Mad About . . .

The Househunter: Room by Room

20th March 2020

Firmly in the fantasy Friday camp with this lovely house which I chose because of the outside space. Not all of us have some and I figured that some of you will be sick of looking at interiors and gazing at a big green garden can be quite calming I find. That said we will get to the interiors -which are lovely – and there are more outside views at The Modern House, which is where this house is listed for £2,500,000.

But before we start I note that this property in the BBC building which I featured a few weeks ago is now under offer. I’m assuming it wasn’t one of you as it didn’t go down particularly well in these parts but I thought you might want to know anyway. And if it was one of you when are we invited round for a real tour as opposed to a virtual one.

So this is a six bedroom, originally Georgian, house near Cambridge, set in four acres of grounds with six bedrooms, four receptions and a games wing – a WING no less – as well as a triple garage. It has recently been renovated by Tye Architects and I love the modern glass extension on the side. So much better than trying to create something mock Georgian or fake Victorian. Better to go all out and create the contrast. How much would I like to be sitting in there right now.

The other point is note how the front of the house is all stucco and white and pretty and the back is just plain brick. A classic Georgian trick to save money. And there’s probably a pithy comment about all fur coats and no knickers or something along those lines only I can’t think of it because my tension headache is blotting out half my brain.

So come on in, she said expansively as if she owned the place, let’s go down the hall, through the family room and into this glass extension which you have already viewed from the outside. How about that? I might change the furniture round a bit. OK, I would, the two chairs at the front look a little redundant but then if you have six bedrooms it’s fair to assume you need to provide a lot of seating. But be careful of making a room look like a doctor’s waiting room (that’s probably in bad taste at the moment but you know what I mean). Think about how many people are likely to be in that room all at once most of the time, and then maybe have a couple of floor cushions elsewhere if everyone chooses to pile in at once. Or,  looking at the floorplan, these two chairs could live in the family room behind and just come in here when necessary.

I often see this with house consultations when people say they need a dining table for ten people when they’re a family of four and closer interrogation reveals they have to seat the extended family once a year. The rest of the time it will be filled with papers and book and stuff. Unless you are actively entertaining 10 people to dinner on a regular basis get a smaller table, or better still an extending one.

I was asked in an interview for The Stylist magazine yesterday (and it’s about to go digital only so you will be able to access it from anywhere not just picking up a paper version from tube stations) how to make a small room look bigger and one of the ways, aside from not having too much clutter and choosing furniture with legs so you can see more floor space, is to try and set the large pieces slightly away from the wall so it looks like you have more space that you actually do. It gives the impression of having the luxury of space even if you don’t. And it’s the same principle with the seating – the chances are that not everyone is sitting in the same room at the same time so rather than be surrounded by empty seats, provide a comfortable amount and leave the space for when you need to bring in an extra chair or two.

Going back through the family room you come to this the kitchen/breakfast room which is also at the back of the house. Unlike the actual dining room which is at the front and is, of course a separate space. I’d love to know how much use it gets. The room below is the other room at the front and is a library/study which is just wonderful.

I’d love to be sitting here at this desk writing and/more likely gazing at the view. A word on zoning here though. The small rug makes the space feel slightly disjointed. I often talk about how you should avoid a rug island and this is a good example. By all means keep the desk separate as that is a different activity, but a large rug that the chairs could sit on as well would bring them closer – both literally and metaphorically – to the fireplace – you can just see the hearth in the corner – and that would pull the room together and make it cosier.

This view of the hall is looking through to the aforementioned family room and is a reminder of house you should always consider the view through to a space. It’s an Alice Through the Looking Glass kind of thing I think but drawing the eye through the space to another room at the end can make that room appear inviting. And, of course, in this instance, it provides a wonderful jolt of warm colour to this otherwise cool white space.

I shall leave you to explore the bedrooms at your leisure. I’ll just have a little lie down on that yellow sofa and wait for you.

But before you go – Instagram has been awash with communities joining together and offering help and support to each other and I was pondering what I could do to help. So I decided starting yesterday that I would read a story for children at 5pm for half-an-hour each weekday. I have started with Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief I am doing it as an instagram live but, if I have got the tech right, it should save for 24 hours if you can’t follow the live version. I read this series out loud to my sons when they were about six and eight (ten years ago) and they loved it. It’s about a boy who discovers he’s half Greek God and the monsters – minotaurs and the like – are out to get him so he has to learn some skills to save himself at half-blood school. He’s also dyslexic but discovers, at his new school, that far from making him eligible for extra help, it’s because his brain is hard-wired to read Ancient Greek. It’s a cracking story and I shall be reading a few chapters each weekday night. The aim is to give parents a break for half and hour while the children listen to something and while it’s on screen there’s nothing to look at so they should be able to lie down and listen. It’s my version of Jackanory for those who remember that. Anyway do send your kids over if they fancy it and come along yourselves if you do.

