Through the keyhole of a Cirencester barn conversion
PUBLISHED: 11:59 01 October 2019
With resident dead mice, nests on top of the kitchen cupboards and newspaper insulating the cracks in the ceilings around the beams, Sue and Andy’s house near Cirencester was in desperate need of some TLC
The main reason that Sue Trafford and Andy McCulloch bought their detached three bedroom home was for the amazing views south across a valley near Cirencester.
"But when we went in, I did feel disappointed," says Sue. "There was no 'wow' factor. The house was sad, scruffy and neglected. Nothing seemed to have been done since the previous owners had bought it in about 1999 and it needed a lot of updating. But I knew we could do something with it."
Fortunately Andy is a civil engineer with great DIY skills, while Sue has an eye for design. In fact she trained at My Interior Design School in Cheltenham and has her own house styling and de-cluttering business, The Green and Blue Company.
The house had been built as a barn in 1865 and for a time had consisted of an office upstairs, served by tallett (external) steps, with animal pens below. Sometime after the conversion in 1999 a two-storey extension had been added.
Despite the uninspiring interior, the location was so good the couple bought and moved into it and began to do it up, just as they had with their previous home. This had been a barn conversion dating back to 1750 in North Oxfordshire.
However, despite putting on a brave face, Sue did feel like bursting into tears when they found dead mice, nests on top of the kitchen cupboards and newspaper insulating the cracks in the ceilings around the beams.
"There were also a number of bewildering features," she says. "It soon became known as the house of wonders, as in 'I wonder how that got like that?'" Luckily, in those early stages, Andy could see the bigger picture, and persuaded Sue that it was, or could be, a hidden gem.
"But despite the fabulous views, even they were obscured from the lounge because of a high wall with tall shrubs blocking them," says Sue. "The patio was buried beneath a vine and ivy was hiding a lovely terraced garden and stone trough. So after doing some essential decorating and DIY on the house, we knew that the garden and its terrace was high on the list of 'need to do'."
It was, however, only at the end of 2018 that they finally got their lovely large terrace with barbecue and fire pit, but it's where they spend as much time as they can enjoying those views and that openness.
Most of the work was in their bedroom where they opened the ceiling up to the eaves, and raised part of the floor so it's now split level.
"There were only roof lights offering views of the sky. With planning restrictions ruling out any windows in the walls, we decided to lift the floor in one half of the room - a huge success because we can now see out of the roof lights which offer views down into the valley."
They also added a walk-in wardrobe, lots of underfloor storage and Sue then painted the ceiling beams a soft blue grey colour.
Then they refurbished the bathroom and the en suite. "The en suite needed a lot of reworking, as we wanted to put in a frosted glass pocket door," says Sue. "We also had to re-lay the floor to get the wet room to drain the correct way. So we had to move the wall to facilitate the pocket door - plus open the ceiling to the eaves and put in a wall-hung toilet and basin. It's given it a lovely boutique feeling."
The third bedroom was in the extension and was being used as a dumping room for their work tools. But then they decided to improve it too so raised the ceiling and put in two Velux windows.
Downstairs, where the old pens had been, the floor was on four different levels. "It's because we're on a hill," says Sue. "Also, there was a weird bit jutting into the dining room and the stairs did such an awkward turn you could find yourself falling onto the dining table if you slipped."
Now they have levelled the flooring in the entrance lobby and dining room so the four levels have become two and the stairs have been straightened.
The old concrete floor tiles in the dining room were cracked so the couple have laid a new oak floor. They put in a new kitchen with units from Ikea and Wickes, all fitted by Andy, and they sanded and oiled the lovely old French oak floor.
They also gave the beams a white wash. "It was hard work living there while we made the changes," says Sue. "But during the kitchen installation we were still able to use one end of it, cooking with a microwave perched on top of a fridge and while renovating the upstairs we moved from bedroom to bedroom.
When it came to furnishing her home Sue wanted a relaxed space with a mixed French and Scandinavian look.
"It's an old house with beams and stone work so I didn't want to add too much to overpower them. I centred on drawing out the natural textures and colours of the building, so chose off-whites and natural tones with a pop of colour - such as a lime green - here and there."
She chose a mix of a mix of painted antique and traditional furniture, and a soft palate of taupes, aubergine, French greys and greens, adding colour with flowers or candles, that can be changed seasonally.
"It certainly wasn't love at first sight for me," says Sue now of her house. "But it feels like home now."
Sue's design company: The Green and Blue Company, thegreenandbluecompany.com
Annie Sloan, 01865 247296, anniesloan.com
Burford Antiques Centre, 01993 823227, burfordantiques.com
Burford Garden Company, 01993 823117, burford.co.uk
Kate Forman designs Ltd, 01962 732244, kateforman.co.uk
Millie Gustavian, notonthehighstreet.com
The White Company, 020 3758 9222, thewhitecompany.com