Taking on a historic house with major issues was a leap of faith for Sarah Guild, when she moved to the countryside nearly eight years ago.
‘I was living in London in a rented flat and working as a television events producer when I met William. He told me about this wreck of a house that he wanted to transform. It had been in his family since the 1970s and was now his. It had been rented out for years but was in a real state.’
After taking Sarah down to the Hampshire home, she caught his enthusiasm too. ‘I’m an old romantic at heart and I loved the idea that we could make this a family home again. So I agreed, although I could see it would take all of our savings to put it right.’
A survey showed the pair exactly how many issues there were, including a lack of heating and problems with the wiring and plasterwork. Also, being a Grade II listed building, there would also be lots of planning issues to overcome.
‘If we were buying the house and had got this survey, we wouldn’t have gone ahead. But we knew it would be a labour of love, so we went for it.’
The couple took on an architect with expertise in listed and oak-framed buildings, Julian Livingstone, and started talking to the planning department to work out what might be acceptable. Plans for a large rear extension to form a kitchen diner were drawn up, but didn’t get approval.
‘It turned out we had a very rare example of what’s called a cat slide roof at the back, which we couldn’t touch. So we had to go back to the drawing board. In the end, it took four years to get planning permission as we had to do everything right.’
Our home is A four-bedroom detached house made up of three 15th-century cottages in the Meon Valley, Hampshire.
We are Sarah Guild, 37, a floral designer, William, 38, an engineer, and their children, Peter, five, and twins Alice and Elizabeth, three.
My top tip is Choose things for your home that you love. I’m really influenced by the Marie Kondo theory, surrounding yourself with just the things that bring you joy.
The best thing about living here is The community. We’ve made great friends and have a house where people pop in for tea all the time and we love that.
My favourite room is The kitchen, as we’re really into cooking and making things. It can host parties, ad hoc science experiments for the kids, or be a late-night flower workshop if I’m working to a deadline.
In the meantime, Sarah gave birth to their three children and was busy with her new floral design business. ‘I did a course while pregnant with Peter, then did the flowers for a friend’s wedding, followed by moss wreaths at Christmas, and it started to take off. I was actually made Floral Designer of the Year last year, which was a huge thrill.’
Having been brought up in Devon, Sarah has memories of the wild flowers growing in the hedgerows and picking sweet peas in the garden. ‘Working with flowers would keep me happy forever, whether it’s designing, growing or arranging them.’ She grows flowers, herbs and plants in her own garden, which she uses in her arrangements and has a workshop in the courtyard of her home.
Get the look
‘We’ve kept all the wattle and daub, but there was plenty of plastering to be done, plus we’ve added lime render, so the house can breathe. And that was before we could even think about the new kitchen, bathroom and the décor. One big bonus was digging up the awful floor in our bedroom and finding lovely old bricks underneath, which are protected anyway by the listed status.’
During the build Sarah was on hand most days to deal with any problems while working in her workshop. ‘I got to know the builders pretty well, but there were a few hairy moments, such as when a huge delivery of lime render arrived at the same time as a big delivery of delicate peonies and I was trying to stop the dust ruining the flowers. But they were nice guys.’
The past year has been spent decorating the house and making it their own. ‘We didn’t realise beforehand, but we’re drawn to turquoise and blue tones, so that’s become our signature colour.’
The couple love a mix of inherited furniture, antique shop finds and the odd contemporary touch. It’s been a busy few years, with three small children, a business and a massive renovation to oversee. ‘We absolutely love this house after nearly eight years of planning, building work and upheaval. We’ve been through a lot with it, but we’ve ended up with something special.
‘I can’t imagine moving now.’
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?