And then I found this a link to a BBC 4 special remembering the show so if you fancy this as well.

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  • Phyl 23rd March 2020 at 7:57 pm

    What a lovely property if only… although right now if i had that sort of money i might have a few other ideas what to with it……..
    But thank you for giving us something else to emerge ourselves in if only for a few minutes escape.

    What a wonderful idea with the PJ story time…. but spooky too as great minds think alike sort of, i wish. I had a similar idea for my new granddaughter who I have not yet met and now this will be delayed even further due to the current situation. So i am recording some rhymes and stories so at least my voice becomes familiar to her in the hope we get to meet one day soon.

    Take care and stay safe everyone. x

  • Pauline Johnson 23rd March 2020 at 8:17 am

    We moved into a stone Georgian farmhouse ( built on/around much earlier origins) and need to do a lot of repair to the fabric of the house, as well as redecorate and restore just about everything. We have a respectable but absolutely finite budget for the project which will need tradespeople, not us botching it up! The styling and decoration of the house was really well done and clearly quite a lot of money was spent – but 20, 30 and 40 years ago!! I really look forward to receiving your posts and I’m picking up so many tips. While I would absolutely love to sit down and talk through ideas with you we can’t afford to add an interior designer to the budget, so your ideas, suggestions, examples and clear explanations are truly invaluable.
    You are also, very evidently, a lovely person and that shines through your writing, but the Jackanory idea is extremely thoughtful and kind. Thank you. Hoping you and your family stay safe and sane in the disturbing times.

  • Ellen Reed 20th March 2020 at 7:45 pm

    Thank you. My mother is a retired librarian. She used to read to children all the time. I miss seeing that. Take good care of you all!

  • Lesley 20th March 2020 at 12:52 pm

    I couldn’t believe the front and back were the same house… but its absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, I could never afford this never mind the BBC one, so it wasn’t me who bought that. Your Jackanory idea tho? I love it. My son is now 17, but we saw those films when they first came out. We’ve never read the books though… Absolutely fantastic idea. I expect lots of children (and maybe even grown ups) will find them a brilliant way to escape. Thank you! xx

  • monique 20th March 2020 at 12:44 pm

    absolutely gorgeous home, wish I could have it.

  • Leslie-Anne 20th March 2020 at 11:54 am

    That is such a pretty house. I like to see a very modern addition to a very old building and this one is done so well. I would sit near the fire and re-read the whole Percy Jackson series.

  • Tessa Broad 20th March 2020 at 11:07 am

    First time I’ve posted a comment – just felt the need to say how much I love your writing and inspirational ideas and insights. Thank you. I’ll be clicking on the pre-order button for your new book.

  • Nicola 20th March 2020 at 10:52 am

    Gosh- you have struck gold this week Kate. I love it and would buy it fully furnished. My other half doesn’t like those fires that hang from the ceiling ( I do) but if we had spent 2 and a half million quid on that house we wouldn’t be able to afford to change anything so that would be one battle I’d win hands down.

    I used to love Jackanory – what a lovely gesture.

  • Catherine Southwood 20th March 2020 at 9:05 am

    That is a lovely thing to do Kate – if I still had little children I would definitely be settling down to listen – but then again maybe I don’t need an excuse!!

  • Sheree 20th March 2020 at 8:37 am

    What a lovely idea Kate. So thoughtful of you – bought a tear to my eye. Thanks for being so kind.

  • Lesley Keir 20th March 2020 at 7:58 am

    I’ve only just stop laughing at the “doctor’s waiting room”.

    Adore the house. Will paint our beams white in the new upstairs bathroom. It looks so fresh.

  • Laurence Katz 20th March 2020 at 7:08 am

    Dream house and location! As always thank you for sharing! And I LOVE your Coronavirus idea and will check your feed re the story. Thanks a lot for the support, home schooling is challenging but even more so when trying to run a studio at the same time! Wishing you a lovely weekend x

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