Hello and welcome to our last post for 2019, we will be taking a little break from the blog until the new year as our business goes into the final Christmas countdown. We have however saved an absolute corker for our finale, this week's A Story of Home comes from the stunning home of JP aka @jonpaulclark
JP's house has undergone a huge transformation to create a New England style home in the Surrey hills - timer clad, beautifully styled and surrounded by an incredible garden. As its Christmas forget the cuppa, pour yourself a Baileys, take five and enjoy our tour around this stunning home.
Over to you JP...
Hi my name is JP. I live in the Surrey Hills with my lovely hubby Mr C and our sweet dog Missy. I’m a hairdresser by trade, but my real love is interiors, gardens and renovations. I have no qualifications in interiors or gardening other than years of experience and a love & flare for it. Mr C and I met 21 years ago and almost from day one we have been renovating property. We have done eight projects in that time and lived in all but one of them all the way through the builds.
How long have you lived here and what type of property is it?
Our current home was a 1920’s wreck of a house with a mountain for a garden that no one wanted to buy. We, over six years, transformed it into a New England style home with a terraced garden a bit like the hanging gardens of Babylon!
Did you fall in love with your home instantly? What was the one feature that sealed the deal for you?
The house belonged to a client I had. She couldn’t sell it and asked whether we wanted to take a look. We had had a terrible time over the previous year trying to sell our house and buy another. We had been gazumped, lost our buyer at the last minute, came second in sealed bids, you name it. Mr C was intrigued because if we liked my clients house, then it would be a private sale. I didn’t want to go and see it at all and had to be persuaded. I didn’t like the location and I still don’t six years later. Don't get me wrong though, its a pretty area, surrounded by woodland. It’s not in a village though and I feel isolated. The house was dark and gloomy and the garden was a complete nightmare of a climb. However, there is a fantastic view at the top. That’s the only thing that sold the property to me. I said yes, as long as we could completely change every single thing about the house and garden!
Had you mentally redecorated before moving in or did your scheme come together over a period of time?
The house had to be turned into something much more beautiful. It’s dimensions lent itself to turning it into a New England style home. It was a house that no one wanted to buy as it needed so many things changed. I have been in love with weatherboard homes since I was a teenager. I was a huge fan of the 1980’s tv production of Anne of Green Gables, which was set on Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. The houses there were so beautiful. I dreamed of having my own from verandah with a seat swing. So yes, in many ways we had a very clear idea of what we wanted before moving in. Some of the interior decisions had been made years before we bought it too. The blue and white bedding from our blue bedroom was purchased two years before moving in and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
Where do you seek your inspiration?
Within a few weeks of putting in our offer we had already come up with a plan to transform the ugly duckling into a New England swan. One month after purchasing the house we had an extended trip to Massachusetts to delve deep into its architectural style and really nail down the look. I even knocked on locals doors to ask advice and a few people were very kind and invited me in for a look around. I studied Pinterest for the right looks and a book called Building with Wood; Unique living with Me Casa, was enormously helpful. It’s a very expensive book as its now out of print, but you can still get a copy from a few places online. The book was actually about Finnish wooden homes, but the look was extremely similar. This book, along with all the photos we had taken in Massachusetts formed the basis of the information we gave to our architect. My husband worked on the layout of the house, making sure it flowed and was practical. We then gave these floor plan drawings to the architect to formalise.
What was the first job in your home you tackled?
The garden would be first thing to be transformed and we would base it on the rice paddy terraces of Bali, curved terraced gardens. We knew the garden had to be done first as, although we have a side gate, once the house was extended there would not be enough room to get a digger through to remove the tonnes of earth we needed to, in order to create the terraces and make the garden user friendly. The first job in the house was just to redecorate a few of the rooms temporarily to make them a little more jolly and make living there bearable. The first room to get its big make-over was the family bathroom. It took a very long time to get planning permission to convert our house and we ended up taking it to appeal and won. During the years it took to do this, we decided to make a start on some of the internal rooms, where we knew the walls were not load bearing. The family bathroom needed to be completely ripped out and a wall needed to be knocked down then re-built two feet further out into one of the guest bedrooms. That guest bedroom would eventually get an extension too, once the planning permission came through. We knew we had to live in the house throughout the entire build and so making it as comfortable as possible was imperative. Having a finished family bathroom would mean at least we were clean!
Were there any surprises during the revamp/renovation?
