Rob and Jen Gelling relocate

PUBLISHED: 11:16 19 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:54 20 February 2013

Jennifer and Rob at the pool table in their open-plan living space

Jennifer and Rob at the pool table in their open-plan living space

Countryside living does not have to mean 'chocolate box' living. Meet the couple who did things Victoria Jenkins. Photography by Darren Chung

Rob and Jen Gelling with baby daughter Beatrix decided to move out of London to Oxfordshire for a complete change of lifestyle but basically to start off their own design business.

"We wanted to live in the countryside but not in a chocolate box cottage with low beams and tiny windows," says Rob who now runs a company called Kitchen Architecture in Summertown, Oxford with his wife Jen. "We wanted something light, airy and sociable, the sort of house which flows seamlessly into the garden so our daughter Beatrix can ride her bike in and out without hindrance."

And that is exactly what the couple have achieved.

A year ago they bought their 1969 conventional detached house with its three bedrooms and one bathroom in a village near Oxford then set to work to change it into something that far more suited their busy lifestyles.

Within 12 months they had added an extra four metres in length to the whole of the back of the house so it now has five bedrooms and two bathrooms while the entire ground floor space is now open-plan with underfloor heating. "We used a local builder called David Lesley and he did a great job," says Rob

"All that is left of the original house is the front wall and two side walls and the roof. Inside the only rooms NOT changed are the hall, the downstairs cloakroom and the staircase." Even their front door is different - "I drew it up and the local carpenter made it from cedar," he says.

The most amazing change is that the whole of the ground floor has now been opened up to create one large living space. And Beatrix (now 2) can easily cycle from garden into house and back again as the Gellings have installed huge glass doors at the rear which fold back for total access to the hardwood decking and the garden (Upstairs the same folding glass doors have been put in across the back wall of the main bedroom to give access to a glass balcony - not shown in the photographs - and the amazing views over the countryside beyond.)

"Opening up the rear of the house in this manner really allows you to enjoy the garden and in good weather makes the living space literally twice the size," says Jen. "It's a very sociable living space, everyone is included, no-one working in the kitchen or relaxing on the sofas feels left out. "

The couple chose porcelain matt tiles o be laid throughout the entire ground floor, each measuring some 60 cms by 60 cms from Architectural ceramics. "We wanted a consistent easy-to-maintain surface as with Beatrix and our chocolate Labrador Ellie the floor definitely needs to be both durable and easy to clean," says Jen..

Unlike most people the Gellings found the kitchen was the easy bit as Rob's company is now the largest independent retailer for Bulthaup kitchens in the UK. Their team designs living spaces all over the world for buildings as diverse as Scottish castles to Swiss ski chalets and for all types of clients such as architects, political leaders , musicians and top chefs

Naturally the kitchen is a Bulthaup. Both units and worktops are of graphite laminate with natural elm veneer on the breakfast bar and on the taller units.

With a degree in furniture design Rob knew exactly how to get the kitchen he wanted, His Miele dishwasher is raised so that cutlery and crockery can be unloaded straight into the drawers next to it - while the cups and glasses go onto the shelves in the adjacent shuttered unit. ( "No need to move from the spot," says Rob.)

There is a Gaggenau double oven, one standard self-cleaning, the other steam with a warming drawer below. There is also a Gaggenau flush-fitted induction hob on the island - "very fast, very controllable," says Jen and a Gaggenau extractor hood above it;

There is a Gaggenau coffee machine, an integrated Miele fridge freezer with an ice-making machine and a Quooker "boiling-water tap" from Sweden which does exactly what it claims. "No need for a kettle and it's completely child-proof and very energy-efficient," she says.

A big feature in the living room is Rob's pride and joy - his pool table.

"It's not everyone's idea of a nice piece of furniture but it is purely for fun and when everything in London is so convenient I thought I might get a bit bored in the evenings. But as it happens it hardly gets used and so I'm sure Jen and Beatrix will soon take over this space for something else," says Rob. Much of the furniture is from Bulthaup such as their graphite laminate sideboard, their glass dining table and seating and some of their lighting.

"The bench on one side of the table is of maple veneer and stainless steel and comes from Bulthaup while the seats opposite are based on a Bauhaus design but made by Bulthaup in the 1980s," he says.

Their sofas - or more correctly their contemporary modular seating system - was exported from Spain and is in a suede effect fabric which is more durable than the real thing and can be cleaned down.

There is a Danish wood burning stove by Rais near the den and tv area for lighting on cosy winter nights and in the lounge area near the kitchen a gas fire from Blazes ( in the Cowley Road) for instant heat.

Upstairs Rob and Jennifer's bedroom is very striking as here they have invaded the roof space to create a double height vaulted ceiling - "like a tent" - of timber and steel. There are also is also an en suite walk-in shower with a wide-planked timber area leading from it to the bedroom, Bulthaup-designed wardrobes and a velux window above the bed for maximum light.

Although the house began as the usual two-storey type Rob and Jennifer have opened up part of the remaining roof area to create a den, with a sofa bed, a tv inside a shuttered cupboard and an oak floor.

"The house externally is not the prettiest but it was affordable and in a great location which allowed us to create the internal environment that we wanted to live in," he finishes. "Jen's office is at home and due to space in the showroom I find myself working from home more often, especially as having the garden and the nature reserve makes it a very tranquil place to be. Everything works exactly how we want it to. Whether you own a medieval manor or a riverside apartment your space needs to compliment how you live, other wise you will always feel uncomfortable in it. We have got juts how we want it - which means," he grins, "that it's probably time for me to look for my next project - but don't tell Jen I said that."

Rob's contact details:

bulthaup oxford
Kitchen Architecture Ltd
274 Banbury Road
Oxford OX2 7DY

tel 01865 426 990

fax 01865 426 991

Latest from the Cotswold Life