Oxfordshire cottage transformed by interior designer
PUBLISHED: 13:41 16 March 2015 | UPDATED: 13:41 16 March 2015
Having a talented interior designer – and hands-on project manager to boot – as a sister was a considerable advantage when it came to transforming the Normans’ Oxfordshire cottage
After 25 years of living and working abroad Andrew and Ginnie Norman, with sons Tony and Tristram, recently came back to live in the Oxfordshire cottage which they had bought in 2003. But it looks completely different now from the way it did then, thanks to Ginnie’s sister, interior designer Cid Carr. For, luckily for Ginnie, Cid has spent 20 years working in design and three years ago began her own business, The Fountayne Interiors and Occasions.
“Cid actually found the cottage for us as it was next door to the one she was buying,” says Ginnie. “But back then it was very small, dark and dated. It had been a woodcutter’s cottage on an old estate and had an 1800s core with two tiny bedrooms, a sitting room and a coal hole. Then in the 1980s someone had tacked on an ugly – and leaking - single-storey extension at the back containing a small kitchen and avocado bathroom.”
It took two years just to get planning permission then another two years to renovate the cottage and build on a new two-storey extension. It included a stone tower for the new staircase and a stunning roof terrace, making the place twice as big and taller too. For because of the slope the cottage now has three storeys.
“The problem was that while the council liked our architect’s plans our neighbours did not,” says Cid. “Then – when everyone was finally happy - there were more problems, this time with the access. Because the house has a hilly rear garden and close neighbours, no mechanical diggers could get up the steep narrow path between them. So Jason Strong Builders, aptly named, had two men with shovels, wheelbarrows and a conveyor belt running right through the middle of the house, shifting several tons of back garden to make way for the new extension. All the debris went out through the sitting room window.”
“The great thing was having Cid as project manager, right on site,” says Ginnie. “It was a truly major overhaul as they had to gut the original cottage and redesign the layout as well as having a much bigger extension built.”
Now this extension consists of a big fitted kitchen-breakfast room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a shower room.
As for the original cottage it’s been turned upside down. The en suite guest bedsitting room is on the ground floor (where the sitting room and coal hole used to be) and the sitting room (once two bedrooms) flows into the kitchen-breakfast room.
Originally the septic tank system was shared with Cid’s home too but luckily the Normans were able to get permission to install a Klargester septic system in the field opposite. “This makes all used water safe,” says Cid. “We also had to get permission to move an electricity pole from the garden and bury the cables.”
Once the building work was finished Cid took over the décor and design and she suggested many lovely touches, such as the yellow glass, made by Lee Boswell, for the small windows in the main bedroom, and the engineered European smoked oak used for all the flooring, doors and new staircase. She also designed a light well between kitchen and terrace above to let light into what might have been a dark room, as well as designing the layout of the handmade kitchen units from Baker and Baker of Sudbury. “My favourite room is definitely the kitchen,” says Ginnie. “I love the way it drifts into the sitting room. And you can use it according to how you feel – either as a quiet place to sit or to be as sociable as you want - and always comfy!
“We wanted a home which felt easy, not pristine, where we could unwind and relax and that drove most of our decorating decisions,” she continues. “Our dining table has a reclaimed surface that’s pretty much impervious to food and drink while the floorboards are tough and washable. So everyone can relax without any tyranny about dirty shoes and using coasters.”
She finishes, “I do get a bit emotional thinking of the effort that went into this little house. Despite the many drawbacks the location was ideal. But if it hadn’t been for my sister Cid I don’t think we could have done it.”