Through the keyhole of a countryside retreat near Evenlode
PUBLISHED: 11:19 30 April 2019
Self-confessed ‘city girl’ Sara King and husband Alan have found their perfect countryside retreat… complete with five-star bat house
When Sara and Alan King bought their impressive five-bedroom house near Evenlode, they were quite taken aback when told they had to build a special bat house too.
“Along with the house came a cottage and a barn,” says Sara. “Apparently a bat dropping had once been detected in the barn which meant there was a conservation order on it. We've never actually seen any bats ourselves. However, in order to convert the barn into a sports hall for our two boys, Ben (nine) and Chris (eight), we had to supply alternative accommodation for these invisible bats. So, next to the cottage, we built what I call the Hilton of bat houses, as it's quite big and had to be properly insulated as well.”
The King's own three-storey home looks as if it has been standing in the countryside for at least 150 years, so it's a surprise to hear it was built only 17 years ago. The couple wanted it as their 'escape to the country' as they live in London most of the time where Alan works in financial services. “We wanted somewhere easily reached by train on a Friday evening and where we can relax and not worry too much about the furniture,” says Sara.
They bought the house in 2015 and after getting planning permission moved out into the cottage from January 2016 until the following August while their improvements were carried out.
“First we extended the hall and the utility room to join up with the new porch which we had built onto the side of the house,' says Sara. 'We needed this porch to be our boot and coat room. It's handy for the utilty room too where the boys can strip off their muddy clothes after rugby.”
The couple also extended the back of the house by some 4.5 metres to create a much bigger kitchen and dining area and for the snug to be extended into a garden room.
“We wanted the kitchen and dining room to become the hub of the house,” says Sara. “We also converted a rather large dressing room into a lavish new ensuite for the main bedroom while the rather small ensuite next to it became our new dressing room.”
To help them with the design the couple employed architect Tony Salmon of Yiangou Architects and project manager Jon Davies to organize the contractors.
The kitchen was in good condition and in cheerful colours of grey-green units and scarlet tiling but looked smaller than it actually was. “The ceiling was rather low and the previous owners had furnished the room with a number of wall units and two big Welsh dressers, plus a larder and a fridge freezer,” says Sara. “It all felt a bit top heavy and wasn't airy enough for me.”
Having chosen engineered oak flooring Sara began to hunt for her ideal kitchen units.
“I wanted them to have a Scandinavian look with stained wood, but I couldn't find anything ready-made that I liked. Then Jon, our project manager, suggested TJ Joinery and they not only made the units, but a great deal of the other woodwork, including the French windows.”
Sara's new island is dramatic both for its size (some 3.7m x 1.25m) and its unusual dark colour of 'Perse Grey' by the Paint and Paper Library.
“I needed a big island as anything smaller would have been lost in our big new space,” she says. “I also chose Corian worktops, as they are hygienic, and a splash back of antiqued mirroring to go behind the Aga. I love mixing the old with the new; I think it looks most effective,” she says.
As for their new en suite bathroom – “we needed a larger room as Alan is 6ft 5 ins and needs a huge bath and big shower space,” she says.
So their dressing room was gutted and the on-show pipework was re-routed. Then the couple bought what Sara says felt like the most expensive bath ever - a Tay rolltop from Drummonds. It is just over 6ft 4ins in length.
“It cost almost £5,000 and needed five men to get it up the stairs, but at least Alan can get into it. The shower space too measures some two metres by one metre, but luckily we didn't have to spend so much money on the rest of the fittings. In fact, to make up for the expensive bath I was quite frugal with the rest of them.”
She finishes, “Although I'm a city girl I must say there's nothing better than sitting on my window seat in the kitchen with a coffee and a newspaper. There's a fantastic view over the garden and now it's become my favourite spot.”
Architect: Tony Salmon, Yianghou Architects, 01285 888150, yianghou.com
Project Manager: Jon Davies of HHC Architectural Services, 01285 706607, hhc-architectural.co.uk
AGA: 01285 644645, agaliving.com
Holloways of Ludlow (lighting): hollowaysofludlow.com
Indigenous Ltd (flooring) 01993 824200, indigenous.co.uk
Oak Beam UK, 01285 869222, oakbeamuk.com
Original BTC lighting: uk.originalbtc.com
TJ Joinery Ltd (cabinetry and island, window seat, French windows, sliding doors) 01285 831423, tjjoineryltd.co.uk