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Wendy Arnot has always liked period houses: she grew up in a Victorian terrace and, when she bought her first home as a single woman, it was Edwardian. Her husband Geoff, an American who grew up in modern ‘cinder block’ houses, has also become enchanted by older properties. So when they moved in together, they decided that wherever they lived in the future they’d choose homes with history.
Wendy says: ‘This house dates back to the 16th century and it is thought to be the oldest property on the street. It has an acre of beautifully landscaped garden and a giant yew tree that probably pre-dates the house itself.’ Geoff adds: ‘It had been so beautifully renovated by the previous owners we knew we wouldn’t have to do anything immediately, rather take our time making it our own.’
‘It was massively over our budget, though,' Wendy admits, 'but I couldn’t get over how perfect this place could be for our family. I wasn’t prepared to let it go and wait who knows how long before we could find something as special that we could afford. So we decided to stretch ourselves and to go for it.’
There are always going to be maintenance issues on a house this old, but only a few improvements were necessary to create the house the Arnots wanted. They’ve repaired original oak doors, widened the drive and added security gates, and built a small oak porch to the side entrance; they’ve also enhanced the bathroom.
Bringing their existing furniture into a farmhouse full of higgledy-piggledy rooms and narrow stairways has also caused a few problems. Pieces that would fit through the doorways didn’t always look right, so Wendy and Geoff are slowly sourcing furniture that is more in keeping. ‘When we were buying this place, we did manage to negotiate a few key pieces into the deal,’ says Wendy. 'Everything else we buy, we try to find in oak to match the timber of the building.’
With this beautiful old wood in situ, the Arnots have decided to keep the look neutral, with just a subtle hint of colour in the children’s bedrooms (turquoise for son Conor and lavender for daughter Jenna). ‘You can’t compete with the textures and tones of the timber in the house,’ says Geoff, ‘so we’ve made that the focal point, and not some colour scheme that we feel would detract from the wood.’