The transformation of a Cotswold Jacobean home
PUBLISHED: 10:46 07 September 2015 | UPDATED: 17:03 08 September 2015
Thanks to DIY skills, good contacts and the willingness to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in, John and Carole's Jacobean house was transformed from dark and damp to light, bright living space
John Price and Carole Gilbert-Porter had lived in their little Cotswold village for 16 years while gradually renovating their two-up, two-down cottage. “It was going to be our ideal retirement home,” says Carole. “But retirement came earlier than we had imagined so after a while we realised we needed another project!”
That was in 2009 and as it happened there was another project available – an old coaching inn called White Hart Court, just round the corner. “It had been on the market a long time, about 18 months, and dated in part from the 1600s,” says Carole. “As well as having been an inn it was later a post office. We had always admired it, but had never looked inside as we had always thought it would be too big for us.”
The house had been extended in the 1700s then the kitchen had been added in early Victorian times. Then it had been extended again in the 1960s. and now had three storeys and five bedrooms. However, the couple contacted the vendor and took a look around – “and we promptly fell in love with it,” says Carole.
This was despite the fact that the Jacobean house was very dark inside thanks to the ivy growing over the windows and the dense growth of the trees in the garden, almost hiding it from the road. A large family had lived there so had had to keep partitioning rooms to create bed space, but then it had stood empty for two years and now the ivy had even reached to the roof, covering the skylight on the top floor.
“The kitchen was very damp with leaking pipes and was covered in Artex. The whole place was very dated and there was no driveway,” continues Carole. “But as soon as we walked in we could see its potential. There were two things in our favour – the house wasn’t listed and John is extremely skilled at DIY.” So the couple bought it, moved in and began to do it up.
“As it was quite large we were able to move from room to room as each one was completed. Basically the house had a complete overhaul and it took 14 months of hard work, much of it done by us while we lived within the mess. I felt as if I were eating dust!”
The only parts that did not need attention were the roof and the window frames, but the couple removed stud walls upstairs and unwanted doors downstairs to create bigger rooms, then replastered, rewired, replumbed and put in a new oil-fired central heating system.
They began in the kitchen-dining room by removing a connecting door between the two rooms, sandblasting the beams, taking up the floor, installing a damp proof membrane and underfloor heating then laying new limestone tiles from Mandarin Stone both in here and throughout most of the ground floor.
“All except for the sitting room where there is a new oak floor,” says Carole. “New oak floors have been put in upstairs too.”
They had their joiner Philip Neate of Aquarius Furniture hand-build them a kitchen and island and had black granite worktops installed. They got rid of the old Aga and had a new Britannia range cooker put in. “We wanted a free-standing look with no wall cupboards,” says Carole.
Philip Neate proved to be quite a find as he also made the doors and cabinetry for the bathrooms and utility room too. “However we bought all the other interior doors are made of reclaimed oak and came from www.ukoakdoors.co.uk ,” says John.
There were five bedrooms over the top two floors but only one bathroom and two showers, one of which was a tiny rickety cubicle in a bedroom on the first floor. They refurbished the family bathroom with Samuel Heath furniture then turned their attention to this bedroom-plus-cubicle. This room was rather small, carpeted in royal blue with the cubicle in a corner and was reached by a narrow passage which seemed to have been borrowed from the adjoining bedroom, making that rather small too. It had a steeply pitched roof with old oak beams and the couple thought the whole room could make a charming en suite bathroom.
“Especially as the plumbing was in place,” says Carole. “A benefit was that we could then demolish the passage way and restore the adjacent bedroom to its original size.”
However in their efforts to help the plumber they took up the floor in the main bedroom and found that eight out of the 13 beams had been devoured by death watch beetle. “It meant we had to take down the whole ceiling in the sitting room below – these two rooms are in the oldest part - and we ended up waist high in rubble. We used oak beams from a reclamation yard - adding artistic woodworm touches - but once they were in place the plasterer had it all restored in a day.”
In the same room there had been a certain amount of 1960s bodging, including the lintel above the fireplace which was much too thin and mean and made of modern oak as well.
“So we put a casing of reclaimed over it - bought from a firm in Surrey to make it look much more substantial,” says John. Once that was over they set about fitting the en suite bathroom themselves, again using Samuel Heath products. The vanity unit and cupboards were handmade by the indefatigable joiner Philip but they had in a professional tiler as the tiles were so heavy.
The fun part was that, as they had moved out of a very tiny cottage they were able to start all over again with the furniture and Carole bought many pine and oak pieces from either auction houses, OKA or from a favourite shop in nearby Nailsworth called Mother Hubbard.
Then she painted them in lovely soft colours such as ‘Tarletan’ by Paint Library and ‘Stoney Ground’ by Farrow and Ball then re-upholstered where necessary in Lewis & Wood fabrics as Carole went to art college where she developed her very good eye.
“We wanted a modern look with a country touch,” says Carole. “So all the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball or Paint Library colours and the stone work in Little Greene paints as these are micro porous.
“It was hard work,” she reflects, “John project managed and when I couldn’t help inside I worked in the garden. I rescued the pond and had a rotten old tree taken down – with permission - before it collapsed.” Finally the work was done.
“It took about 18 months altogether and we celebrated with a big party to which most of the village was invited!” she says. “Considering this was a retirement project, I guess the only thing we didn’t do was retire!”
Aquarius Furniture, 07875 047767, www.aquariusfurniture.co.uk
Cologne and Cotton, 01242 528184, www.cologneandcotton.com
Loaf, 0845 4680527, www.loaf.com
Lewis & Wood, 01453 878517, www.lewisandwood.co.uk
Mandarin Stone in Cheltenham, 01242 530500, www.mandarinstone.com
Marble & Granite of Charfield, 01453 844644, www.marblegranitesw.com
The Solid Wood Flooring Company, 01666 504015, www.solidwoodflooringcompany.com