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Home Style: Forest Idyll

Moving the kitchen became the start of a much bigger project for the Buckinghams, as it created opportunities to change their new home

Having lived in Milan and London Giusy and Philip Buckingham were looking for a new house near to where they lived in London, when a weekend visit to friends in Kent inspired them to decide to move to the country. “We were seduced by the open feeling of space, the idea of living without being surrounded by houses, we were also surprised at the number of beautiful homes in the area,” confessed Giusy. Further investigation revealed there were some really good schools that would suit the couple’s daughter Federica. “It was a life changing moment,” said Giusy.

With their house on the market, they searched on-line for four months before finding an ideal property and promptly put in an offer. “Sadly the deal fell through and with our house sold it seemed sensible to make the move into a rented property while we continued the search,” recalled Giusy. Once they were living in the area some of their priorities changed. “We realised there are always plenty of properties in this part of the world but some of them need a massive renovation which Philip and I didn’t want, but while living down here I fell in love with the forest so I began to narrow my search,” explained Giusy. “I couldn’t believe my luck when we saw this oast perched on the edge of dense woodland, I could actually feel the trees around me. Walking inside Philip and I knew instinctively it was the right house for us, filled with light we felt we could cook, entertain and relax on weekends here.”

After living there for a year the couple had a clearer idea of what needed changing. First tackling practical issues such as the plumbing, drainage, and a water supply for a new utility room before turning their attention to re-decorating. “The first thing to go was the white carpet, totally impractical for a country house on the edge of the forest with a dog and children running in and out,” laughed Giusy. Carpet was replaced with engineered oak flooring which created a lovely clean feel throughout the ground floor. “Once I had started I kept going and stripped the carpet upstairs giving the wooden floors a refreshing new look with paint,” said Giusy.

However it wasn’t long before Giusy decided that the kitchen, situated in a roundel of the oast didn’t work. “I love cooking and spending time in the kitchen but I felt cut off and isolated, I prefer a more sociable open feeling,” she said. It was Philip who suggested a complete change to the layout downstairs with an extension at the side of the house. “There was a room which had originally been a piggery, used by the previous owner as a second sitting room. I was reluctant at first as I didn’t like the room but Philip pointed out we could extend the room to accommodate a larger, more open-plan kitchen/dining area overlooking the garden and the forest.” Originally the couple hoped to replace the wall at the end of the room with ceiling to floor glass but the structure of the building couldn’t support it, so a compromise was made and a large window was installed instead. The addition of decking outside the window plus the removal of a Leylandii hedge transformed the view which now overlooks the forest.

Little extras like the addition of a false wall in the hallway created enough space for a separate coat/boot area and behind that a cosy piano room and cloakroom. The original kitchen became a sunny playroom for Federica and her friends.

Before tackling the décor Giusy consulted an interior designer for help with colours. A simple colour palette of soothing, muted greys and creams were selected to create a contemporary feel and reflect the serenity of the surrounding woodland. The designer also suggested little tricks like adding cladding to false walls to straighten the walls in the roundel that made furniture placement easier.

Finally, Giusy was ready to furnish her new home. “We agreed that our London furniture was totally out of place here, we wanted something that was cosy yet country without being too traditional. My Italian heritage means I appreciate the sleek minimalism of Milan and the rustic villas in the countryside but most of all the accent was comfort,” she said. “Ultimately, it’s a mix that makes us happy as a family and this is the result.”


Words: Mandy Nolan / Living4media

Photographs: Robert Sanderson / Living4media 

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