Look through the keyhole of this lovely stone cottage
PUBLISHED: 09:00 03 June 2016
Gigi Allen discovers understated elegance and a dream teenager’s bedroom when she visits a lovely home in a Somerset hamlet
The charming hamlet of Henley, near Langport, is made up of stone cottages and small farms built in the local blue lias, along a winding lane dotted with orchards, looking out towards the levels and the Polden Hills. Tibbs House stands out from its neighbours, the original cottage was built in 1825, extended to the front in 1840, with the addition of the very pretty Georgian style facade.
I arrived on a particularly bright and sunny winter’s morning and the house literally glowed. The low key planting at the front of the house, where less is more, really works. A mass of white hellebores lined the front path, in contrast to the grey slate chips. In summer the front is festooned in the white racemes of wisteria. The back wall in the parking area is planted with three huge specimen olive trees and two standard olives either side of the porch. Sophisticated and in keeping with the property, a contrast to the usual busy country cottage front garden.
Peter Roberts bought Tibbs House in 2004, having left a contemporary flat within a mansion block in Battersea, seeking the good life, with enough land to run a smallholding. Whilst we sit chatting at the breakfast table, I have a most enjoyable view of the garden whilst watching Peters’ ducks and moorhens wandering the lawn, paths and borders and catching the occasional glimpse of his pigs peeping out of their pen.
I ask what changes Peter has made to Tibbs House. “We used Farrow & Ball paints throughout, put in the downstairs loo, the shower in the family bathroom, solar panels (paying a tariff of £1,000pa) and finished the loft conversion, which was just boarded, creating the master suite with an en suite wet room. The kitchen had a temperamental Aga in one corner, so we replaced it with a modern range set centrally with the beam from the old Aga above. I didn’t want a fitted kitchen, I chose freestanding contemporary units to go either side of the cooking area and a rustic island in front to bring it all together with the existing plank brace and latch doors of the cupboards. It’s a mix of vintage and farmhouse, with a nod to the contemporary. The garden was just a large square lawn and little else, so I divided it into sections and created outdoor rooms. I’ve planted a lot of trees, my favourite are the hornbeams, which love the clay soil here.”
Peter then shows me round his lovely home, light flooding through the sitting room window, streaming onto the window seat, where Jasper his dog sunbathes, and onto a coffee table bedecked with orchids, urns, books and candles. The sitting room is a room of two halves; the front area is raised and more formal with a jet master fire, the walls, mantel, alcove and shelves displaying a collection of cleverly put together paintings, prints, candles and objet d’art. The lower level is arranged for lounging on comfortable sofas, the perfect place to rest post Sunday lunch tummies, just a few steps from the garden/dining room. That is a room with as much greenery inside as outside and the air of the lush tropics, here and throughout the house, are finds from travels to Cambodia, Thailand and Kerala.
The three double rooms are each sumptuously decorated with gorgeously opulent Osborne and Little wallpaper, in orchid, sunflowers and flamingos [yes you read that right].
The not so small single room multi-tasks as a linen room, study and occasional bedroom.
In the centre of the huge family bathroom, a roll top bath faces the window, so you can have a candlelit bath stargazing, or planning the day ahead, with a splendid view to the Polden Hills. The large shower and glass fronted armoire barely impact on the space. The floorboards from the bathroom out to the landing are painted white, with a white console table opposite the banisters and an arrangement of silver objet. At the top of the stairs a large window with window seat overlooks the gardens and orchard. The combination is understated elegance. By the window seat is a door and an enclosed staircase leads to the master suite, quite a contrast to the rest of the house. It’s warehouse apartment meets barn conversion, contemporary with beams, dark stained wood against white, with a large section of skylights to one side, the blinds operated by remote control - very James Bond! The furthest gable end is entirely open fronted wardrobe hanging and shelving space for clothes and shoes. The master bed, opposite the skylights, has the most panoramic view. The wet room en suite is discreetly obscured by a retro glass brick wall.
I’m left wondering how Peter can leave Tibbs House, which is currently on the market with Jackson-Stops in Sherborne. Peter explains that he and husband Stephen need to downsize, since opening Kitchen in Langport, an artisan bakery and a cafe/restaurant/catering. He has considerably less time for the gardens and smallholding.
The house is a perfect family home, with easy access to independent schools in Taunton, Wells Cathedral School and Millfield Prep and Senior Schools. In the same parish is the highly rated and sought after High Ham Church of England Primary School, also within the catchment for Huish Academy, recently ranked in Somerset’s top 10 for GCSE results. It offers flexible accommodation as the master suite would also make a dream teenagers bedroom!
*Note to potential new owners, ownership comes with responsibilities - the moorhens have chicks in the wild pond every year and bring their young to the garden to share the duck feed. They make their way across the decking by the studio and whilst they can plop down off the edge of the decking to the lawn and duck pond, they can’t get back up again. So when the moorhen chicks are young a ramp has to be installed by the decking.