Sue Machado Converted A House In Barford, Warwickshire Life

PUBLISHED: 23:31 07 February 2010 | UPDATED: 16:16 20 February 2013

Sue in the Orangery. Behind her is the Tyumen architrave from Russia which opens into the dining area. The floor is an assortment of Rosso marble, white marble, terracotta and Victorian encaustic tiles (from Mandarin and Sue's collection).

Sue in the Orangery. Behind her is the Tyumen architrave from Russia which opens into the dining area. The floor is an assortment of Rosso marble, white marble, terracotta and Victorian encaustic tiles (from Mandarin and Sue's collection).

For 200 years this home in Barford had been the village builder's yard. Then Sue Machado converted it into a beautiful home and art gallery.

For 200 years this home in Barford had been the village builder's yard. Then Sue Machado converted it into a beautiful home and art gallery.

Words: Victoria Jenkins

Photographs: Nicholas Yarsley

Twenty one years ago when Sue Machado was a single mother with a small daughter, Cassie, she fell in love with a property in Warwickshire that most people would have backed away from. "In fact they were backing away - it had been up for sale for a long time," says Sue, a sculptor. "I wanted the place so much that I slept with the house agent's details under my mattress. I couldn't afford to buy it but when I heard it was finally coming up for auction I seized my chance. Thanks to my bank manager I offered the reserve and got it - I couldn't understand why no one else wanted it."

What Sue bought was an L-shaped assortment of 18th century and Victorian buildings which for 200 years had been a builder's yard in the small village of Barford. They included a dilapidated cowshed with a corrugated iron roof, a washhouse, a workshop and a glass lean-to, none of them habitable. However, there was also an 18th century joiner's workshop, a two bedroom house with a Victorian frontage and a one up, one down 18th century cottage which were habitable. This L-shaped hotch-potch of buildings were all linked together despite their varying states of repair.

"In 1905 this place consisted of various different tradesmen and their workshops," says Sue. "They included a coal merchant, two joiners, an undertaker, a tailor and a builder. It had been like that for the previous couple of centuries." From this unpromising collection Sue could see great possibilities, especially when she factored in the walled garden which 'squared off' the L-shape. It offered her a studio workshop to run her business and a house to bring up her daughter without relying on outside assistance. "I thought that I would be able to do some renovation in my spare time," she says. "For the first six years that Cassie and I lived here it was very tough. I remember once that we could not get downstairs one morning as I'd spent the night before removing the 'wattle and daub' from the walls of the staircase to reveal the wonderful oak structure beneath. Now all the debris was blocking the stairs and I had to carry Cassie down them in the morning. She has never forgotten the chaos she grew up in."

For years Sue could only get to her studio, originally the joiner's workshop, by using a ladder. "Once up that ladder I tended to stay up there and designed most of the house and garden sitting in the double doorway overlooking the garden. But it wasn't the landscaped garden you see today," she explains. "The land went straight up to the back of the workshop to the depth of four feet making the ground floor unusable. That all had to be dug away." Sue designed the garden in an old spiral bound note pad, dug out the layers of earth and then dug the foundations for what is now her Orangery and Moat. "That was 14 years ago. I found the notepad the other day and nothing has changed from the original idea!"

With the help of a local builder Sue managed to complete the interior of the main house by adding beams and to rebuild the roof of the studio. Then after six years of rescue work Sue and Cassie had to return to Sussex to look after Sue's elderly parents. She let out the habitable parts and did little more to her home for ten long years. Then four years ago she came back and started renovation work with a vengeance. The joiner's two-storey workshop is now the newly-opened Machado Gallery - exhibiting and selling sculpture, paintings and other contemporary artwork - while the Victorian house has been refurbished and forms the living-dining area with two double bedrooms and two bathrooms above. The one-up, one down has had its walls removed so that the lower part flows into the kitchen (once the wash-house) which has been made much larger by a glass-walled extension called The Orangery.

There is another en-suite bedroom above and bathroom above. The old workshop which once lay beyond the kitchen is now a studio bedroom and the old cowshed beyond that has become an en suite wet-room. "The new footprint is not much different from the original except the Orangery projects into the garden by another three feet," Sue says. "But no surveyor can tell me how the joiner's workshop (now the gallery) managed to stay up all those years. It was just tacked together. It had lost a central pillar while the beams had been replaced by a welded RSJ and the wall did not support the first floor. I got the builder to renovate the wall structure while a specialist made oak windows to match the original. He also built an inner staircase and put on small extension and now this old workshop is the main gallery area."

As a sculptor, Sue is quite capable of DIY and she made the large island in the kitchen out of some old wood cladding from the other workshop, incorporated some modern units and added tiles for the worktop. It contains a Diplomat ceramic hob, a fan-assisted oven and a stainless steel circular sink. The rest of the kitchen consists of freestanding furniture including some from her original family home and purpose made cupboards made by Christopher Peters, a local furniture designer. Although there was an old coal -fired Rayburn, Sue replaced it with a Sandyford with a double oven and a boiler which is able to heat the whole property. The Orangery - which is where visitors to the Gallery can have tea, coffee and a homemade cream tea - is a most pleasant area and leads into the now-transformed walled garden. Here Sue laid a circular patio using old bricks from the demolished workshop, the circle reflecting the shape of the winter flowering cherry tree above. Then between Orangery and patio she created a water feature like a small moat and decorated the garden with plants, pots and objets d'art.

Inside, Sue with her artist's eye has chosen both contemporary and antique furnishings for her home. An ancient Irish dresser, still with its original distressed paintwork stands near an old country-style painted wooden chair from Yugoslavia. But her dining table is made of glass and chrome from Alfie's (a London second-hand warehouse) and her six white chairs are Verner Panton from Heals and date from 1960. "I loved this place from the moment I walked in and sat (without realising it) in the original one-up, one-down dwelling," she says. "It immediately felt friendly and I think it's because of its previous history and inhabitants. It has been added to every century since the 1700s and I'm happy to say that I've been able to play my part chronologically in restoring what had become neglected, adding some of my own character and returning the buildings back to village trading life. "I also love the fact that my home and its quiet walled garden were once the scene of a number of little businesses, all run by local tradesmen from their workshops.

For instance, my main art gallery was once a joinery and my sitting room a tailor's shop. And I like the fact that my home is still a workshop for I am a sculptor and use many of the rooms to exhibit both my own work and that of many other artists."

Machado's is now a gallery and tea room, and bed and breakfast business. This autumn the gallery is exhibiting the work of local artist Karen Brighton (until 11th October). Sue is holding art workshops throughout the month. For more details contact Machado Gallery, tel: 01926 624061 or visit

Contact book

Alscot Bathroom Company, 1 Oak Farm, Hampton Lane, Catherine-de-Barnes, Solihull B92 0JB; tel: 0121 709 1901;

Cologne & Cotton, 74 Regent Street, Royal Leamington Spa CV32 4NS; tel: 0845 262 2212;

Christopher Peters Kitchens and Antiques, Lower Farm Barns, Brandon Lane CV3 3GW; tel: 02476 303300;

Fired Earth, 114 Regent Street, Leamington Spa CV32 4NR; tel: 01926 886125 and at 38 Poplar Road, Solihull B91 3AB; 0121 704 3605;

Mandarin of Monmouth, tel: 01600 715444;

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