Victoria Jenkins Interiors - The cottage 'done good'
PUBLISHED: 11:16 18 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:43 20 February 2013
Mary and Michael Danks new house was described as 'half cottage, half farmer-done-good. They had to take a look, and that was three years ago
Mary and Michael Danks found their new-build Georgian-style house one cold February day three years ago, when it was still just a shell without windows.
"Michael was approaching retirement and after 35 years we wanted to move out of the industrial Midlands and back into the countryside where I grew up," says Mary. "I loved the house at once as it was flooded with light all day long. It stood by itself in three acres and was out in the countryside with fabulous views. And because the builder hadnt finished it we were able to specify the kitchen, the five bathrooms, the flooring and various other details."
The architect had described its design as half cottage, half farmer-done-good even though its a new build, says Michael. Thats why we went to see it! The builders showed us round and that is how the dream started. The detail put into its construction is perfect with light oak used throughout. For instance, in the entrance hall there are double doors in light oak leading off to all three reception rooms. As for the oak staircase wed seen it at the builders offices and asked for one just like it.
Built of stone the five-bedroom house is L-shaped and had an old orchard from a long-ago cottage shielding it from the road. "We bought the surrounding 20 acres as well when we bought the house," says Mary. "But apart from being great space for our bearded collie Lucy and our grandson William (aged three) when he visits, we havent yet done much with it. We just wanted to make sure our patch remained peaceful.
The first thing to be done was to have underfloor heating installed throughout the ground floor which was then covered with polished limestone flooring as the couple love natural stone. They also had a second downstairs loo installed and moved a traditional stone fireplace from the family room into the sitting room. A modern letterbox fireplace replaced it in the family room which the couple wanted to keep looking contemporary.
Then Mary designed the big kitchen-dining area which already had a country-style beamed ceiling, in contrast to the rest of the house which was neo-Georgian in design.
"The builder had created a stone-built alcove into which we asked him to fit a dark blue wood-burner for a rustic look to match the beams," says Mary. "But I didnt want to go down the Aga route as I really prefer a contemporary style. I chose maple units with dark blue granite worktops and Bosch appliances including a double oven, all supplied by the builder. I think the mix of rustic and contemporary go well together."
Separating the kitchen area from the eating area is a big island which contains a wine-cooler and deep drawers and storage baskets. Beyond it are the cream leather chairs and glass table which the couple bought in Coburg in Germany, a town they visit frequently. "The chairs recline slightly which always gives guests a bit of a surprise when they first sit down," says Mary.
There is also a big utility room with a very large Belfast sink which, she says, is essential when it comes to washing a large fluffy dog like Lucy with muddy paws.
"Although everyone gravitates towards the kitchen and we usually eat in there, we still wanted a dining room for family occasions," she says. "I know they are out of fashion at the moment but weve created one out of the sun room. It has a lovely big bay window making it a bright light-filled room. The original designated dining room has become our family room and we also have a bigger sitting room."
The couple love earthy shades but that didnt extend to the dark brown staining the builders wanted to apply to the woodwork.
"I came round one day before moving in to find them staining the skirting boards in the main bedroom and asked them to stop," says Mary. "They looked a bit surprised but agreed to replace the skirting boards in the original light oak. Apparently they had always stained the woodwork of their new-build houses but I found out later that ever afterwards they left it natural."
To match the light oak of the doors, architraves, built-in wardrobes and other woodwork the Danks had the interior painted throughout in Farrow & Balls Country Cream then chose soft furnishings of subtle beige and brown tones.
"Our builder told us he was selling off furniture in one of his show-homes supplied by Instant Homes, an interior design company run by Holly Wright of Cambridge," says Mary. "We found some lovely pieces such as the 12 dark brown leather chairs in the dining room. Then as we liked her style so much we contacted Holly directly and bought a neat little armchair and a chest of drawers from her among other things.
"However a lot of our furniture is from Italy and Germany that weve seen while on holiday and weve just bought some black marble sculptures by Richard King," she says. "Funnily enough while on holiday in Greece friends invited us to Richards birthday party at his studio in Paros which is where we spotted them.
For a cottage thats done-good, our house is light and airy, says Michael. And its great for entertaining friends and family. Were quite near the village which means that we can buy everything we want without travelling too far and there are a lot of good restaurants there too.
Barbers Flooring, Stratford-upon-Avon, tel: 01789 295018; www.barbers-flooring.com
Beatties of Solihull, tel: 0844 800 3758; www.houseoffraser.co.uk/solihull
Calarel Construction, tel: 01608 651144; www.calarel.co.uk
Curtainwise, Stratford-upon-Avon, tel: 0800 458 1496;
FCI, London, tel: 020 8205 7711; www.fcilondon.co.uk
Fosseway Garden Centre, tel: 01608 651 757;
Fred Winter, tel: 01789 268011; www.fredwinter.com
J. B. Fires, tel: 01242 528494; www.jbfires.co.uk
John Lewis, Solihull; tel: 0121 704 1121, www.johnlewis.com
Lapstone, tel: 01386 841611; www.lapstone.net
Notcutts, tel: 0121 744 4501; www.notcutts.co.uk
Richard King; www.richard-king.net
Solihull Bathroom Centre; tel: 0121 745 6441
Solihull Lighting, tel: 0121 733 2323; www.solihulllighting.co.uk
Webbs Garden Centre, Wychbold, tel: 01527 86 0000; www.webbsdirect.co.uk
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