Show home chic in Hughenden Valley
PUBLISHED: 15:00 30 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:28 20 February 2013
Garden and interiors designer Sue Blakeley's classic Chilterns cottage is where she can showcase her creative skills, says Tessa Harris
Sue Blakelys brick and flint home, nestling in the Hughenden Valley above High Wycombe, is the very model of a stylish country cottage. Exuding elegance and good taste with more than a touch of French chic, her creative talents are also on display in her idyllic garden with its unending views of the Chiltern Hills. The house and gardens are where she can indulge in her personal passion for design, both inside and out, and then show her creative labours to prospective clients.
Yet the picture-perfect house is also a family home that Sue shares with husband Tony, sons Charlie, 15, and Jack, 12, three dogs and two cats.
She explains:I wanted to create a lifestyle rather than just a home with versatile family living and entertaining space both indoors and out.
The family had lived in Buckinghamshire for many years but were looking to move to a more rural area when a friend said that she had found the perfect place for them. Sue went to see the cottage and immediately saw its potential.
It was in a terrible state and we knew we would have to do everything to it, but its location is just unbelievable, she says.
The house was originally two cottages which were converted into one by the previous owners, but the property still needed major structural alterations and extensions.
We moved in for a little while then went to stay in a friends house nearby for four months until some of the work had been done. We then moved back in while kitchens and bathrooms were being installed. The boys enjoyed it. It was like camping for them, she smiles, adding: At one point only the roof remained. We had to rebuild every single wall.
The new extensions mean that the house has doubled in size. It also meant that Sue could dictate the size of the rooms. I wanted them to be generously proportioned, she explains, adding that only one bedroom remains its original size.
While Sue has been a garden designer for 10 years, it has only been in the last couple that she has transferred her skills indoors as well. I just started do interior design for friends and it caught on, she explains.
The entrance hall has received the most dramatic treatment. The front of the house was extended to create a double height hallway.
There was a poky shower room in here, too, but I wanted to let in as much light as possible, explains Sue. A wide window above the doorway offers more stunning views from the stop of the stairs.
The central feature of the light and airy dual aspect drawing room is the impressive wood burning stove. Using her many contacts, Sue was also able to commission local craftsmen to build fitted cabinets and book shelves in the family area.
Sues work takes her on regular buying trips to France and Belgium. I source many of my large trees and almost all my furniture from France, she says, so it is little wonder that there is a distinctly Gallic feel to the colours, furnishings and fabrics that she has chosen.
The walls in the sitting room are painted in Thames Mud from Zoffany, while the curtain fabric is by Jane Churchill. The effect is to draw the whole rustic look together and then lighten it with cream sofas, chairs and cushions. Light floods in from more French doors at the back of the room that looks out onto a delightful potager.
At the back of the house Sue created a large kitchen/dining area. To maximise the light as well as the magnificent views of the Chiltern countryside in the property, she created a triple aspect to the space with three sets of French doors giving access to the south west facing terrace and the magnificent views beyond.
Again she has used soft neutrals in the colour scheme My family calls them sludge colours, but I love the rustic feel they give to the place, says Sue. The walls are painted in a delicate shade of pale grey which Sue mixed herself, while the long curtains are in a Jane Churchill fabric.
Fitted hand crafted cabinets afford ample storage space in the kitchen and include a useful pantry cupboard. The focal point of the room is the large central island unit with space for stools. Integrated features include a double butlers sink , a clever two-drawer dishwasher which means you dont have to wait for a full load before you wash, and a four oven oil fired AGA. Natural stone floors enhance the quality and feel of both the kitchen/dining room and reception hall.
On the first floor the vaulted master bedroom is quite special. Double doors and a Juliet balcony offer panoramic views over the gardens and rolling paddock land without another house in sight. Its the most wonderful view to wake up to, says Sue.
The bedroom itself is furnished with rustic antiques and the bed is covered in a French chenille throw. A pretty French chandelier hangs from the ceiling.
One of the original bedrooms has been turned into an en suite bathroom and dressing room that adjoins the master bedroom. At its centre is a romantic roll edge bath.
As a garden designer Sue is naturally passionate about her outdoor space and has used it imaginatively. At the rear of the house is an extensive lawned area to one side and a seasonal pond to the other. A Romany caravan makes a great little retreat, too. The wonderful and varied garden has exterior lighting and a good degree of seclusion provided by willow screening and high brick and flint walling and paddocks beyond, extending to around 10 acres. A large patio, skirted by raised flower beds, is perfect for entertaining.
With such a fabulous house and garden of her own, it was only natural that Sue felt the need to showcase her talents and ideas to prospective clients, so she has hosted several open days at the property.
For further information on Sues work, her website is: www.sueblakeley.com.