Home makeover: ‘The old village forge is now our unique family home’

Renovating a quirky, many-floored house would have been too big a project for a lot of people, but Charlie and Andy Gooch knew the work would be worth it

The huge sitting room, the site of the old forge, was one of the main attractions for Charlie and Andy. They’ve filled it with a mixture of contemporary chairs from Cult Furniture and retro pieces, including bespoke lampshades and grey sheepskins from Millie & Rose Designs

After many years of living in army accommodation, Charlie and Andy Gooch were determined to find the right property to turn into their forever home.

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Searching the villages near Tunbridge Wells in Kent back in 2018, they came across a project house they were keen to get their teeth into.

The former forge fireplace still takes centre stage in the large living room and the unusual coffee table adds to the feeling of history. ‘It’s an old trolley from America, which was used in factories to push around large items of furniture or to collect nuts. We found it in a great place called Room Seven Interiors in Rye, Sussex, and owner Angela Bunyan told us the story.’
The former forge fireplace still takes centre stage in the large living room and the unusual coffee table adds to the feeling of history. ‘It’s an old trolley from America, which was used in factories to push around large items of furniture or to collect nuts. We found it in a great place called Room Seven Interiors in Rye, Sussex, and owner Angela Bunyan told us the story.’

‘What drew us in was the enormous sitting room, which was once the village forge,’ said Charlie. ‘It still had the remains of the huge fireplace where the furnace would have been, open to the skies at that time, where the horses would be brought in.’

The large exposed wall is a great place to display treasures and Charlie has mounted owl, mouse and rabbit sculptures by Tracy Whinray along it, plus added some eBay finds and
The large exposed wall is a great place to display treasures and Charlie has mounted owl, mouse and rabbit sculptures by Tracy Whinray along it, plus added some eBay finds and a retro hanging chair by Millie & Rose Designs

The sense of history and characterful features attracted the couple immediately and the unusual layout of the house didn’t faze them.

Come on in…

We are Charlie Gooch, 42, a freelance nutritionist; my husband, Andy, 42, an engineer; our twins, Beatrice and Alice, aged 10; and William, six.

Our home is A five-bedroomed Grade II listed, detached house, in Kent. Parts of the property date back to 1710 and encompass the old village forge. There’s also a 10-year-old extension at the back.

Charlie Gooch

The original cottage part of the house dated back to 1710, with three small bedrooms on the first floor. At the back of the house, the previous owners had extended the kitchen and dug out a basement extension, accessed via the kitchen, with two further bedrooms and a shower room.

‘It was really unusual and unlike any other house we’d seen. The three bedrooms on the first floor weren’t really suitable for us and our three young children, but the loft was huge. So, we put together a plan.’

The front room has been turned into a snug with strong blue tones and a bird theme. The fireplace was bought on Facebook Marketplace and upcycled with Minton Hollis Scuba Blue tiles from Topps. ‘The blue velvet and gold lampshade was specially made by Millie & Rose Designs,’ says Charlie
The front room has been turned into a snug with strong blue tones and a bird theme. The fireplace was bought on Facebook Marketplace and upcycled with Minton Hollis Scuba Blue tiles from Topps. ‘The blue velvet and gold lampshade was specially made by Millie & Rose Designs,’ says Charlie

The couple decided to reconfigure the three bedrooms and make them into two big ones, with a large shower room, and then go up into the loft and convert it into a master suite for themselves, with a large en suite.

A bit more about my home… 

My top tip Take time to time to research the look you want and don’t do anything too rash. I found that pulling together mood boards really helped me figure out the look and palette for each room. I spent hours searching through magazines, the internet and window shopping.

My favourite room is Our sitting room, the old village forge. The high ceilings, beams, exposed sandstone and massive fireplace make it a perfect space for entertaining. We’ve had some wonderful Christmas parties in there and it tends to be the hub of the house.

Charlie Gooch

‘This meant that we could leave the basement extension for guests, as there’s a modern shower room in there as well, so they’d have somewhere private to go away from the main house.

‘As the children get older, they may well want to move into the basement, so it’s a house with a lot of options.’

The couple decided on a Zinc blue velvet sofa from DFS for the snug and arranged their parrot prints above it. The wall is painted in Elephant’s Breath by Farrow & Ball
The couple decided on a Zinc blue velvet sofa from DFS for the snug and arranged their parrot prints above it. The wall is painted in Elephant’s Breath by Farrow & Ball

After moving into the house in May 2018, finding the right architect for the project was next on the list.

