Friday, 15 January 2021

Real Home Feature, 'Under the Autumn Sun'



Sarah Colgan discovered the house of her dreams by chance and lovingly reinvented it into a perfect family home in the heart of Somerset.  A chance encounter and a passion for restoring period properties sparked Sarah and her husband to reinvent a dated farmhouse into their perfect family home.

Picture postcard 19th Century Somerset farmhouse

   Sarah and her husband carried out major renovation works on their farmhouse in Somerset. They redesigned the layout to include a new main entrance, built a new porch, hallway, kitchen, snug, 3 bathrooms and cloakroom. 

Somerset Photography by Jo Sheldrake

A 'Purfect' playground for Jess

Jess enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.

    It was purely by chance, whilst exploring the local countryside that Sarah spotted a farmhouse in the distance, nestled within a wooded valley. ' I knew instantly we had found a hidden gem,' recalls Sarah,' I remember mentioning how i'd love to live there.' It was some months later, whilst browsing online, that Sarah noticed the house was for sale. Seizing the opportunity, they made an offer and it wasn't long before the whole family moved in during the autumn of 2014.
    The converted farmhouse sits within a magical rolling landscape with over two acres of gardens and far reaching views across the Somerset levels. Although picturesque on the outside, the properties decor was dated. Over the years the farmhouse had been extended into adjacent farm outbuildings, part of which were used as a B&B. Having successfully renovated their previous homes, Sarah decided to live in the new house for 6 months before making any changes. 

The new entrance and porch with its sweeping steps has transformed the south elevation of the house.

    With planning applications approved, work began in the spring. Sarah meticulously managed the entire project, enjoying gathering ideas from magazines to create mood boards to work from. The first task was to replace the old asbestos cement and clay Roman roof tiles. However, no sooner had the roofing and asbestos contractors started, work came to a halt for 6 weeks when bats were found in the attic. 'The last thing I wanted to hear was how excited the conservationist was identifying several protected species. The roof had to be adapted for roosting bats. The recommendations included an access gap and special felt which hadn't been factored into the original plans or budget,' recalls Sarah.
    The plumbing and electrics needed urgent attention and involved major work and manpower. The heating system was some 30 years old, inefficient and continuously running, so a significant part of the budget was spent installing a new system. 'It was disruptive and we often had 6 plumbers on site, ripping out metres of old copper pipe,' recalls Sarah.' Finally, after 2 weeks of chaos and 23 radiators were in place and the family could at last enjoy a warm home.

The family sitting room was formerly a dining room. Sarah made a feature of the bay window by having a window seat custom made. 'It's a great place to sit on a Sunday afternoon by the warmth of the fire, looking out over the gardens and beyond,' says Sarah

The pretty scatter cushions are covered in Tulip and Roses fabric from Cabbages and Roses.The original wooden parquet floor was exposed when the carpet was taken up. Having sanded it back Sarah made the bold decision to stain it in a dark colour, Pale Wenge by Mylands of London. 

'I love the effect of a dark floor as it anchors the furniture and design of the room,' says Sarah, 'and balances beautifully the simple natural edged seagrass rug boucle from Clifton Design Flooring.

    The next stage of the renovation was to redesign a new kitchen in a different room of the house. The original kitchen was in a small north facing room which was cold and dark. Sarah felt this room would work better as an office. 

Once again Sarah's choice of colour, textures and furniture blend together perfectly to create a stylish, calm and beautiful new room. The natural hand finished rug bought from Roger Oates compliments the grey stone floor.

The comfortable and cosy snug, sits on the right of the new entrance hall, formerly a second kitchen. the walls are painted in Old White from Farrow and Ball and a grey limestone floor from Mandarin Stone replaced tired carpet and lino. Sarah reupholstered the antique footstool using a Bulgarian hemp grain sack she found at a flea market. 'Repositioning the kitchen and adding a snug to the new entrance was more practical for us as a family,' says Sarah, 'I envisaged a simple and unfitted kitchen, full of interest colour and textures, overlooking the south facing gardens and views beyond.

The central island unit is balanced by the rise and fall pendant light from The French House. 

'I love finding simple statement pieces of furniture old and new that are not only practical and stylish but help bring everything together.'

Natural flagstones were laid throughout the new kitchen 

    Hanging over the dining room table is a large antique, crystal and glass chandelier ( from Ornate Gilt Mirrors in Wells Somerset) which looks magical when candlelit. An original Victorian bevelled glass mirror ( from Ornate Gilt Mirrors in Wells, Somerset) hangs above the Charnwood stove. Recycled church pews sit alongside a pine table with painted black legs.
    The new design included a complete renovation of 3 bathrooms, cloakroom and traditional wooden sash windows replaced old casement windows.  Sarah made a bold decision to sand and stain the floorboards black throughout the new sitting room, master bedroom and dining room. 'I wanted to be honest to the fabric, structure and age of this property, trusting my judgement and only using quality materials and workmanship to which reflects its rural surroundings,' says Sarah

The fireplaces in the dining room and snug were stripped back to expose brickwork and stylish Charnwood stoves replaced dated gas heating appliances. 

The master bedroom is given a touch of glamour with a french chandelier and the oval mirror from Ornate Gilt Mirrors in Somerset and a gold nursing chair from Clifton Village Antiques. The iron bed was bought from Feather and Black. Another one of Sarah's thrifty purchases was a traditional Welsh blanket which lays across the bed. Sarah reupholstered the ottoman using french vintage cotton ticking.

Sarah chose natural fibre and sea grass to replace the tired patterned carpet. 

The 100% cotton voile drapes which soften the lines of the four-poster bed are from Ikea.

The bathroom is enhanced by tongue and groove panelling creating a traditional effect. Farrow & Ball whites were used to paint throughout. A perfect backdrop for the vintage dark wooden mirror and the charming pedestal sink. All the sanitary ware is from Burlington in Bristol.

    When it came to painting the interior, Sarah chose Farrow & Ball's Wimborne White and Off White throughout. Although they were bringing a lot of furniture from their previous house, Sarah enjoys searching for bargains online, at flea markets and antique fairs. Characteristically, repurposing new and old pieces of furniture to create a unique, uncluttered and stylish look. Sarah loves the creative process of transforming a property into a wonderful, comfortable place to live. 'This is a house for all seasons and we are so happy here,' says Sarah, during the summer we throw open the doors and live outside, breakfast on the lawn and dinner under the stars. Winter is a time to hunker down by the fire watching films. However , it's during the autumn months that the house sparkles when the golden afternoon sunlight streams through the windows. We are so lucky to be surrounded by the spectacular wooded landscape especially our Swamp Cypress which changes from green into an amazing , rich russet brown colour.'

Sarah has created something unrecognisable from the house that she first spotted on their walk. 'I think my family agree that this is a perfect family home for us.'


Pete Bilder ( Builder ) 07850 787532
Lambrook Pine, Glastonbury 01458 833397
Span Roofing Contractors 01934 628445
Design Flooring Ltd 0117 942 6189
Mandarin Stone 0117 973 1552
Farrow&Ball 01202 876141
Mylands Paints 0208 670 9161
Cabbages & Roses 0203 696 1310
The French House 0207 859 4939
Johnstons of Elgin 03442 252 252
Feather and Black 01243 380 600