Planning and designing difficult spaces in character homes
"Old stables lend themselves to be converted"
Pippa Paton Design is fast becoming the destination for homeowners who want to transform period properties with integrity for 21st century living, keeping the charm and original character alive, whilst sympathetically evolving the interior to suit the modern-day lifestyle
Achieving this commands a very specialist knowledge and understanding of working with the challenging spaces and quirks typical of period properties; and being trusted by local authorities.
Many owners of period properties see the appointment of an interior designer as a critically important decision, after all it is that designer who is ultimately responsible for sympathetically creating significant permanent structural and decorative changes. “Our clients are all understandably very careful about any changes they make to restore and update their period homes,” explains Pippa. “Whilst they strive for a conducive and elegant space to live in, they also want to preserve and celebrate the original integrity and features of the building. This more often than not necessitates working with awkward and small spaces.”
Initially, when looking at a restoration, the entire footprint of the property needs to be evaluated to assess the overall layout, allocating the optimum space for each purpose, such as kitchen, living, sleeping, entertaining, study and utility. For example where a 19th Century cottage might have originally had a series of smaller rooms on the ground floor, such as a kitchen, pantry, parlour, dining room and sitting room, today’s lifestyle requires a more open plan space, where many of these rooms are brought together. Or in a country mansion we will often see the significant ‘below stairs’ space being used today for entertainment purposes – home cinemas, swimming pools or gyms. Old stables and outbuildings lend themselves to be converted into guest accommodation, annexes or offices. With no period property being the same and each with their own nuances, often also being listed, working within the constraints of awkward or tricky structures, and creating solutions for difficult spaces is a necessary specialism.
In addition to spatial layout, there needs to be taken into account the actual fabric of an original character building. Thick irregular walls, low sloping ceilings, structural beams, uneven floors and small doorways all pose challenges to a varied degree. “One of the Cotswold properties that we re-designed had particularly tricky walls in the kitchen,” says Pippa. “The wall at one end of the room was unusually uneven, starting off very thick, roughly graduating to a much smaller depth. When we were designing the bespoke kitchen cabinetry, we absorbed this difference by creating a wall of floor to ceiling cupboards, which when closed appear to be balanced and seamless. However behind the doors, each cupboard unit alters significantly in depth. We specifically used this and designed a very deep cupboard at one end, with fabulous storage for larger items, where at the other end there is a shallow unit designed for herbs, spices and other cooking ingredients.”
In another home, and old rectory in Oxfordshire, the original kitchen had one wall with a deep alcove and disused fireplace. In the new kitchen this wall has been panelled, and the alcove space has been used to make a drinks cupboard with sliding doors that can be pushed back into the sides; and the fireplace used to house the homeowner’s old Belling warming cabinet, also with sliding doors so that it can be hidden from view when not in use.
Small rooms frequently feature in period homes. Pippa Paton’s studio is especially talented at creating very clever designs for these spaces, with stylish statement cloakrooms a trademark speciality. “I relish the challenge of transforming what is perceived as a utilitarian and small space in the grand scheme of the overall home design, into a space with wow factor,” says Pippa. “I particularly love sourcing extraordinary materials to create something totally unique, from incredible pieces of timber and industrial metals, to statement lighting and wallcoverings.”
Pippa Paton Design is a highly acclaimed interior design, architecture and project management studio based in the Cotswolds, with a reputation for creating fabulous bespoke interior and exterior living spaces in the Cotswolds and London. One of Pippa Paton Design’s key specialities is the renovation of character and listed homes. Pippa and Scott Paton personally oversee every project from inception through to ultimate perfection, with support from their talented team of professionals. This year marks the celebration of the company’s 10th anniversary. During this time completed projects have included everything from an historic Thames riverboat to an entire Cotswold village estate; state-of-the-art pool complexes to bespoke kitchen designs; the renovation of listed manor houses to a quintessential Cotswold cottage; and a large family home in West London to a contemporary apartment in London’s Neo Bankside.
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