AFTER WORKING AND RAISING A FAMILY OVERSEAS, CAT AND SIM PRESTON FELT THE CALL OF THEIR RURAL ROOTS AND FOUND THE PERFECT ENGLISH FAMILY HOME IN THE COTSWOLDS.
It was a case of going back to their roots when Cat and Sim Preston bought a beautiful converted mill in the Cotswolds. Originally from Wiltshire, the couple lived in London and then overseas in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Chicago and Hong Kong, as they brought up their three children, Jake, Josh and Hana. But when Jake was about to start his GCSEs, he decided he wanted to go to school in the UK. ‘It gave us the impetus finally to move back home to England,’ says Cat. She began looking for properties online and soon spotted an idyllic converted grain mill. ‘This house jumped out at me,’ she says. ‘I fell in love with it at first sight. Added to that, Sim is a geographer at heart and we were looking for something with water – this was perfect as there’s a mill stream in the garden.’ Sim came back to the UK with Jake when he started school and they took the opportunity to view the house. ‘They filmed it on their phones so I could see it,’ says Cat. ‘We took the plunge and put in an offer. Then I visited and, fortunately, it was just as gorgeous as I had thought.’ The 400-year-old house had been a grain mill until 1959, then stood empty for 10 years until it was bought by an architect and converted into a French country-style family home. ‘The house still had many of its original features,’ says Cat. ‘The previous owners had retained them when doing the conversion, so the bedroom had beams with pulleys. It had been restored with great attention to detail, which we loved.’ The family now had a base and over the next two years they renovated the house. ‘We were living in Hong Kong still,’ says Cat, ‘but we came back most holidays. Friends recommended builder Dan Eaves of CJ Holme who did a fantastic job project managing the work.’ The renovations included installing a new heating system, putting in three new bathrooms and building a conservatory at the back of the house. In addition, a barn and outbuildings were converted into guest accommodation. ‘The result is an upside-down guest house, with two bedrooms downstairs and an open-plan living room and kitchen upstairs that take in the view across the meadow. We wanted the barn conversion to feel like part of the main house and be in keeping with it,’ says Cat. So stonemason Jim Clayton built new walls that matched the originals, while Dan Eaves sourced reclaimed oak for the framing. The family home was then redecorated throughout. ‘I wanted to get as much light in as possible, and I kept the palette neutral to complement the Cotswold stone,’ says Cat. ‘I like to keep the look simple but add colour with abstract paintings. My mother-in-law Sue Preston is an artist and my friend Kirsten Coltart is an interior designer, so they helped with the aesthetics.’ ‘It’s been fantastic to create a family home in the UK after living in Asia for so long,’ says Cat. ‘We’re country people at heart so it’s great to get back to our rural roots.
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