A family farmhouse in Dorchester

PUBLISHED: 13:43 04 December 2013 | UPDATED: 14:09 04 December 2013

The original farmhouse front elevation

The original farmhouse front elevation

(C)2008 Peter Booton Photography, all rights reserved

A hilltop farmhouse near Dorchester is given a stylish makeover to make the most of its magnificent views and provide more room for entertaining family and friends

Helen and Eric were attracted to their 19th century farmhouse home by its hilltop location which gave superb panoramic views of the surrounding west Dorset countryside. Situated conveniently near to Dorchester the property also offered sea views and sat centrally within 16 acres of grounds in which there were three venerable apple trees and a once productive lime kiln which, in its heyday, supplied lime to local farms.

The terraced grassy banks on which the apple trees stood had clearly once been the site of a sizeable orchard. Since taking over the property in 2003 the couple have planted a further 11 trees of different varieties. They have also introduced a flock of sheep to the orchard and at this time of year the lucky creatures are grazing contentedly on windfalls.

After moving into the property Helen took time off from her work to redecorate the house throughout and re-paint the existing kitchen units. Refurbishing houses, she admits, is a real passion of hers and something she has enjoyed doing to a number of their previous homes. When the lino on the kitchen floor was lifted, during the initial refurbishment of the farmhouse, a wooden floor was revealed, which was then renovated. A 120-foot deep well was also discovered beneath the floor of the aptly named ‘well room’, now the reception hall.

More recently Helen and Eric decided to add a substantial two-storey extension to the rear of the property which would give them extra space in which to incorporate a large kitchen and informal dining area, as well as more room for their three teenage children and visiting friends. In addition, by converting the existing attic, the number of bedrooms could be increased from four to six.

For the design of the new extension Helen and Eric engaged the services of Stuart Martin Architects, of Evershot, who carried out the recent superb transformation of the interior of Parnham House. To carry out the build and manage the whole project they approached C G Fry & Son of Litton Cheney. Helen says, “When you travel around Dorset you see so many excellent examples of their work, lovely old style cottages and such beautiful stonework, which we really liked.”

The independent family-owned company was established in the 1920’s by Charles George Fry, and is renowned for working with the Duchy of Cornwall on the prestigious Poundbury development. With their team of skilled craftsmen, C G Fry & Son not only built the new extension to Helen and Eric’s home, but also extensively refurbished the old farmhouse and converted the attic.

The farmhouse had previously been extended at the rear, probably in the 1930’s, and this section had to be demolished before the new build could begin. “We wanted to open up the house to allow light at the back,” explains Helen. “There were no views before. Now we’ve got light coming in throughout the day, and there are views across the valley.” The windows wrap around the rear elevation on both storeys and were purposely designed with small panes of glass to reflect the history of the building which had previously been fitted with metal-framed Crittall windows.

The project produced a number of challenges for the builders, one of the biggest being the need to establish foundations for the extension directly into the rock on which the house stood. The natural, warm-hued stone dug out was used both for the walls of the house – sections embedded with ammonites were used as features – and for new walls in the garden. A terrace below the level of the house was also created and the stone used for its retaining walls. The terrace is planted with specimen pleached limes and affords an excellent view of the re-established orchard on the slopes below.

Helen sketched out her ideas for the spacious new kitchen and discussed them with C G Fry’s joinery shop manager James Ireland. The final design was then passed to the joinery shop which made all the bespoke units in-house. “I had a very clear idea of what I wanted,” she explains. “We love entertaining and I wanted a large kitchen and a really big breakfast bar with a quirky bit at the end where people could congregate.”

Helen’s super new kitchen is lit by recessed down-lighters and a series of large, eye-catching pendant lights, by Neptune, which stylishly illuminate the central breakfast bar and informal dining area. A long table,capable of seating at least ten people, offers diners stunning views across the valley.

The floor plan of the original house remains the same; there are still two sitting rooms – one now functions as a TV room – and these have been installed with wood-burning stoves for additional warmth, and a cosy glow, if required. There are new stone fireplaces too, with old flagstones for hearths, and Helen has added panelled wainscot to the walls because, she feels, “it helps to make quite a small room look bigger.”

The couple’s three children chose their favourite patterned wallpapers for a feature wall in each of their bedrooms. In addition to choosing the colour scheme throughout the house, Helen selected the curtain fabrics which, along with the elegant London blinds in her office, came with lots of helpful advice from Country Seats in Bridport.

Outside, the well-maintained gardens offer visual interest all year round. This year the apple trees in the orchard have been very productive, yielding nearly three tons of fruit, most of which has been made into cider by a local specialist cider maker.

Some of the fruit though has been used to make fresh apple juice so that Eric, Helen and their children can enjoy the fruits of their labours.

Useful contacts

C G Fry & Son Ltd: Litton Cheney, Dorchester, DT2 9AS. Tel: 01308 482000, cgfry.co.uk, Contact; Michael Pinney: Contracting General Manager.

Stuart Martin Architects: Lewcombe Woods Farmhouse, Evershot DT2 0PH. Tel: 01935 83543, stuartmartinarchitects.com
Country Seats: 18 South Street, Bridport DT6 3NQ. Tel: 01308 427968. countryseats.co.uk

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