A Somerset Farmhouse
PUBLISHED: 16:45 21 July 2009 | UPDATED: 16:08 20 February 2013
How one family created the perfect home for themselves and their furry friends. Words by Victoria Jenkins and photos by Nicholas Yarsley.
Lyndie Sugden wanted to live in a converted barn in the Cotswolds but somehow found herself in a farmhouse in Somerset. "I really think we were meant to be here," she says. "We needed somewhere with enough land for our two horses, two dogs and two cats. We thought we'd found the perfect place in the Cotswolds but it fell through. This was the last house on my list to view and I only grudgingly agreed to take a look at it as I was still moping about the house we'd lost."
That was it. The family, including her husband, Lea, and teenage daughter, Emma, drove up and Lyndie took one look at the pretty double-fronted Georgian house and knew she wanted it. "I fell in love with it from the road," she says. "And once in it I was convinced. I loved the entrance hall with its blue lias flagstones and the way all the rooms led from it. I loved the shutters at the windows, wide-plank pine floors, high ceilings and old fireplace unfortunately disguised by a gas coal-effect Jetmaster fire."
There was also a large cellar beneath (which occasionally lets a little water in, along with some frogs and toads) and outside there were three acres of land with stabling for their horses, Merlin and Rockwell Bay (known as Rocky). Most spectacular of all, the three-bedroom house is opposite three enormous fishing lakes which afford wonderful walks with the dogs Theo, a rescued Labrador, and Polly, a Lab-Springer cross.
"In winter when there is no foliage on the trees opposite we can look straight across the water with its moorhens and ducks, which is fabulous," says Lyndie. "There was a pair of swans till one died. His mate pined for a long time but now there seems to be a new male who has stayed the course. The whole village has its fingers crossed."
Built in about 1830 on the site of an old farmhouse, the Sugdens' new home was (luckily) not Listed, which meant the couple could change the layout upstairs.
"Originally there was one truly enormous bathroom and a separate loo with basin. We decided if we knocked down walls and moved others we could convert this huge bathroom into Emma's domain, comprising a bedsitting room and en-suite shower room. It's a much better use of space now."
Having done that the couple then converted an existing small bedroom into a bathroom before turning their attention downstairs.
"There was a hand-built David Armstrong pine kitchen, which was so well-made that after 15 years it was still in good condition," says Lyndie. "So we kept it and had it repainted in Farrow & Ball's Vert de Terre."
The couple discovered that David Armstrong had replicated Popham mouldings on the units to match those on the shutters and the doors.
"These mouldings are the same as are found at Hunstrete House, now a hotel but once the family home of the Popham family, starting with Sir John Popham in around 1600," says Lyndie. "It seems our house was the home farm of Hunstrete Estate. The Pophams were here all the way through until the 1950s."
The couple also put in new appliances, then sanded and oiled the pine flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. They also laid slabs from Classical Flagstones in the utility room, downstairs WC, in the courtyard behind and at the front of the house in the form of paths.
"I thought about having a Georgian décor in pale yellows and blues but we are a family house with lots of animals so I had to be practical," says Lyndie.
In the sitting room they removed the Jetmaster then discovered that the previous owner had plasterboarded over the upper part of the stone chimney breast, which reached to the ceiling. So the couple decided not to expose the stonework as it might look too overpowering but to put a woodburning stove into the newly exposed recess.
Lastly they refurbished part of the garage, which is just across the courtyard from the farmhouse. "When we arrived part of it had been turned into a workshop, but Lea isn't interested in DIY," says Lyndie. "So we stripped out all the workbenches and wrenches, painted it a sunny yellow and turned it into his office where he can work from home if necessary."
As for the garden, Lyndie continues, "It was lovely but rather overcrowded with large beds and borders. But we're so busy with the dogs and horses that we opened it up and simplified it. Now we have just a simple trellis leading from the drive to the lawn and covered in climbing roses and clematis."
When it came to furnishing the place they had a mix of inherited antiques and new pieces. However, Lyndie has added an artistic twist to many pieces. For example, in the kitchen is Lea's grandmother's old rocking chair, which is at least 100 years old. Lyndie has draped zebra-patterned fabric over it and hung some African masks and shields above it (legacy of a holiday) and now calls this her 'African corner'.
"We downsized when moving here, having left a much larger house in Bath, so it was a bit of a squash at first, fitting everything in," she says. "But what we wanted was a cosy country house for the three of us and the animals, not grand but comfortable, and I think we've achieved that."