The Househunter Room by Room

This was the pick of the March property market. The top one has since sold, the second is still available…

Do you ever look at clothes in magazines or in shops and fall completely in love with them but know they won’t suit you? When I was younger I would have bought them anyway believing that loving something was enough but age (and a little bit of wisdom) have caught up with me and now I leave it on the shelf or just admire it from afar.

Well this house is a bit like that for me. I absolutely love the decor. The palette of soft neutrals mixed with slightly darker shades. The use of natural materials, the old wood and the gleaming stainless steel island.

modern rustic kitchen

And yet I know I would never decorate a house like this. I wish I could. I think it would be so restful and tasteful and I truly do love everything about it. But for someone who professes to love monochrome, even I would end up bringing in elements of colour – splashes of soft pink and then deciding to add more black.

open plan living

So with my fantasy lottery money I would definitely buy this as my weekend cottage. It’s in Burrowbridge, Somerset and it was on the market via The Modern House for £650,000 but has since sold. It’s a former Baptist chapel that consists of the chapel and a large meeting house behind. It has been converted into two self-contained units that could be used as one dwelling.

grey panelling and vintage wood

There are four bedrooms, which used to be the Sunday School rooms for the children of the parish and the kitchen was designed by the owner who is a cook. The second building functions as a guest room with another kitchen and more living space. It is currently run as a holiday let and the connnecting door between the two has been blocked but it would be easy to open it up again.

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 10.32.24

There’s also masses of storage under the chapel turning it into one of the tardis-type properties that is definitely bigger on the inside.

gothic windows

This has made me even more determined to add panelling somewhere in The Mad House although, as I have mentioned, the Mad Husband and I are at odds as to where exactly this should be.

wall panelling and windows

In the meantime I shall gaze at these images and imagine that I live in a sea of restful neutrals where the architectural features can shine out with no frills and furbelows to distract them. And I shall dream of moving to Somerset.

gothic windows and neutral shades

Although there is a kicker. Remember the location, location, location adage? This is the front garden. And I fear it will be a deal breaker for some.

converted chapel

We’re staying with the neutrals this week and we’re also staying in the same part of the world,  as this five bedroom house, which is on the market with Savills for a million more (£1,650,000) is also worth a mosey round. And, I’m guessing you’ll agree, now that Spring is here it’s nice to get out of London on our fantasy househunting trips.

house in bath

I’m also reminded that some of you found last week’s leopard print ceiling and metallic walls rather alarming and the second house was too bland. So perhaps we are steering a middle road this week…. I’m sure you will discuss it below.

Let’s start in the kitchen and, frankly, who doesn’t dream of a kitchen this big? I think it needs a bigger table and perhaps a little more use made of that long shelf but hell give me half an hour to fiddle about and I think we could have this looking amazing. What do you think?
large rustic kitchen

This is the battered leather armchair by the back door which is where I would definitely be spending spring mornings with my laptop. It’s the perfect little corner isn’t it?

neutral garden room

But what I like about this house is that it isn’t all a sea of calming neutrals. The owners have been bold with the wallpaper in the dining room. You can be brave in a dining room because you don’t spend that much time in it. The chances are you would eat in the kitchen most of the time so coming in here and seeing this strong pattern would be a bit of a treat. Again small table but still, when we move in we can get a bigger one.
wallpaper dining room

Finally, as this is this house with an enormous kitchen, it seems only fitting that there a vast bathroom as well. Whaddyafink of this one? I’m not sure about the slightly beige tiles but that’s easily remedied and I love the space. I’d be tempted to bring in another armchair by the window.

Also check out those taps – they look like polished nickel to me and my money’s on that for the best choice. Brass is tricky to find and might go out of fashion. Polished nickel goes with everything and is warmer than chrome while not being as instantly fashionable as brass. We shall talk more about taps next week when I tell you what I learnt during my trip to Frankfurt with Grohe. If you are about to refurb either a kitchen or bathroom then you will hopefully find it useful.

freestanding bath in front of fire via savills

So which one are we buying this week? Town or country? Converted chapel or elegant terrace? Let’s hear your thoughts….

