Through the keyhole of an Arts & Crafts-style cottage in the Cotswold countryside
PUBLISHED: 13:02 11 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:02 11 March 2019
Although the Ellises' Arts & Crafts-style cottage feels wonderfully secluded, they're just a stone's-throw from civilisation
A hundred years ago the Ellises’ cottage would have been in a wild and isolated spot – and it still feels that way even today. For once you leave the main road crossing Minchinhampton Common, you find yourself on a steep lane leading into an overgrown and silent valley – yet the common, although lonely a century ago, is now a desirable place to live.
“We wanted to live in the countryside for Arthur’s benefit,” says Richard of his three-year-old son. “We wanted him to have a tree house and plenty of space to run around. My wife Jules was thinking of a Georgian property but I liked this cottage straightaway. It has two acres of land, plus stables and outbuildings and it reminds me of my grandfather’s home when I was young.”
Buzzards, rabbits, badgers and muntjac deer are frequently spotted – “and we get cows peering over the gate and horses riding past,” says Richard.
So Richard, a shipping project manager and Jules, who works in medicine, bought the place in February 2016 and began to take stock.
The original four-bedroom cottage was built – “probably in the 1890s” – in an Arts & Crafts style and then a stone extension was added in the 1920s.
“We knew we would add another extension in due course to house a much bigger kitchen-diner but first the house needed some work,” says Richard. “So we rewired, hid pipes, re-plastered, replumbed and had to move from room to room as the work caught up with us.
“Although all the windows and doors were sound they were made of uPVC so we changed them all to timber.”
Up on the first floor Richard, who has excellent DIY skills, removed the ceilings of the landing and main bedroom to open them up to the rafters. Then he added a skylight above the landing for more light, while in the main bedroom light comes in from a slit window which once illuminated the attic. “It was unglazed and covered in chicken wire for some reason,” says Richard. “We’ve had glass put into it now.”
The en suite bathroom was very narrow so Richard and Jules maximised the space by moving walls and doors and then refurbishing it with a better layout. They also refitted the family bathroom.
“In the playroom we put in a Victorian fireplace from Faringdon Reclamation,” says Richard. “And as the stairs and bannisters were painted an unexciting magnolia I stripped them back to their original oak.” Richard too did all the redecorating in Farrow & Ball paints, ‘Skimming Stone’ throughout except for ‘Elephant’s Breath’ in the library and the sitting room.
Two new wood burners were installed in these two rooms and then the couple applied for planning permission to build their two-storey extension. “We wanted a big kitchen-diner with a bedroom and bathroom above,” he says.
Once granted, Richard and a builder friend Rob Gazzard did all the work themselves, beginning in March 2017 and finishing by the following August.
“Together we dug and built the foundations, then I continued with the build of the ground floor and Bob took over for the next level as I had to focus on my work,” he says. “We used Durisol insulated concrete blocks and recycled timber with lots of insulation. We put underfloor heating in the kitchen-diner beneath a limestone floor, and installed oil-fired central heating upstairs. We also added a lightwell from the kitchen into the bedroom and through the roof.”
At one point the family was reduced to cooking with just a microwave and a single hob. “But we always had hot water for showers, thank goodness, as we had refurbished the original en suite bathroom early on.”
Now the new kitchen-diner has been fitted with a range of solid wood Shaker-style units from Woodchester Cabinet Makers. This new venture from WCM supplies ready-made cabinets which the buyer or his builder order online then fit themselves. In this case Richard did the fitting and then painted them in Little Green ‘Dark Blue’ and Dulux Heritage ‘China White’. The oak worktops came from Worktop Express in Quedgeley.
Concrete pendants hang over the island and kitchen table which, along with the chairs, were discovered on eBay. The induction hob is contained in the island.
Upstairs the bedroom and bathroom are painted in a teal shade, Newberg Green by Benjamin Moore. Richard made the headboard for the bed and put in reclaimed double-glazed patio doors to separate the bedroom from the bathroom, having first stripped and stained them.
The bathroom is very spacious with easily enough room for the magnificent Soak bath. “The shower is from Miro and we found the basin on eBay,” says Richard. “We bought the taps and shower head from Victorian Plumbing and paid £40 for the old chest of drawers. Bob built all the shelving.”
He finishes, “Although hardly anyone would need to come to this valley, or even know it exists, we are in fact just a short distance from civilisation. And even if we get snowed in we just feel cosily secluded, never isolated as people might have done centuries ago.”
Benjamin Moore Paints, benjaminmoore.com
Green Man Stoves, tel: 01989 218328, greenmanstoves.co.uk
Tim Tyler Doors, tel: 01452 741454, mob 07813 588974, timtylerdoors.co.uk
Woodchester Cabinet Makers, tel: 01453 835580, shakerstyle.co.uk
Worktop Express, tel: 01452 881372, worktop-express.co.uk