The Househunter: Room by Room

Let’s not even start with the weather… actually how do we not? Was watching Killing Eve last night (anyone else?) and it’s not a spoiler to say that when she turns up in England – Basildon to be precise – it was clear that that was filmed last summer as the grass was completely brown. We watched it as The Mad Husband lit the fire and he said he couldn’t remember how it felt to be that hot… So with that in mind here’s a country house with a fabulous green lawn and a blue sky to remind us of what summer looks like even if we can’t remember what it feels like.

This is in Axminster, in Devon, and is on the market with Strutt & Parker for £1,100,000. It’s a former rectory (and I’ve said it before the vicars/rectors get all the best houses) set in just over two acres with outbuildings and views and all that other lovely English country garden sort of thing that makes Americans go weak at the knees.

Come first into this lovely light and large kitchen space with room for cooking, eating and sitting. I love those old school chairs and this is a perfect example of how something vintage always works well in what can be a very modern space like a kitchen with its straight lines and hard surfaces. Unusually its on the first floor, which may be either because the house is on a hill, or because that has the better views.

This is the dining room to one side of the kitchen – turn right by the far side of the fridge and below is the sitting area. There is also a large drawing room on this floor. Below is a playroom, laundry room and lots of storage, while the two floors above have a total of seven bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Now obviously I haven’t bought this yet although, with my fantasy lottery money, I might. But, given that the larger bathroom is an ensuite and the second has this charming, but weeny, little tub in it, I might be tempted to lose a bedroom, or two, to create more bathrooms. Living with two teenage boys all I would say is the more bathrooms the better.

But leaving that aside, what this gorgeous house does have is high ceilings -perfect for adding some colour to – and large sash windows. There are some interesting colour-blocking paint effects – see below – although what that does is bring that wall in and lessen the long and narrowness of it. That’s a good trick if you have a similar shaped room and what to visually foreshorten it. I might paint the island in the middle in the same colour too.

Upstairs, six of those seven bedrooms are good sizes and two of them under the eaves with skylights. Having said that, did you know that a flat rooflight (this is sloped) lets in six times more light than a vertical one and the angled ones also help natural light penetrate further into the room. So it can be a really good idea to add one to any sloping ceiling if there is a dark spot in the house.

As much as I am a fan of coloured walls there is something to be said for the lightness and brightness of these rooms with just that soft yellow/almost cream as an accent colour. It’s the kind of room I aspire to and then after about three months I start adding colour and pattern. That’s exactly what we did in this house where we painted it all white when we moved in.

Now before I go to fantasise about having breakfast in this wonderful spot below, I should just add, in my informal role as self-apppointed estate agent, that there are several outbuildings including a greenhouse, a workshop with electricity, a woodstore and a barn/former stables which could, with permission, be converted into living space.

Right, anyone buying this week. Am I coming to stay? Who’s in?


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. I can’t concur on this one, I am afraid.

    Single grazing, oil fired heating, electric Aga, very little insulation, and what there is well below the amount needed.

    It looks very attractive, but whoever buys it will need to brace themselves for 7-10k a year on energy bills in a very few years.

    It is a pity because a bit of forethought and perhaps 25-30k at the right time could have knocked 30-50% off those energy bills. Now it will have to be gutted again in a decade or so to fix it.

    Here is the Energy Peformance Certificate

    that rating – F – is so poor that it would be an offence to rent it out.

  2. I love this one. I had a look at the photos on the agents link and the grounds ( and they are ‘grounds’ as the word garden doesn’t do them justice ) are heavenly. A nice veggie garden gets me every time. I would make the whole second floor a grand master suite with a dressing room and study/ retreat as I don’t need 7 bedrooms. And I would also like to put another bathroom on the main level -any estate agents reading this will be shaking their heads at me losing bedrooms with gay abandon. I like the colour scheme too – it was lovely to hear Fern Cottton on the podcast saying she likes looking at dark rooms on Pinterest but couldn’t live with them as I feel exactly the same. The lovely light colours here feel relaxing and calm – so yes, I will take this one please.

  3. What a lovely house, and the setting is delightful too – regardless of the weather. From the outside it is easy to imagine vicarage teas being served on the lawn and the sound of tennis being played nearby. Idyllic – something straight out of the 1980’s serial ‘The cedar tree’.
    I shall probably be black-balled for saying this, but, for me, the interior conveys nothing to differentiate this house from lots of others that regularly feature in mid-price range magazines. Presumably, new owners want to put their own stamp on the property and may prefer a blank (bland) canvas to one showing evidence of lived history, but it saddens me.

  4. Oh that is just lovely, Kate. And the gardens would make me go weak at the knees (nevermind the Americans). I love the mix of formality of the proportions and slightly whimsical decoration in the house itself too. Agree with you about the bathrooms but, assuming I win the lottery this weekend, you’re invited!

  5. Nice house Kate but too many floors for me. Putting the master bedroom two floors above the living space is a no no for me.
    As for teenage boys and bathrooms, I think that the less bathrooms there are for them to mess up, the better! Now that mine are at university, I actually venture in their shower room without as much trepidation as in the past.

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