There were many, particularly the behaviour of the planning authority. An application should take 8 weeks. Six months in we still didn’t have a decision. We started the planning process in 2013 and didn’t get planning till the end of 2015. Unfortunately most of the surprises weren’t good surprises. Costs rose quite substantially, even though we had really done our homework, mainly due to market forces. Our builder didn’t finish the job. He just didn’t turn up one day and never came back. We were owed a lot of money too. Almost at the same time, my husband was made redundant. So it really was all fun and games. However, it ended up being our saving grace. We employed some wonderful Bulgaraian builders to do anything we couldn’t do. My husband laid every floor, did all the skirtings and architraves, all the plumbing. I did all the sanding, filling and painting. Our house is over 2500 square feet, so that's a lot of painting. In doing so, we saved a fortune and the build came in on budget.
What do you think has been the most successful area of your interior?
The entire house was designed for entertaining and bringing the outside in. Every window was changed and enlarged, which is a huge task. We added a 3.4 meter bi-fold door to the back of the house to really open up the kitchen/dining room to the garden. Three of the four bedrooms have bathrooms and the master has a balcony and a walk-in wardrobe. We really did put in just about everything we had ever wanted. So, I’d say, we were most successful at creating a light, spacious welcoming home. We wanted our guests to feel like they were on holiday.
Are there any failures in your design/DIY that you care to admit to?
There are a few small things. Our kitchen worktops are made of Tristone, a bit like Corian. I love it, but I do wish we had ordered the upstands to be moulded onto the worktops. We have a join and that always gets quite dirty. A couple of the column radiators we chose weren’t large enough in one or two of the rooms. The fan in our en-suite isn’t powerful enough, but that can be changed.
Which is your favourite room?
My favourite room is the formal living room. It has a fireplace in the centre with a sofa either side. It’s something I’d always wanted. I’m a big lover of symmetry. It has wooden paneling all around the room, which we did ourselves and the overall look is Hamptonesque. I also love the blue and white bedroom, just because of its simplicity.
Do you have a favourite object in your home?
Ooh, that’s a really hard one! We have been together for 21 years and we both have a love of collecting things we have found on our travels. I have many things that I love. There are two paintings that stand out: one is by the late Steve Walker and is a beach scene in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the other is of the famous painter Edward Hopper’s art studio in Nantucket, by Gabriella Fiabane.
Any golden nuggets of advice to share to anyone undertaking their own revamp/renovation, did you learn any lessons?
It sounds obvious, but do your homework. You need to know everything. It’s not good enough to choose fittings and materials as you go along. Your builder will come to you way before you think they will and ask what you want and where it should be. Don’t get caught out! Don’t ever leave the decision to the builder, they will always do what is easiest for them and not what is aesthetically pleasing. The other thing I’d say is: however many sockets you think you need, have more! Don’t leave that to the electrician either. Think about how you live. Where is the mirror going to be in your bedroom? You need a socket there for the hairdryer! So you need to know where that mirror is going to go maybe even before that room is built!
Do you have anywhere in your home that doesn’t make it onto Instagram?
Oh my goodness yes! My husband’s study never makes it on to the gram. Until recently neither did the utility room/boot room. I also don’t show the bathroom to the loft bedroom as there is no window, so you have to turn the lights on. My salon also never gets a look in, or the courtyard in front of it. I often don't show the master bedroom either as I still haven’t got the decor right in there.
What’s the next project you have planned?
The first thing early in 2020 is to redecorate the master bedroom. I’m going back to whites and blues as it suits the house style and makes us both happy. We also plan to turn our summer house into a garden kitchen. I’m so looking forward to that. It will make outside entertaining so much easier. Having a terraced garden can be quite annoying bringing plates and food up and down. If we have a mini kitchen at the top, where the view is, then we can do everything up there. At some point in time we will also move again. This house was a huge project and the main reason for doing it was to add value an increase our pension fund. I’m self-employed, so the pension isn’t great. At some point, we will downsize and move to the south coast for, hopefully, our final project.
Thank you JP for sharing your home with us. I have always dreamed of a house with a verandah and am in love with timber houses so I just adore JP's home. I love his New England vibe and how he has created a home for entertaining - lucky guests!
You can follow more of JP's home stories over on Instagram at @jonpaulclark
We will be back in the New Year with more home stories. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by our little blog this year and taken the time to comment, we really appreciate your support.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Bye for now