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Mary taylor and Steve Grubb buy a new home in the Cotswolds

PUBLISHED: 10:18 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:40 20 February 2013

The heavy pine table and banana leaf chairs came from Whartons of Solihull.. The blocked up

The heavy pine table and banana leaf chairs came from Whartons of Solihull.. The blocked up "niche" in the wall behind the table was once where the carters would reach in for the key to the barn where they could leave their milk. The Window roman blinds a

Mary Taylor flew in from Singapore with just 48 hours to furnish her family's new home in the Cotswolds. Victoria Jenkins explains how she did it. pictures by Nocholas Yarsley

In the space of 48 hours Mary Taylor flew to the UK from Singapore and embarked on a mad-dash shopping spree to furnish her new home in the Cotswolds.

"I couldn't stay longer as I had left behind two little boys and a husband who is always having to travel at a moment's notice," she says.

Fortunately Mary had already ear-marked several items by scanning the internet and with the help of various in-laws was able to dash from shop to shop buying a huge range of items from bathroom suites to new blinds, wallpapers, tiles and fabrics. "It was great fun and I just wish I could have had longer," she smiles.

Mary and her husband Steve Grubb decided they must buy a home in England when their eldest son Ben (now 8) asked why he had to be Chinese, if his mother was Irish and his father English. "It made us think it was time to put down roots," says Mary. "Especially as by then Jamie (now 5) had arrived and we had been living in the Far East for ten years."

So the couple (from afar) searched the internet for a suitable house in the Cotswolds, an area they had always loved. Then Steve came over on a business trip and managed to view a selection. He knew immediately that The Old Dairy was the one they were looking for. And when Mary came over to see what they had bought she agreed. "The sitting room was unusually big and square," she says. "This is because the Old Dairy began as a 17th century barn. It stood on land once owned by Katherine Parr, sixth wife of Henry VIII and was only converted to a dwelling in 1948. Apparently cows were kept in the lower part with a hayloft above and there were still picturesque old beams, mullioned windows and a milestone in the back garden. The front of the cottage was picture perfect too."

The couple then sold their flat in Solihull and with the help of local architect Robin Fell they planned the refurbishments.

"First we gutted the whole house," says Mary. "There seemed to be woodchip paper everywhere as nothing seemed to have changed since the 1960s. We also got rid of the unattractive secondary glazing and the green metal French windows in the sitting room, replacing them with ones of oak."

Then as they wanted to turn the L-shaped kitchen into a square this meant building on another 64 square feet. "We also laid a damp proof course, put in new gas-fired central heating, rewired, replastered and replumbed," says Mary. "We put in a new oak staircase and removed the wall that enclosed it, replacing it with banisters to create more light in the hallway. We put in new floors, new bathroom furniture and changed all the internal doors and skirting boards for ones of oak." All this was achieved from some 7000 miles away!

"We employed a builder who told us upfront he considered himself a craftsman not a jobbing builder so he liked to take his time," laughs Mary. "Luckily that didn't matter as we weren't living there."

Among the more decorative touches they added were the old railway sleeper they put in as a lintel above the stone fireplace in the sitting room (" replacing an inappropriate one of polished teak"), having a new oak front door made and laying a patio.

It took six months to finish the work during which Mary was able to plan the furnishings and decoration, still by internet as the family was still in Singapore. "We kept the kitchen units and my father-in-law very kindly repainted them," she says. "It was just a case of installing new appliances and retiling in there. Luckily Steve's sister has an interior design business in Alcester and she was an enormous help when it came to making the curtains and blinds and other soft furnishings. She would send out swatches for me to choose. All the windows seemed to be awkward shapes and sizes or present a problematic old beam but we succeeded in the end."

Then when Mary had pretty much decided what furniture she wanted she flew over to England and had her 48 hour shopping spree in which she sped from shop to store to outlet. "I wanted a clean but rustic look," says Mary. "But what dictated the entire decor was the Osborne & Little wallpaper I spotted and which is now on the feature wall in the sitting room. I loved it because I was looking for something in mink tones and it set the stage for the rest of the decor."

"Our two boys love it here," says Mary."Even though they had a swimming pool, playroom and playground in Singapore they still prefer this sleepy village. For children who have grown up in the Far East just going for a walk along the Cotswolds Way is a voyage of discovery with cows, sheep, fallen trees, streams and even cow pats - much better than any playground! Then going home to the rustic warmth of The Old Dairy with a log fire and a good natter around the huge kitchen table is bliss - I guess we just need a nice dog now to make it perfect. "

Because Steve's job means the family still have to travel from time to time The Old Dairy is available for holiday lets. Tel: 01386 858147 for details or try websites or


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