Emma Hatfield Watkins’ use of a subtle palette and thoughtful touches brought the character back to her elegant, much-loved 18th-century property.
When Emma Hatfield Watkins’ husband, Iain, was a teenager and mowing his neighbour’s lawn to earn pocket money, he never imagined that, one day, he would buy the house he’d often admired from across the garden. Over the years, the property, which is surrounded by barns, has witnessed a number of reincarnations. ‘During the Seventies, an occupant sold the house and moved into one of the barns which they’d converted,’ explains Emma. ‘The surrounding garden was then divided up between the two owners.’ In the late Eighties, Iain’s family bought that barn and he converted the adjoining stables into his first home. When Emma and Iain got together in 2004, she moved into the stables with Iain. Captivated by the tranquillity and charm of this idyllic, rural location, a year later, when the pair discovered that the adjacent house was on the market, the news instantly piqued their interest. ‘Although the stables were great, we needed more space,’ says Emma. ‘This was a chance to bring both gardens back into the same family and own a wonderful home, while living close to Iain’s parents.’ Having dug deep, Emma, an interior designer who owns Hattie Hatfield Decorative Antiques & Interiors, and tree surgeon Iain, bought the property. ‘Although the house was lovely, most of the original fireplaces had been blocked up during the Seventies, and, somehow, with all the changes that had occurred over the years, it seemed to have lost its sense of identity,’ says Emma. Keen to inject the house with the character and soul they felt was lacking, the couple began their sensitive restoration project. The first room to be updated was the Nineties kitchen. ‘We replaced the dark ceramic floor tiles with limestone flooring, which we continued into the hall to give a sense of cohesion and lighten the spaces,’ explains Emma. Iain removed a small gas fire in the kitchen and spent weeks painstakingly building a stone fireplace from scratch. ‘This was the first of five previously bricked-up fireplaces to be reinstated,’ says Emma. Not long after the kitchen was finished, the pair were forced to turn their attention to the bedrooms. ‘One day, I walked in to hear the sound of gushing water and, on closer inspection, found that a header tank in the loft was overflowing,’ says Emma. ‘The carpets in two of the bedrooms and landing were soaked. ‘Fortunately, I caught the problem before the water ruined the new kitchen and, luckily, only the ceiling in that room was damaged.’ Once the repair work was completed, Emma was able to focus on the decor for the bedrooms. ‘I felt warm, muted colours would work well to create a calm, relaxed feel, so I chose a subdued palette with lots of layering to inject depth and interest,’ she says. Over the years, the pair have poured their hearts into creating a home full of antiques. ‘Iain has turned his hand to everything from the plumbing and electrics to building work,’ says Emma. The house has constantly evolved, particularly since the arrival of Tillia, now nine, and Tobias, now seven. ‘When the children came along, Iain turned an annexe into a snug and added a home office,’ says Emma. This hard-working couple’s devotion to their restoration has culminated in an exquisite home that’s welcoming and sophisticated yet family friendly. ‘Iain and I feel incredibly privileged to play even a small part in its rich history,’ says Emma. ‘It’s wonderful to see the children running carefree across the lawns with our dog, Hattie. It was clearly a great investment of Iain’s time all those years ago.
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