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Contemporary Chic

PUBLISHED: 15:47 12 November 2007 | UPDATED: 14:55 20 February 2013

The house exterior

The house exterior

For 16 years Geraldine and Jeff Alden lived in Sneyd Park in Bristol where they brought up their two daughters, Rebecca and Vanessa. They had a big three-storey Victorian house, but when their children flew the nest, they took it as an excuse to m...

"As we knew Clevedon quite well, having taken the dog there for many a long walk along the seafront, we decided to look in that area." In due course they found a newly built five-bedroomed house in a little village about 10 minutes' drive from the beach and decided it was so different they would buy it. "Because it was modern and open-plan it meant it was so much lighter than our previous home, which, being Victorian, seemed to have light on one side for half the day then vice versa," says Geraldine. "This house also had a lovely view over Kenn Moor to the hills beyond, while the Bristol house had no views."

"Every time we came to see how work was progressing we found the site was a mud bath, with a big heap of rubble in the back garden"

The new house was just a shell when the couple first saw it as the builder had put up only the four exterior walls. "There was no roof and no flooring so it meant we were able to choose pretty much everything to go inside," says Geraldine.

Although the builder had drawn up plans the couple were able to ask for the main bathroom to be made slightly bigger and for the bedroom next to it (now grand-daughter Millie's) to be made slightly smaller.

Then, as the couple like to entertain a lot - especially in the summer when they can use their back garden - Geraldine chose to have French windows (instead of a window) leading from the kitchen into the garden and double doors put in between kitchen, dining room, living room and hall so that these could all be opened up to allow a free flow of guests. "I wanted an open-plan ground floor, the rooms of which could be closed off if necessary. Now it means no one feels cut off from the guests."

The couple also got landscape designer Steve Elston to lay a large patio at the rear of the house as well as to the side, meaning that parties can flow outside in balmier weather.

"It took about nine months for the builder to finish it all," says Geraldine. "We saw it in the September and it was ready the following July. Luckily the people who wanted to buy our Bristol house didn't seem to object too much to having to wait so long. However, after we moved out the completion details were delayed so we moved between Travelodges for a month, with our furniture in store, before finally we could move in!"

Geraldine was able to design her kitchen and chose German-made buttermilk units from Boulevard Kitchens, in Henleaze, Bristol, with bronze knobs and black granite worktops. There is an island containing storage cupboards and a number of electrical sockets so Geraldine can use all her cooking equipment there. There is also a filtered drinking water tap. The floor is of Italian hand-made ceramic tile with underfloor heating.

The new house was just a shell when the couple first saw it so it meant they were able to choose pretty much everything to go inside

As they were on board so early in the building process, the couple were also able to choose all the fittings and furniture, most of it by Roca and bought from Porcelanosa in Bristol, for their bathroom, two en-suite shower rooms and downstairs cloakroom.

"Every time we came to see how work was progressing we found the site was a mud bath, with a big heap of rubble in the back garden," says Geraldine. "We always had to wear wellies and never could quite envisage it looking as good as it has turned out. Then when we did move in there was no fencing between the gardens, and the builder, instead of removing the rubble, had spread it round the garden in an artistic sort of way. The best way we could deal with it was to put down a ton of earth on top to bury it!"

The couple then called in the landscape gardener and had the rest of the garden laid to lawn, with shrubs all round the edges and some water features put in.

Having come to a modern house Geraldine and Jeff decided to start afresh with their furnishings so there are several items of Victorian furniture from their old house stored in their garage, while various big Victorian pictures and mirrors are in the attic. "The ceilings are too low for big pieces of antique furniture," says Geraldine. "We just have a few old pieces on display now, including our Bristol blue-glass chandelier in the hall." This chandelier was bought some 20 years ago from an antiques shop in Coldharbour Road and used to hang in the drawing room of their Victorian home.

To match the chandelier Geraldine asked a friend, Wendy Hubbard, to make her a piece of 'stained glass' (in fact, resin and acrylic paint) for her landing window with a stylised image of kingfishers in various blues. "Wendy is a talented lady as she also made a lot of my curtains and cushions and upholstered some of the headboards of the beds," says Geraldine.

"Close proximity to the moor and water means regular overhead visitors of all types of ducks and geese and even swans"

After the couple had been in the house for two years Geraldine decided she really didn't like the fireplace which, she says, was in "horrible red brick and stone with a protruding hearth". So she designed another one, made of limestone and slightly curved in front, with a cast-iron gas fire by Chimneys of Clevedon.

"We love the house as it is light and airy and big enough to have all our children and grandchild to stay," says Geraldine. "Christmases are no problem!

"The view over Kenn Moor that greets us every day with the hills beyond is stunning and we never cease to think how lucky we are. We can even see aeroplanes landing at Lulsgate (Bristol International Airport) and not hear them! Also motorway access to visit our children is just five minutes away.

"The garden is also a sanctuary for wildlife. Jeff as a boy was a keen ornithologist and he was delighted the other week to see his first woodpecker in action and making itself at home in the garden. Sparrowhawks often patrol the perimeter of the garden and squirrels are common visitors; herons quite often sit on the roof, as well as pheasants on the rear fence, along with all types of tits, our friendly robin, wrens, collared doves and house martins. Close proximity to the moor and water means regular overhead visitors of all types of ducks and geese and even swans, whilst among the other inhabitants of the woods deer and rabbits abound." BY VICTORIA JENKINS


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