Through the keyhole of an old coach house in the Cotswolds
PUBLISHED: 12:37 06 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:37 06 November 2018
Neil and Alison Smith wanted a project, but then their old coach house began to reveal its interesting little glitches
When Neil and Alison Smith found the old coach house in a leafy Worcestershire lane, Neil was not at all sure he liked it. “We were living in a modern detached house at the time and all I could see ahead of us was lots of work,” he says. “But I had said I wanted a project.”
The coach house had been converted in the 1980s but by now the upstairs was looking very dated and they could tell all the windows needed replacing.
However, after viewing several more properties Neil came round to seeing its potential, especially as the wiring was relatively new. So in August 2015 they bought it and moved in with daughter Lucy (6) and springer spaniel Hugo.
It was then that the house began to reveal its interesting little glitches.
“For instance, the low-pressure boiler meant you had to wait 10 minutes for the hot water to reach the far bathroom,” says Neil. “Our en suite had a maroon carpet, a corner bath, and dated tiles. When we removed the tiles the plaster came too, showing dozens of little tunnels where mice were burrowing. We also found an old fireplace, left over from the days when the stable lads slept up here.”
In the sitting room was a blocked up fireplace and an old and dangerous wood burner which the couple were told not to light, in fact to replace I as soon as possible.
“As for the garden the fence was rotten, the lawn sad, and a huge dark yew presided over it all,” says Alison.
For the first few months the family shared their living room with various deliveries, such as new baths, fireplaces, boxes of tiles and so on.
“The only room which didn’t need much attention was the kitchen,” says Alison. “The cabinetry, black granite worktops and appliances were all quite new, so there was no disruption there. The rest of the house, though, needed a huge amount of work.”
The first things they did were to replace the windows, changing them to double glazing in uPVC frames, and to build a garage where two sheds had once stood.
They also refurbished the bathrooms, and installed an oil-fired boiler, with in-line pumps to increase the water pressure.
“We were keen to change the 1980s maroon ensuite so we replaced the corner bath with a shower,” says Neil. “We also gutted the family bathroom, threw out the carpet and put in a whole new suite. As for the guest ensuite we completely refurbished it, only keeping the shower enclosure. Then we retiled all three.”
“Lucy’s bedroom was originally very Gothic,” says Alison. “It was painted all in black with a matching black carpet. That was the first bedroom Neil redecorated. Now it has become a very pretty room for a little girl.”
The main, very dark, bedroom had a burgundy carpet, cream Formica built-in furniture and a wood-chip ceiling. “We’ve changed it all,” says Alison, feelingly. “Plus we had skylights put in there and in the en suite to make it all much lighter.”
The following summer they replaced various areas of laminate flooring with Amtico, replaced all the radiators and painted the exterior woodwork in Farrow & Ball’s French Grey. They also put in new external doors of oak and a new wood burner in the sitting room, where they opened up the fireplace and added a flue and new surround.
The house was sufficiently long to have two staircases, one at each end. “The original had green and burgundy wall paper with a dado rail and a green rope to hold onto,” says Neil. “Our builder said it resembled a nightclub he used to visit, which did make us laugh. In fact it was so dark we had a window put in at the top of the stairs. The other staircase was very steep and the handrail rather rickety so when we decorated the hall, stairs and landing we replaced the handrail and spindles.”
Out in the garden they removed the gloomy yew, replaced the fence, had the grounds landscaped, added a patio and have recently built a playhouse for Lucy.
As if that wasn’t enough the couple then decided to upcycle their furniture by either lime-washing, repainting or reupholstering it.
“Our bed is antique French, found at Grays at The Northwick who rebuilt and re-upholstered it,” says Alison. “It’s a little bit short but a beautiful piece of furniture.”
“We also lime washed our oak dining table which came from the Foal Yard in Bransford,” says Neil. “We bought new dining chairs and upholstered them to match the new kitchen and dining room blinds. We were aiming for a much lighter and airier look.”
However, their favourite item is the huge antique mirror Neil bought from a woman in Chalford. “It was of Georgian mahogany but bits were falling off it and she sold it to me for £250,” says Neil. “I hired a van to collect it and then Grays repaired and repainted it in grey. Now we think it looks stunning in the hall.”
“I’ve spent many happy hours with Helen Gray at The Northwick (which is housed in an old cinema) choosing wallpapers and fabrics,” says Alison. “It’s taken us nearly three years to get our home looking the way we want it. But now we all love it.”
“I think our overall favourite room is the sitting room,” says Neil. “Especially in winter when the wood burner makes it so warm and cosy.”
Grays of Worcester (furniture, curtains, blinds re-upholstery & painting of existing furniture) - 01905 754040
Kidderminster Carpet Factory - 01562 69204
Porcelanosa - porcelanosa.com
Premier Carpets, Worcester (suppliers of Roger Oates stair runner, landing carpet and Amtico flooring)- 01905 27738
SR Heating & Chimney Services (supplier and fitter of Clearview stove) - 01905 25720
Stonemasons of Worcester (supplier & fitter of fireplace and hearth) - 01905 423178
Trevor Pryce Decorating Services, Worcester 07974 080551