Home makeover: ‘We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family’

Sarah and William Guild inherited a wreck but after renovating it, they turned it into a unique home. Now they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else

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.

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‘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.’

Real home inspiration: 'We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family'
A classic white kitchen from Ultraplan in nearby Botley keeps things simple and makes the most of the new extension. Sarah has matched it with white brick tiles from Wickes and smart grey floor tiles from Topps Tiles
I’m an old romantic at heart and I loved the idea that we could make this a family home again

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.’

Real home inspiration: 'We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family'
Sarah spotted the shabby-chic dresser at local interiors centre Chesapeake Mill and she knew just the spot for it. A family wooden chair has been put to good use and teamed with an Orla Kiely flowered cushion

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.’

Real home inspiration: 'We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family'
The brick floor in the master bedroom was uncovered during the renovation and had to be properly sealed and treated. A Warren Evans wooden bed was an investment and Sarah has teamed it with white bedding and striped pillowcases from Joules. The old mantelpiece has been preserved and treated, and makes a great shelf for displaying her finds

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.’

Real home inspiration: 'We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family'
Good idea! Cover an old table with a piece of oil cloth to brighten it up and add colour

Owner profile: 

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. 

Sarah Guild

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.’

Real home inspiration: 'We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family'
The spare bedroom doubles as an office and Sarah has toned down the colour in there but stuck to her favourite blues, with navy curtains from John Lewis & Partners and a subtle striped Willington duvet cover from Dunelm, adding in an IKEA bed in white

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

When full planning permission eventually came through and the work started in 2018, the couple had to move out for 10 months. ‘We moved into a rented house nearby, as we couldn’t have lived there. The extension was built, which brings light into the whole cottage with the roof light, plus everywhere has been rewired and all the boundary walls relined.’
We didn’t realise beforehand, but we’re really drawn to turquoise and blue tones, so I guess that’s become our theme or signature colour through the house

‘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.’

Real home inspiration: 'We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family'
‘We absolutely love this house after nearly eight years of planning, building work and upheaval’ says Sarah

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.’

Real home inspiration: 'We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family'
Sarah has memories of the wild flowers growing in the hedgerows and picking sweet peas in the garden

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.’

Real home inspiration: 'We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family'
Sarah loves using a combination of inherited furniture, antique shop finds and the odd contemporary touch to give her home character

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.’

Real home inspiration: 'We’re so thrilled we’ve kept it in the family'
‘My favourite room is the kitchen’ says Sarah. ‘We’re really into cooking and making things’
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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?