George and Will Ellse immediately fell in love with their double-fronted Edwardian pile on a quiet, tree-lined street in Tunbridge Wells, and made the leap from their Wimbledon terrace straight into the country life.
The house was beautiful from the outside and still retained many original features, but the layout was awkward for modern family life.
A small back kitchen, separate dining room and cold plastic conservatory, coupled with only one bathroom for its five bedrooms, meant they soon called in The Vawdrey House (with whom they had worked with on previous London refurbishments) to help transform the house.
Adding a three-storey extension to the rear, converting the loft and opening up the back of the ground-floor to form one open family kitchen/living space, plus two single-storey extensions, has provided seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, lots of flexible living space and a utility, downstairs loo and dog room.
This additional space meant that the original two front rooms could be retained as a cosy 'winter' sitting room – still linked via the old Victorian french doors back into the dining area – and a large study for George, who runs her successful PR business from home.
A relaxed vibe runs through the whole house. A careful mix of vintage lighting, family antiques and quirky upholstery and curtains, combined with the crisp, contemporary extension and sleek bathrooms – has created a true 'heirloom' house for generations to come.
The contemporary family space at the back of the house works like a dream, offering that much needed 'together' space, without feeling vast or cold, in such a leafy setting. The rear wall of the house – in beautiful soot-stained red-brick – has been retained internally, offering a perfect backdrop for the dining area, against tongue-and-groove panelling and crisp architectural doors and roof lights.
The hand-built kitchen, with the essential Aga, forms the heart of the house, combining the warmth of a traditional country kitchen with a contemporary edge. Occupying the older rear of the house – once a warren small rooms – this is now combined with the new extensions, and is opened up to become a light-filled space with views into the garden.
'Look no further than The Vawdrey House,' says George, 'When we bought our forever house we knew we would need to undertake some building work. We wanted more space and the house needed some practical redevelopment (wiring, plumbing) before we could even look at the aesthetics. But that’s about all we knew. As with any busy working family, we just didn’t know where to start, how much it would cost or what we really wanted.
'The Vawdrey House took us by the hand and guided us through the whole process; from tendering builders to tender loving care choosing fabrics; The Vawdrey House came on the journey with us. The design work is exquisite – they helped us keep the Edwardian look we loved, but modernised it to suit the needs of a young family. They listened and probed to find out what we liked and factored that into the project – without forcing their preferences on us.
' I had never worked with an interior architect, and before this process I thought it was really all about paint swatches and tiles. How wrong I was. Quite simply, I don’t think we would have kept our sanity if we hadn’t worked with The Vawdrey House.'
Upstairs the master bedroom now has a stunning ensuite bathroom complete with copper bathtub, discreet WC and shower cubicles, and more of the original brick wall visible.
The newly converted top-floor feels as though it has always been there, with a lantern roof light bringing light down through the whole stairwell, and bespoke-turned newel posts on the stairs made to match the original ensuring the stairs feel continuous.
The three girls share a glamorous black-and-white tiled wet room, while the children's individual styles are reflected in their bedrooms.
"Look no further than The Vawdrey House. They helped us keep the Edwardian look we loved, gave us all the space we needed and modernised it to suit the needs of a young family. Quite simply, I don’t think we would have kept our sanity without them."
Photography by Siobhan Doran & Polly Eltes
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