WEATHERBOARD WALLS AND WHITEWASHED INTERIORS HAVE BREATHED NEW LIFE INTO A FIFTIES HOUSE, TRANSFORMING IT INTO A RELAXED COUNTRY HOME WITH AN EAST COAST FEEL.
With its weatherboard cladding, peak-roofed dormer windows and Atlantic grey exterior paint, this house would look at home in a New England town on America’s East Coast. In fact, it’s tucked down a narrow track in a hamlet in the heart of the Chiltern Hills, close to Marlow and with views across open countryside. It’s home to Sue and Tony Blakeley, who spotted it three years ago when property renovation expert Sue was looking for a new project. ‘We’ve lived in the Buckinghamshire countryside since our boys – who are both adults now – were tiny,’ says Sue. ‘Our previous five renovations became family homes that we lived in over three decades. When we saw this house, with its paddock, the location and views were a big attraction.’ Inside, the decor was very dated, with dark brown carpets, lino floors and exposed brick walls. Still, Sue could see the house’s potential. It was a huge project that she had to fit in around her work commitments. ‘We lived through all the changes, escaping to our bolthole in France whenever it became too manic!’ Over the next three years, Sue reconfigured the layout and project managed the build. Plans involved knocking through three reception rooms to create a spacious 100sq m kitchen-diner, which is filled with light from four double doors at opposite sides of the space, crafted by a local joinery company. Sue and Tony also created a snug at the far end, in place of the double garage that previously adjoined the kitchen. ‘The butcher’s block came from our lovely local butcher Nick, who was refurbishing his shop in West Wycombe at the time,’ says Sue. ‘I had the island custom-made out of quartz stone, so it’s the same width as the butchers block, and I’m a big fan of Neptune’s pantry cupboards. ‘There was a lot of wasted space in the loft, so we took the roof off and put in dormer windows on both sides to maximise the beautiful countryside views where there previously weren’t any,’ adds Sue. ‘This helped create the New England style, together with an insulated and weatherboard cladding exterior. Parts have also been rendered and painted grey, and we used reclaimed tiles and bricks to create a more aged appearance.’ In the living room, a wood burner, wall of books and walls painted in a dramatic punch of colour, with soft pink throws and scatter cushions, create a warm atmosphere. Upstairs, Sue chose a soothing, neutral backdrop for the bedrooms, adding pops of colour with accessories and furnishings. ‘I’ve always loved the colour grey, it’s a calm tone to live with and I’m known for using a lot of it in my projects,’ says Sue. ‘I’m inspired by classic English design and French influences and I feel passionate about breathing new life into beautiful old buildings or neglected properties.’ The garden was largely a blank slate when they arrived, with a few raised timber beds and an overgrown field at the rear. Sue has designed a traditional parterre garden at the front, with clipped box hedging, box balls and olive trees. ‘The front is a lovely spot to sit and enjoy a coffee or a G&T as it catches the last of the evening sun,’ she says. The raised lawn area near the orchard and paddock at the rear is surrounded by mature trees and open countryside. Here, Sue has designed an alfresco dining area, with a Big Green Egg barbecue, lanterns and furniture from her own garden collection. Sue and Tony also enjoy spending downtime at their holiday home in the Dordogne, where Sue is fond of attending local brocantes to hunt out French-style pieces for her projects and her home. But, despite her busy work schedule, Sue always finds time to enjoy her own home and garden with friends and family. ‘What I’ve really loved about this project is that I’ve been able to install so many sets of glazed doors to bring the outside in.
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