Linda Gardner rennovates Cheltenham apartments

PUBLISHED: 11:26 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:56 20 February 2013

The magnificant cream damask chenille curtains with cream and black trim in the drawing room were made by Acres of Drapes (077759587549). The cream sofas came from Harveys and Linda had black and cream cushions made from an Andrew Martin animal print.

The magnificant cream damask chenille curtains with cream and black trim in the drawing room were made by Acres of Drapes (077759587549). The cream sofas came from Harveys and Linda had black and cream cushions made from an Andrew Martin animal print.

Turning two flats in a Grade II listed house into our home has been a labour of love for Linda - and the planners didn't even blink. Words by Victoria Jenkins and photography by Steve Russell.

Seven years ago Linda Gardner bought two flats - one above the other - in a Grade 2 listed Regency house in Cheltenham and completely changed the layout.

And the surprising thing is that planning permission went through like a dream.

"It's because I was restoring the two floors to the way they would have been in the 1820s," says Linda. "When I found the flats - one at garden level, the other above - they seemed to consist of several rooms, all tiny and vile. For instance what is now my sitting room was split up to include a poky kitchen while my adjoining hall-cum-study was an even pokier bathroom with two small bedrooms."

Now the two flats have become Linda's gracious home which covers two-storeys and has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a kitchen downstairs and a big sitting room and entrance hall-cum-study on the next floor.

"In Regency days the kitchen would always have been at garden level and the reception rooms above," says Linda. "So I've restored the rooms to their original purpose. Whoever created the flats wreaked terrible damage to the original beautiful cornicing and the one surviving fireplace had been covered in five layers of paint - underneath was a piece of pure Regency in elegant marble!"

The building work took only three months in all and involved demolishing stud partition walls, gutting the kitchen and bathrooms and redesigning the layout.

However what nearly turned into a nightmare was the burglary Linda interrupted one stormy night.

"I was living elsewhere while the renovations were underway and thought I had better check that the new place was okay," she says. "When I came in through the front door I was amazed to find that bathroom furniture and other new fittings were stacked there, ready for removal. Then I heard people escaping through the window! I'd arrived in the nick of time."

One of the first things Linda did was to install a wrought-iron spiral staircase from the garden level to the entrance hall above then completely refit the kitchen.

This was the room that underwent the most transformation. What had been previously two tiny bedrooms and a grotty bathroom (just as it had been above) is now a huge welcoming space with handbuilt wooden units painted in Dulux "Ivory" and worktops of Emerald Pearl granite - all except the island which has been painted in Blue Green by Farrow & Ball and has an oak work surface to match the new oak laminate floor. This island by the way has been fitted with a very long drawer to hold all the ironing. "It's about five feet long and could hold a body," Linda laughs.

"What I prefer about painted kitchens is that you can have them repainted to keep up with the fashions," she adds.

However one wall has been painted red because both David and Linda have their theories about this colour. "Every house should have a little red," says Linda. "A plain room looks all the better for it."

While David adds, "I believe you should frighten yourself once a day by adding a hint of danger - such as a red wall - in your home!"

The focus of the kitchen is the Rangemaster oven which Linda chose because, she says, when you open the door the basting tray is designed to slide out with it - "so you never have to bend down and struggle with anything filled with hot fat."

The hob has four rings with a wok burner and an electric plate warmer and all the Bosch appliances have been concealed behind unit doors.

When it came to restoring the cornicing on the floor above Linda called in Architectural Moulding from Gloucester who made a mould from the broken pieces to recreate and reinstall them.

She also had the original fireplace in the Drawing Room stripped of its paint layers to the original beautiful marble below and bought another one of Regency marble to put into the study.

As for the bathrooms the suites came from Travis Perkins but the look-alike marble flooring is actually made of Karndean. "It's a photograph of marble laid on vinyl and half the price of similar products," says Linda. "And much cheaper of course than real marble plus it's warmer to the feet."

When it came to furnishing their home Linda's sister Liz proved to be a godsend as she has her own curtain business Acres of Drapes and made wonderful sweeping curtains for all the main rooms.

As for her furniture her best bargain has to be the French antique marriage bed (with a garland and bow decoration) bought for only 300 from a little antique shop in Cirencester.

"It was less than six feet long which was too short for both of us so I had my carpenter add a leg in the middle on either side and that brought it up to the standard length," she says.

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