Today’s house tour is of a renovated coaching house in Stockbridge, near Winchester in Hampshire. Owned by Elaine and Gary, professional interior designers, the property has a storied history, having been a coach house, a pub, and two separate houses, before they set about renovating it. Now both a family home and a base for their business, it’s still a work in progress, but is being transformed into a unique and distinctive home that nods towards its history and has all the features you’d expect of a country house in the Home Counties. We caught up with Gary and Elaine to find out more.
Gary and Elaine are owners of Walk Interior Architecture and Design who undertake interior design work for private and commercial clients along with structural, space-planning, conceptual and exterior advice. They cover a wide range of projects including new houses, conversions, renovations, extensions and open-plan rooms.
IDEALIST: Thank you for showing us around your home. Why did you choose this area?
Gary: We wanted a rural location (having lived in central Southampton for ‘many’ years) with good road links for work plus broadband, essential for working from our home studio which ruled out a lot of villages/potential properties. We also came to the area on a regular basis over the years at weekends to walk and cycle – so we knew it well and enjoyed our time here. We loved the idea of walking out from the front door, rather than having to jump in the car each time we wanted to enjoy the countryside.
IDEALIST: How did you land on the property you chose to renovate?
Gary: We were looking for something with character that had potential as well as being suitable to live and work from. We looked at loads of properties online but very few in reality. It was difficult to find the right property that suited our numerous needs – but easy to eliminate the vast majority that crossed our paths – for various reasons. In the end after looking for over a year, we saw about 5 properties, lost one due to our house sale falling through – which then led to the house we actually purchased, which worked out better in the end!
IDEALIST: What caught your eye and what were your ambitions?
Gary: The house was in an interesting format. It was essentially one room deep – but very long, so it could be easily divided into live and work zones. Our previous house had a separate converted swimming pool studio, so the idea of separation is great, but in reality our work and personal time blend and it’s a pain going to the studio to print something or to shuffle over in your slippers at the weekend, so this all in one but still in separate zones layout works better for us.
Once a coaching house
IDEALIST: What was the property before you bought it?
Gary: Originally going back to the 1800’s it was a coaching house, then a pub called The Cricketers. but it closed in 1976 and was then ‘badly’ converted into two separate houses. I guess the historic and characterful aspects were not deemed worth saving or was too expensive – so it was pretty much gutted and turned into two houses. It had another poorly-designed and implemented renovation in the 90’s. We purchased our section in late 2015 with a view to giving it a thorough renovation and a redesign worthy of the property with its former purpose and our new combined requirements in mind.
It helps to know we have practiced what we preach when it comes to our clients
IDEALIST: Where did you start with the work?
Gary: Planning. Overall planning and the best sequence of works – bearing in mind we would be living and working here for the duration! The first actual works involved moving and replacing the main exterior oil tank and inside boiler and water tank, to free-up space internally and make use of the attached stable/loft space. We were then able to first fix plumbing/pipes and rewire whilst floor boards were up – working back room by room.
IDEALIST: How did you do the work?
Gary: We obviously designed and planned the whole project. Then worked closely with our plumber and sparks – giving them a complete overview of what’s needed and our schedule, as most of this work was done in stages a few days at a time over several months. We then got help with plastering and a few other trades room by room – so we could then complete any other works and decorating ourselves.
IDEALIST: What was the look you were going for?
Gary: Not overly designed, more casual, perhaps a little industrial/commercial as it was a pub …
and something that worked with the structure as much as possible. If we’d wanted the perfect minimalist look, we bought the wrong house!
IDEALIST: Are there particular areas that you wanted to focus on?
Gary: A major aspect of the house renovation was the kitchen. The previous kitchen was badly planned and constrained by window/doors and the through nature of the house. We also had the idea of finding an original pub bar to use as a kitchen and eventually found a bar through an online salvage company which fitted our intended layout. We then blocked-up the road side window: being a coach house it’s close to the road and the kitchen is the closest point.
This enabled a total reconfiguration which also included removing the rear sink and window so we could have double doors instead, so giving better connection, views, access and light to the garden and patio. This helped offset the loss of the front window which we further addressed by adding huge mirror, creating a back bar look. The old pantry was then turned into the wash-up room with a new sink and drawer-style dishwasher.
IDEALIST: How did you source the interior pieces?
Gary: Our previous house and furniture were quite different, but we managed to sell most of it to the buyer when we moved. We kept a few pieces, though, so some pieces were existing and we’ve worked with them including all the art! The rest has all be sourced to fit a defined brief in terms of size, function and style which all stem back to the original design. We sourced these from eBay and
specialist vintage/antique suppliers. Some of these pieces were then renovated, re upholstered, painted or just placed in a new context with other carefully selected pieces, perhaps contrasting in some way to enhance the pieces further. Other items are new/off the shelf again chosen to work within the overall scheme. It does take time and creativity to find or recognise these items when searching – mainly online, but we also have found some items locally. Being in the industry exposes us to lots of suppliers and product ideas – so we had a lot of resource and experience to draw from. It helps to know what you want before you search, rather than searching and hoping you find what you’re looking for!
IDEALIST: Where are you at now and what are your ambitions for 2017?
Gary: We need to get the garden and some hardscaping completed, but the rest of the property is almost complete, so we want to enjoy it. Of course we are also busy with our business!
IDEALIST: Are there any things you would do differently if you could start over?
Gary: There were no big issues – it would have been great not to have had to live there whilst works were underway. Not having much in the way of heating over the winter was tough, but it did allow us to progress and complete that much sooner, so we can decorate and turn to the garden in the summer. So it was all worthwhile in the end, but tough at the time. Definitely it helps us have hands on experience and to know we have practiced what we preach when it comes to our client projects!
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