Escape to the Cotswolds

PUBLISHED: 10:34 14 June 2016 | UPDATED: 10:34 14 June 2016

The early Victorian house began as a double-fronted two-bedroom cottage, and over the years has been extended to become a substantial four-bedroom house

The early Victorian house began as a double-fronted two-bedroom cottage, and over the years has been extended to become a substantial four-bedroom house


It was a case of escape to the country as this family moved out of central Bristol and headed for the Cotswolds

When Karen and Hugh Pearson decided it was time to move out of central Bristol they came to the Cotswolds, seeking fresh air and space.

“It was nearly eight years ago when we knew we wanted a bigger garden for our daughter Olivia, now nine,” says Karen who runs her own handbag company Karen Buswell Designs, producing beautifully crafted handmade bags. “We only came to see this house as it was near to one we thought we wanted. That other one turned out to be unsuitable after all, but although Hugh loved this one on sight I wasn’t initially sure.”

Karen came to view it a few more times as she could see it needed a lot of work and felt the price was a little too high. Then their own house sale fell through and by the time they did sell eight months later they came back to see the house and made a lower offer. This time it was accepted.

“The general impression was that it was very 70s,” says Karen. “The hall was gloomy and there seemed to be quite a few rather poky rooms with dark carpeting. The previous owners had lived there for 30 years and had done quite a lot to it. I believe they had extended it at the rear and each time that they’d added a room they had added extra heating and wiring too so it was all rather piecemeal.”

Hard to believe that the house had begun as a pretty little double-fronted early Victorian cottage with a front door in the middle and only one room deep. “Hugh still has a little old stove in his office which we think dates back to the time when the house was just a two-up, two-down property,” says Karen.

But there were many things that appealed to the Pearsons such as the big well-laid out garden with its lovely old trees, the wisteria that grew across the front in springtime, the high ceilings inside… “in fact the general potential of the place,” says Karen.

The family moved in and lived there for about three and a half years planning the changes. Then they moved out again and rented nearby for eight months while their home underwent an amazing transformation.

“We completely gutted it,” says Karen. “We knocked down walls, moved the staircase, repaired part of the roof and demolished the lean-to kitchen area at the back to totally rebuild it on the same footprint.”

They also rewired, replumbed and replastered and put in new gas central heating, as well as under floor heating in the kitchen area and hall. They also laid new flooring and in some parts lifted the old flooring and relaid it.

“We also put in new windows and bi-fold doors at the back and refurbished the original sash windows at the front to keep the early Victorian style,” she says.

“I designed the ‘Home’ collection for Mulberry for eleven years and have a background in interiors and space planning. So I knew how to draw up the plans for the house but I also employed a surveyor to be on the safe side. I became project manager and sourced all the workmen too.”

Unfortunately the summer they picked for the renovations was one of the wettest on record. “It just rained and rained,” says Karen. “I remember gazing at what was meant to be the kitchen. The concrete screed had been laid but the roof was only partly on and a huge shallow swimming pool seemed to have formed at my feet, about two or three inches deep.”

Rain apart, the building went smoothly. The position of the stairs was moved and a new oak and glass staircase installed. Walls came down and the drawing room became much bigger as did the kitchen-conservatory at the rear, the hall and the en suite bathroom.

“Every surface you see is new,’ says Karen. “We even re-rendered part of the exterior and repainted the woodwork although we told the workmen to be very careful of the wisteria which we think is almost as old as the house.”

The couple needed planning permission to build a garage block in the garden but did not need it for the internal work, not even when they demolished the flat-roofed kitchen extension at the back.

Karen is most pleased with the new extension which arose in its place. “It’s on the same footprint but oh, so different,” she says. “We have glass bifold doors, a lantern to let in the light and a new floor of Jerusalem limestone. I had the kitchen and the utility room units designed and made for us by Russell Alexander and as we’re not really into Aga-style cooking we replaced the old Aga with a new Rangemaster cooker. It’s where we cook and eat and relax with lovely views over the garden.”

Both the family bathroom and the en suite were completely refitted and Karen even designed and had made a new fireplace in Bath stone for the Drawing Room.

“We bought some new items such as kitchen bar stools and the three smart pendant lights over the island,” says Karen. “But we kept plenty of our old furniture too such as our bed and a coffee table, both made years ago out of chunky oak by a craftsman in Bristol to Hugh’s design. Our dining table in French oak was a wedding present from Hugh’s father and we have a pair of 1930s armchairs. And of course I have a few Mulberry pieces such as a torchere and a large sheepskin beanbag as well as other items.”

Finally the house was ready and the family moved back into their newly repainted and recarpeted home just in time for Christmas.

“But we could hardly wait for spring to make sure the wisteria had survived the turmoil,” says Karen. “We think it was planted when the house was built and we’d employed a tree surgeon to look after it while the rendering was done. And when it burst out in full bloom across the whole front of the house we felt we’d done a really good job.”


Beswick Stone, 01285 885795,

Bristol Bifold Doors, 01179 000667,

Karen Buswell Designs, 07762 137206,

Moulder Joinery, 01666 824797,

Russell Alexander Kitchens, 01568 614784,

Surveyor James Slater, 01285 650686,

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