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Journal

Classic Enduring Design

21 April 2021

Searching for the perfect house to renovate isn’t as easy as it sounds and sometimes it can take years to find the right project. For Jo and her husband, who live in Buckinghamshire with their teenage daughter, a dog and two cats, it was only after living in a new-build locally for a few years that they then came upon their dream property. Much loved and full of character, the 1950s house had previously been lived in for nearly three decades by another family. “When we first visited this house, we knew it felt different,” says Jo. “We knew it would be a lovely family home in its existing form and that if we were fortunate enough to be able to renovate it to whatever extent, it could be a happy place for us to live.”

In its original form the house was just one-room deep on the ground floor and over the years the previous owners added to this with a conservatory, extended kitchen and a new side addition with a family room, garage and master bedroom with en-suite above. After five years of planning, saving and working to find the right people with whom they wanted to work, Jo and her husband started what was to become a sympathetic renovation project in early 2019. The aim was to retain the character of the house they had fallen in love with while adapting the floorplan to better suit their day to day lives.

The couple worked with architect Paul Lugard to create their dream design, which included a kitchen that would be the heart of the home. “We hoped that the new floorplan flowed from room to room,” explains Jo, “without giving up all its secrets as you walk through the front door. We wanted a home that slowly revealed itself and the final layout has given us exactly that. A larger, lighter entrance hall, which opens onto a spacious kitchen-diner.”

For the kitchen flooring, the couple chose Artisans of Devizes’ Wychwood limestone in a tumbled finish. “Natural flooring was important to us,” adds Jo. “The look, feel and warmth of natural stone, its enduring nature, its age and classic aspect were all part of the overall feel that we felt was important. Although modernised, we didn’t want our home to feel like a new-build. We wanted it to feel as if the floor had always been there and would be for many decades to come. We saw the stone in situ in a beautiful local property owned by friends and hoped that we would be able to achieve the same finish. We loved the feel of it underfoot as well as its textured and varied appearance and we were confident that it was the right decision very early on.”

The couple looked at countless alternatives of varying costs and shades but every time they came back to Artisans. “We placed sample slabs in the rooms to see how they worked with the light; we stood on them and lived with them a while, so definitely felt that Artisans of Devizes could tick all the boxes in a way that other finishes simply could not,” reveals Jo.

When choosing the stone, it was very much about the colour and feel for the couple. “We didn’t want an overtly rustic finish,” explains Jo, “but it had to have a variety of tone and texture. We are both geographers and the tiny preserved fossils were magical – the varying natural shades across each slab worked well with the light, while being simple to maintain and forgiving of busy family life. We were told by many people that natural stone would be difficult to care for, stain, and therefore be high maintenance but that wasn’t the experience of those we spoke to who had used it. Our logic was that some of the oldest houses have stone floors and they are still standing, and as long as the floor was sealed when needed, which is incredibly easy and straightforward after installation and then on occasion thereafter, there would be no problems. We also wanted the floor to age over time with use and life, and that wasn’t something we would have achieved with alternatives. It works exceptionally well with the underfloor heating and conducts the warmth really efficiently, despite the fact that the kitchen-diner has many windows, doors and roof lanterns.”

Jo worked with interiors specialist Victoria Supple of Serendipity Design on the scheme, a designer who had used Artisans’ Wychwood in previous projects. “We had never laid flooring of this nature on this scale,” explains Jo, “and we wanted to ensure that we made the right decisions as they wouldn’t be something that we could ever change. Victoria has frequently used Artisans as a supplier and was able to help us with a layout and finish that made the room feel spacious and flowed from the hallway. She worked with our builder and ourselves to decide on the right approach with both laying the stone and choosing a grout that blended well. We are so happy with the result and wouldn’t hesitate to use either Artisans of Devizes or Wychwood again if we were to ever tackle another project.”

The hallway also has a classical feel and it was Victoria who suggested using the same stone as the kitchen but in a different format so a new tone was introduced in the form of Amaya Limestone cut into cabochons. “The transition from one layout to the other, via the double doors into the kitchen, is seamless,” says Jo. “The darker Amaya contrasts beautifully and adds a weight to the hallway that is both distinctive and enduring. We used a colour enhancer to emphasise the slightly darker tone and are delighted with the result. This finish continues into our downstairs cloakroom with its Thomas Crapper sanitary ware, and under stairs cabinetry.”