A Country House Conversion: The beginning
I am pretty much an interiors virgin. I don’t really know much about this world and I have certainly never experienced re-designing a house. I might as well be open about that from the start, before I progress too far along with my Country House Conversion diary for The Sloaney.
I have always been rather envious of ‘interior designers’; it sounds like a wonderfully creative job. I imagine that you get to think up all sorts of magnificent ideas that transform a living space and ultimately the day-to-day life of your clients. You have to be practically minded and also have a creative streak that is balanced with impeccable taste.
If you are not blessed with the ability to match perfect colour schemes, envisage how to best use a space or mix just the right dose of practicality with dream ideas, it doesn’t mean that you can’t become involved with converting your home. After all, as the home owner, you probably already have a slight advantage by already knowing your space and knowing your lifestyle.
Of course, for many it is important to employ an interior designer to help with some elements of refurbishing a house and this is likely something that I will consider during this project as their skills and vision are extremely valuable. However, as an initial start, I have decided to explore my own ideas, stock up on plenty of specialist home magazines and browse the ever faithful social media inspo guru, Pinterest.
At first it seemed relatively daunting gutting a property and effectively starting from scratch. However, I am not one to be put off by the unknown or avoid a challenge and I am finally reaching the exciting stage when the house is starting to take shape. By this, I mean that the architectural structure to support the interior design of the house has been finalised with the help of a specialist technician and my builder is in the process of finishing off partition walls.
Having a blank canvas has proven slightly unnerving but also liberating at the same time. When you buy a house, you often love and hate some of the existing features but ultimately they all add character to the place and you may choose to keep some and remove others. Regardless, there is some type of influence already present. When you start from scratch by redoing the entire inside of a building, the whole theme and mood can then be constructed entirely by you. I certainly felt a little scared at the prospect of having the power to define my living space in such a way – where on earth do you start with such a project?
My priority for the living area has been to keep it as open plan as possible. Admittedly, this may not work for everyone and it is normally only feasible if you are converting a building that allows you to either remove walls or where walls are not present in the first instance. If you are starting with an open plan area, it can be tempting to split it up; however, I find that unnecessary walling can create barriers for light, movement and confine an otherwise social space.
We live in a society where cooking has become incredibly fashionable, with both men and women falling in love with the kitchen thanks to the likes of celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver and Ella Woodward. For me, it is important to have the cooking area linking through to the main entertaining room and living room without any obstruction so that the person in the kitchen can still interact with visiting guests whilst preparing a meal.
However, as I am finding out, nothing is straight forward when it comes to interiors and there are often various counter arguments that you need to consider when mulling over such a design. For example, how will you heat a vast open space and will there be enough ventilation to prevent the smell of cooking from becoming too overpowering? An Aga, fireplace and windows can all provide answers but their positioning needs to be considered right from the beginning.
Leaving the living area for a moment, the design of the bedrooms, utility room and bathrooms are also important. You need to decide whether there will be a consistent theme throughout the whole building, while also considering the individual features for each room. Do you want every bedroom to be en-suite? Is there enough space for a walk-in wardrobe? Will the main bathroom be best suited to a traditional white theme with a grand bath tub taking centre stage, or is it possible to create a mini-spa at home with dark marble walls and a starry sky made from lots of minuscule spotlights on the ceiling?
There is so much to think about when you convert a property or even just one single room in your home. Over the coming months I will be sharing my journey with readers of The Sloaney as I take my first steps into the world of Interiors.
From designing each room, choosing the flooring, deciding on the best style of lighting and picking the essential homeware accessories, you can follow the step-by-step process of designing your own home in our Home and Garden Pages. Stay tuned to A Country House Conversion for my next installment.
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