Home renovations are exciting creative endeavors as well as huge labor-intensive projects. Though each one is distinct, some of the most fascinating processes involve expanding the boundaries of what the meaning of "home" is. Not all renovations are simply a house after all.
In this series, This Is Home, we're sharing unique houses from all around the world in which everyone from DIY enthusiasts to design experts has transformed an unexpected space into one that's not only livable but design-focused, too. These stories delve into the backgrounds of remarkable places, the processes, and all the challenges and wins along the way while making a home out of it, whether it's a barn, castle, cabin, or schoolhouse. No matter what, they're spaces that people call home.
With the renaissance of homey interiors and a renewed interest in cottage living, the idea of bunking down in a cozy, countryside home sounds like a dream. For Danielle King of A Home Fit for Kings and her family, this is a reality. The property itself could be out of a storybook. It's hundreds of years old, filled with natural light, and outfitted with a picture-perfect English garden. But it wasn't always this way.
The Kings constructed the home they live in today from an old cottage-meets-barn in the English countryside, successfully finding the perfect blend of cottage charm mixed with modern-day flair, and it took immense effort to make it happen. "We have a really unique home—a charming, low ceiling old cottage connected to a modern open plan kitchen space—with lots of light and high ceilings," says King. "It is full of character."
At 450 years old, the Grade II listed building is brimming with out-of-the-ordinary details and has a fascinating history. "The property had once formed part of a large estate and Manor House that had been built on overtime, with some of the buildings dating back to the Elizabethan era," explains King. "The history of the property is quite convoluted as it’s had lots of different purposes over hundreds of years and has been added to and changed a lot!"
In a way, King and her husband continued this long-running tradition of giving the land and building structure a new unique purpose. But it took some time to fully sculpt it into what it is today.
King and her husband already had another renovation under their belts—a 1920s house—but he was ready for a fresh challenge. The perfect opportunity arose in the form of a 17th-century farmhouse and stable. "It is in a quiet location with easy access to the local woods and the beautiful countryside beyond," says King.
As lovely as it was, it needed adjustments. "It was previously owned by a couple who had lived here since the 1970s and the electrics and heating hadn’t been modernized, so we knew it needed work even if we didn’t get the planning we wanted!" They also discovered the kitchen was a bit too small for their family and committed to getting permission to bring the two buildings together to construct a new space.
"We moved into our very dated cottage in January 2017 and applied for planning permission that would enable us to connect the cottage to a stable, which was in the garden and was completely unused other than as a garden shed," says King. After officially starting groundworks in 2018, the process took some time and they rented in another location for a year, finally moving back into the space in August of 2019.
With every exciting accomplishment in a renovation, there always seems to be an equal number of setbacks and challenges. The space the Kings were working on had its fair share too along the way, some of which could've deeply impacted the reno from happening at all. "We had no way of knowing whether we’d be given planning permission by the English Heritage to make the changes we wanted due to the buildings' Grade II listing," says King. "It was a big risk purchasing the property not knowing what that outcome would be."
Unfortunately, this roadblock partially came to fruition. "Our initial plans were turned down by heritage—our first submission had a tiled, pitched roof attached to the gable of the house but this was turned down because the conservation officer thought the light from the roof would be too intrusive to the houses behind."
It was disheartening, to say the least, and halted the ideas they wanted to set in motion. This wasn't the end of the road though—their architect drafted a solution. The plan was to build "a simple, stainless-steel roof and structure connecting the buildings, but with clear visual separation between them and importantly, minimum impact on the original architecture."
This was not the vision they initially had in mind for the space, but it was a way around it. Luckily, the second time was a success, with the officer granting approval—albeit alongside a document of other requirements that had to be followed. Once structural changes were made, it was time to focus on the interiors. Balancing the historical integrity with modern colors and shapes made for aesthetically pleasing results.
Each room has its own feeling, but altogether the house is a cohesive spectrum of calming blues and greens with bits of wood peeking out of the walls and ceilings, and glints of metallic from hardware and a copper tub that pop out from the more natural textures and matte hues.
"Throughout the house, we have kept to muted, earthy, and natural colors as these are what we are drawn to," notes King. "The living room I just knew had to be green because I love the green with the rustic timber on the exposed beams." The cooking area also had distinct features she aimed to enhance. "With the kitchen, we wanted to work with the blue that runs through the brick on the floor, so we knew a gray/blue hue would be our preference," says King.
There are also quirky details that stand out in many of the rooms and are only made better by the surrounding accents, including a now-painted interior window that looks into another area of the house, framed by library-worthy bookshelves; rustic wooden stable dividers in the bedroom; and original brick floors with an array of tones.
These distinct parts that had to be maintained as well as the eclectic blend of decor both found and new make it cozy but still on-trend. "We have a mixture of old, secondhand furniture that we’ve sourced from charity shops and car boot sales as well as items we’ve had for years," explains King. "We bought lots of fixtures and fittings from Jim Lawrence, Rockett St George, Cox & Cox, and Graham and Green."
Picking a favorite part of a home as unique as this is almost too tough an ask, but King still had an answer. The kitchen is the spot she likes best. "I love the high ceilings and the brick floors, which we had to keep from the original stables as a heritage condition," she says. "The large floor-to-ceiling windows and doors flood the new space with light, and open directly onto the patio and garden beyond."
The navy blue cupboards, brass pulls and fixtures, and the quartz countertops strike the perfect amount of modernized contrast against the brick wall and floors that have stood the test of time. This style mixing gives it visual interest that newer houses sometimes lack and struggle to pull through in their design.
The outcome of the house proved to be worth the years of stress and pressure, though King notes that it was enough to refrain from doing another reno of this scale. At the very least, it's a fantastic example of just how dramatically an unexpected space can change when it's viewed through a creative lens and given a chance.