‘Because it’s Grade II listed, we needed someone well up on all the restrictions. We asked around the village, and Tim Marshall’s name came up more than once, so we arranged to see him.

‘We were impressed by his ideas, which were very practical, and he could see a way of giving us the roll-top bath and separate shower we wanted in the en suite. He’s been brilliant and very patient with us.’

In the spacious hallway Charlie has added a vintage wicker chair from Room Seven Interiors and a brand-new mirror from Mirror Outlet to reflect the light
In the spacious hallway Charlie has added a vintage wicker chair from Room Seven Interiors and a brand-new mirror from Mirror Outlet to reflect the light

The build began in the spring of 2019, once they had found sympathetic builders to do the loft conversion. ‘We needed someone who was used to the quirks of old houses, such as walls not being straight.

In the main bedroom in the loft, Charlie has painted the walls in a grey by Paint & Paper Library and, for a touch of fun, she’s added some gold mouse lamps to the headboard, both by Graham & Green
In the main bedroom in the loft, Charlie has painted the walls in a grey by Paint & Paper Library and, for a touch of fun, she’s added some gold mouse lamps to the headboard, both by Graham & Green

‘Andy has only recently left the army, so we’ve been used to living in military accommodation and were really excited about owning our own house again and putting our own stamp on something.

‘We knew it was going to be a major project to do the whole house and we were looking for solid, classic design, as we’re not planning to move in a hurry.’

Though over 10 years old, the kitchen units are still in good condition. Charlie brought her dining table from her previous home and added a set of Darwin chairs from Cheeky Chairs
Though over 10 years old, the kitchen units are still in good condition. Charlie brought her dining table from her previous home and added a set of Darwin chairs from Cheeky Chairs

They chose L J Fletcher Builders for the seven-month project.

‘Steve, the very talented carpenter, did all the woodwork in the main bedroom and en suite, and he and Ross, the other builder on site, kept me sane throughout the work.’

A light-filled space with a glass roof makes the most of the exposed wall in the kitchen. The basement extension was added by previous owners, with access onto the garden on the lower level
A light-filled space with a glass roof makes the most of the exposed wall in the kitchen. The basement extension was added by previous owners, with access onto the garden on the lower level

Charlie could see it was going to be a delicate job mixing together the décor for the old and new parts of the house, and realised she needed a bit of help.

‘Because I hadn’t decorated a house myself for so long, I wanted some advice.’ She took on a local interior designer who’d been recommended, Danecia Scheepers of Uplift Your Home.

The large guest bedroom in the basement extension has been made welcoming with curtains in Wisteria and Butterfly fabric by Sanderson and lampshades by Millie & Rose Designs
The large guest bedroom in the basement extension has been made welcoming with curtains in Wisteria and Butterfly fabric by Sanderson and lampshades by Millie & Rose Designs

‘She really helped me find my own style. I was determined not to be beige and boring, but she helped me see that some of my initial ideas, like acres of marble in the en suite, were a bit too bold.

‘We focused on layout and the larger items, and she drew out my love for the décor of Morocco, which was the key to drawing the whole scheme together.’

Marble-effect tiles from Topps Tiles bring some texture to the splashback
Marble-effect tiles from Topps Tiles bring some texture to the splashback

Charlie was determined to use local craftspeople as well. ‘I found Tracy Roberts who has done a brilliant job of making all the curtains. I also wanted to use two people I already knew: artist Sarah Lewis, who does gorgeous paintings, and the company Millie & Rose Designs. The owner is someone I’ve known since I was eight. She’s got such good taste and has made me lots of lampshades.’

A Victoria monobloc tap, from Roca, adds a contemporary touch to the sink
A Victoria monobloc tap, from Roca, adds a contemporary touch to the sink

With everything finally finished, Charlie and Andy can now enjoy their house.

‘It required some imaginative thinking on the part of the architect, builders and us, and at times felt like we were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, but we’re thrilled with what we achieved.’

Funky metal lockers in autumn tones by Mustard, found at Wild Flora, solved the storage issue in William’s bedroom and a Ladder Office Desk by Argos matches the contemporary bunk bed
Funky metal lockers in autumn tones by Mustard, found at Wild Flora, solved the storage issue in William’s bedroom and a Ladder Office Desk by Argos matches the contemporary bunk bed
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This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?