant a happy discovery when he discovered there was an original high planked vaulted ceiling hidden beneath a modern plasterboard version.
“The plasterboard went and I installed LED lights then sanded the original floorboards and painted them in Dulux Ebony,” says Stephen.
“I also sealed the original windows at the far end of the room and put a draught excluder round the one in the right hand wall to keep the heat in.
There was a unique port hole window above the end windows which increased the amount of natural light so I definitely kept that.”
Then together with The Kitchen Workshop in Cheltenham he designed the new layout. “I had used them before and found them very good value for money, half the price of some companies offering a similar product.”
The new units are high gloss washed oak cabinetry with polystone worktops, which actually cloak the island to the ground and flow over the fridge housing and fridge. “The great virtue of polystone is that all burns, scratches and other damage can all be polished out,” he says. A very long panel of toughened glass, back-painted white, acts as backsplash along the left-hand wall where the sink and hob are placed.
Stephen particularly likes the Caple down-draught extractor fan, which rises up from the worktop when needed, and the Quooker instant hot water tap. “I now notice the wait other people have when boiling a kettle,” he says. “Although I wanted to restore the room to its original Edwardian state I still wanted an ultra-modern kitchen, as stream-lined as possible. Now we spend most of our time in here.”
Among the other improvements Stephen is very pleased with is his en suite bathroom, which is unusually large because it used to be a bedroom and, later, Steve’s office.
“It still had the original marble fireplace and window boxes,” he says, “although of course like the rest of the house it needed new sash windows and new doors. All the original pine floorboards had to be lifted to install the new plumbing before being relaid and painted white. However I now wish I’d kept their original ebony colour as the white shows every mark.” The bathroom was designed by a local firm Abitalia which specializes in mainly Italian and German products.
“It’s a large room so I could make it look dramatic by placing the impressive bath right in the centre,” says Stephen. “I also kept it looking as light as possible by using glass, mirrors, white Corian for the twin basins and shower tray, and marble effects for the shower wall.”
Now it’s a beautiful light and functional bathroom - “and also a very romantic one especially when you’re lying in the bath and the fire is lit. The effect is amazing in such a light room with so many mirrored surfaces,” he says. One of the mirrors – a tall thin one between the windows - is actually a mirrored wall-hung Echo radiator, chosen for its elegant unobtrusive effect
“And I also love the size of the shower as I really don’t like the sort of cramped cubicles some showers are in.”
Hanging above this working fireplace is a painting by Celia Bennett, copied from a photograph Stephen took when surfing at Polzeath Beach in Cornwall. It’s particularly striking as this was at dawn, 5am!”
To help him achieve the right look Stephen asked Karen Horne of Beltaine Designs to help him choose the furnishings and fabrics and now the effect is a very elegant traditional home with modern touches.
However the renovation project itself wasn’t all plain sailing. As Amelia was resting on her bed one evening torrential rain suddenly came pouring through the ceiling. “A gutter was blocked with leaves and I had to climb onto the roof in bare feet and a track suit to unblock it,” says Stephen. “Of course the room then needed totally redecorating.”
Despite this setback the house was still nominated for the Best Renovation project by Cheltenham Civic Society – “and we came second!” says Stephen. “That was a great moment.”
However an even better moment was last year in the autumn when Stephen and his partner Shahzadi were married at Blenheim Palace. “My daughters Chloe and Amelia were my ‘best men’,” says Steve. “And now this lovely old house has become even more of a family home.”
Abitalia, 01242 262155, www.abitalia.co.uk
Celia Bennett, 07766 240503, www.Artbyceliabennett.com
C S Glass, 01242 526510, cs-glass-cheltenham.co.uk
Eskimo Design, 0207 1170110, eskimodesign.co.uk
Flowers by Amy Barnes at Lavenders Blue Floristry, 01594 542121, lavandersbluefloristry.co.uk
Jamie Williams, 07971 286496, www.jamiewilliamscarpentry.com
Karen Horne of Beltaine Designs, 01242 210099, beltainedesigns.co.uk
The Kitchen Workshop Cheltenham 01242 526960, www.cheltenhamkitchenworkshop.co.uk
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