Kate Watson-Smyth

The author Kate Watson-Smyth

I’m a journalist who writes about interiors mainly for The Financial Times but I have also written regularly for The Independent and The Daily Mail. My house has been in Living Etc, HeartHome and featured in The Wall Street Journal & Corriere della Sera. I also run an interior styling consultancy Mad About Your House. Welcome to my Mad House.


  1. Gorgeous properties, both of them. There is something so wonderfully charming about the chapel, but that graveyard in the front might be a bit of a deal breaker… although I’m sure some more creative soul could make it look as charming as the inside! The terrace is lovely as well, but lacks something of the warmth of the chapel. Maybe with some more warm, neutral tones, or adding in some natural materials like wood or stone, the terrace could get a bit more of the inviting feeling the inside of the chapel had. Just thinking out loud! Thanks so much for sharing these! Beautiful!

  2. Beautiful Somerset first and then on to Bath, my home city………..both gorgeous properties but it would be Bath for me every time ❤️

  3. The chapel is stunning – those windows! Love the feel and flow of the rooms how it steps up and down throughout the layout. The square windows above in pic 2 add some real character but hey, this home all about the character. Incredible how something as supposedly plain or austere as a baptist chapel can look so elegant with the right design and decor.
    It’s a tough one with that front garden – as you say, it IS a chapel so I guess it was to be expected but for the whole atmosphere and ambience of the complete home, it is a bit of a trade.

    Oh, and love that wallpaper in the next to last picture!

  4. First one for me – those floorboards are to die for! Love the windows and the height of the space. Looks calm and restful and lots of wall space to hang art. And talking of dying I always thought chapels didn’t come with graveyards, may be the Baptists are different. But I like a nosy around headstones anyway so that’s no problem.

  5. I like both your picks. However, the one calling my name is the chapel with its built-in “365 days of Halloween.”

  6. Happy times since I discovered the Mad House – late start on a Friday with an espresso, a nosey round someone else’s house and online friends to gossip about it with! I loved the chapel: quiet neighbours and fantastic windows. Thought the interior choices were rather “bitty” – small things hung high on large walls. I felt it needed big art and less clutter – or more positively “styled” clutter.

    The other place was also a great space. I absolutely loved the kitchen, and I thought that the bathroom just needed the wall to be painted a different colour from the tiles. They looked like they might be a nice travertine stone but I agree that beige wall was doing them no favours.

    PS now I have seen the squid I can’t I see them!

    1. Agree on each point – especially about not being able to “un-see” them once the idea is planted!

  7. The first one doesn’t do it for me at all – quite bland! I’d add some some rugs and some bigger pictures, there’s a lot of hard edges and plain white wall space. On the second one – I like that they’ve gone with bold wallpaper for the dining room, but I’m not entirely sure I like *that* wallpaper that much? The pattern looks like weird squid (is it just me?) and the black/gold feels a bit much. Something blue/teal (Emily Henderson has had some cracking wallpaper featured recently) would have softened it for me whilst still making a statement.

    Totally unrelated but were you in Anthropologie earlier in the week?! I was going to say hi but then I thought “hello, are you the mad house lady?” might not be received too well if it wasn’t in fact you…

  8. I always wonder about places like the first, which is appealingly open, but with all those hard surfaces, and whether it would be noisy or feel echo-y.
    That front yard is hilarious.

  9. I think the neighbours of house 1 would be perfect – no loud parties, no disagreement about what colour to paint the railings. Beautiful building, wonderfully sympathetically done. That sideboard is making me seriously envious (though what’s with the slightly askew mirror above the panelling in the dining room?). Even if it’s not my style (sigh) … Much prefer it to the Savills house – I think the big bathroom is soulless and would have been better treated more as a room, with less tile acreage and more soft furnishings. I want colour, I want Persian rugs (not right next to the bath, natch), I want art …

  10. May I have first dibs on the Barrowbridge chapel, please? Yes, it needs something to pull the rooms together – and yes, something ‘zonal’ to show the functionality of each room. The judicial use of black might do it. Then the dressing. What say you to some stained glass windows, lots of bookshelves, wood-burning stoves, old leather armchairs, carpet cushions and yes, more panelling? As for the gravestones in the garden … I would be blown away living with all that history.

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