Through the keyhole of a Coleshill home
PUBLISHED: 12:35 23 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:26 20 February 2013
Pretty Dove House Farm is the perfect setting for an English Christmas <br/><br/>with a Danish twist, says Victoria Jenkins
Pretty Dove House Farm is the perfect setting for an English Christmas
with a Danish twist, says Victoria Jenkins ...
Christmas at Dove House Farm near Coleshill is very much Danish in flavour, as owner Marianne Ostenfeld was born in Denmark, even though she has spent much of her life in Warwickshire.
Our Christmas is celebrated on December 24th and we dont decorate the tree until the 23rd, says Marianne. No-one sees it until the next day when they come to celebrate but first we light candles everywhere and then we all hold hands and walk round the tree, singing Christmas carols. Then we open our presents and finally sit down to a dinner of roast goose, caramelised potatoes and red cabbage a typical Danish feast. Dessert is usually a confection of rice, cream and apples with hot cherry sauce and a single almond hidden in as the lucky charm. Next day the family still celebrate with a big breakfast and a selection of small presents in a stocking.
The Ostenfeld family discovered their home 30 years ago and Mariannes first thoughts were that it looked like something from a fairy tale. They had been driving around looking for somewhere as far from the Birmingham industrial landscape as possible but could hardly believe how picturesque the medieval farmhouse was. It was timber-framed in oak with walls painted in yellow ochre and to complete the picture there was an ancient stone-lined well, some 50-feet deep.
Across the courtyard were two smaller cottages while old stables, now converted into garages, formed a third side to the courtyard. On the fourth side, tall iron gates in a high wall sheltered it from the road.
In fact the whole scene was so like that on an old chocolate box it reminded Marianne of the old farmhouses in Denmark where she was born.
The interior was even more stunning. The end part comprising some three storeys dated back to the mid-1300s and may once have been fortified, as there are arrow slits and even an arrow holder in the walls. The second section, added in the 1600s has an impressive double-height drawing room with huge inglenook fireplace. Oak beams and rafters criss-cross the ceilings and the metre-thick walls of rosy old stone have been left exposed to enhance the character of this beautiful house.
However the couple felt that the previous owners had adhered too rigorously to the medieval theme with wooden benches and tapestry-covered walls, giving it a rather bleak feeling. So after they bought it they decided to furnish it in a way that created a warm and comfortable family home. At the time the house had not then gained its Grade II listing so the couple were able to make a few structural improvements.
There was a very big staircase rising from the lounge so we replaced it with a smaller one leading up from a corner, says Fine Alexandria, the couples daughter. There also seemed to be a lot of small dark rooms so we removed various walls such as in the snug, the kitchen and the main bedroom to make them bigger.
We refurbished the bathrooms and put in a new handmade kitchen made by a local joiner, says Marianne. And we also renovated the two cottages across the courtyard so that our respective parents could live close by.
The kitchen which, with the adjoining snug, is where the family spend most of their time, is in the oldest part of the house and has an ancient stone-flagged floor but, that apart, it was recently refreshed as the family decided it was time to have a more modern-looking kitchen as long as it looked right. The units were repainted and Marianne had a more contemporary dresser built. On the central island which contains the gas hob and extractor fan she replaced the wooden worktop with one of stainless steel to match the fittings and accessories. As a contrast, an antique-looking Danish wood-burner (reputedly used in the Dr Zhivago film) has been installed to warm the room and Marianne recalls how she nearly lit a fire in it one winters day before she was forestalled by a cheeping sound. A robin had fallen down the flue but luckily we rescued it, she says.
Marianne also remembers how one morning they discovered two huge white barn owls sitting on the ceiling rafters in the lounge, presumably having fallen down the chimney. And another time a baby kestrel somehow entered the house and hid behind a radiator. Which meant we had to unscrew the whole radiator to save it, she says.
Although many of their furnishings areantique, inherited from Mariannes Danish family, there are some surprisingly modern items too such as the hot-pink velvet chairs and the Matthew Williamson cushions in the snug and small sitting room.
Despite its thick stone walls, medieval fireplaces and flagstone floors the house has a warm and intimate feeling because of the comfortable furnishings and the light Scandinavian touches.
When we moved in 30 years ago we already had quite a lot of antique furniture and our main problem was working out where to put it, says Marianne. It meant a lot of moving it around. Hanging the pictures was difficult too because of the beams. However it was all fun. Our style is very much a blend of the antique with the modern, for instance we love going to the Newark Antiques Fair as well as shopping in the Copenhagen design shops.
But now the family is planning to sell up and move on. We think its time to downsize, says Marianne. Its a very beautiful and unique house but we have always planned to travel one day and now the time has come. n
Dove House Farm is for sale at 1,650,000 through Knight Frank: 01789 297735