Think of the city of Bath and its surrounding area, and the image that springs to mind will be of the honey-coloured stone houses that proliferate across the hillsides. For many considering living in the area, this is the ideal: a Georgian home, complete with a Farrow & Ball-painted front door. However, this particular fantasy comes with an eye-watering price tag.
For antique dealers Andy and Lucy Loran, owning a period house was their vision, until they saw the cost. With three young children and another on the way, they had to put practicality over aesthetics. So they gave up on their Georgian dream and instead bought an affordable, yet austere, 1960s bungalow near the River Avon.
The property had a vast garden, the capacity to add extra bedrooms, and a driveway with space for several cars – a field was even thrown in as part of the deal. They set to work transforming the interior into the kind of house they originally had in mind.
‘Our life is about making something out of nothing,’ says Lucy. ‘Although the house was not aesthetically pleasing outside, we knew we could give it the feel of a period house on the inside.’
They stripped back the entire property, ripping out dated 1960s wallpapers and carpets and revealing the original wooden floors, which they limewashed to add texture and depth. They then knocked through a dark narrow hallway to create a large dining room, added central heating, put in a Victorian-style staircase and converted the loft into two bedrooms. Then, they filled it with antiques and heirlooms, giving it a character and charm that is completely at odds with its boxy, brutalist exterior.
As part of their business, the couple have sourced antiques for Ralph Lauren stores around the world, as well as Soho House, Malmaison hotels and the National Trust, among others. At home, they like to surround themselves with large statement pieces, which, says Lucy, ‘make you feel differently. We are always drawn to the biggest pieces of furniture,’ she adds. ‘It has to be strong, with a wow factor.’
This approach works to brilliant effect in the dining room, where a vast red 1930s cabinet, which formerly belonged to a bank, is used to store dry goods. The dining table can seat 10 comfortably and is surrounded by 19th-century French chairs with a long cyan-blue bench. A sizable wrought-iron chandelier hangs above. A hefty gilt mirror and a huge ceramic pot add to the oversized effect.
The couple believe that colour is fundamental to creating an aged aesthetic, and getting it right is key. ‘Colour can make you feel relaxed and comfortable; it can evoke a sense of security,’ says Lucy. They used Farrow & Ball paints, opting for many colours from the brand’s archive to complete their design look and bring a sense of history. For Lucy, buying something new is almost sacrilege. ‘The world is full of furniture already,’ she says.
Their work, they admit, is like an obsession, and they only buy things they absolutely love, which can often mean heartbreak when it is sold. Their house is both shop and showroom, so pieces come and go – the dining table is the seventh they’ve had. ‘The kids come home from school and there will be a different table,’ Lucy says, with a laugh. But however much things chop and change around their house, they are always living with pieces that bring them joy. ‘If you surround yourself with things you love, it makes you feel good,’ says Lucy. Proof that when it comes to being happy at home, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Sitting room (below and top)
The terracotta paint, Menagerie from Farrow & Ball, gives a warmth and intensity to the space, while the coving provides depth. The lighting adds historical overtones – a large wrought-iron ceiling chandelier which belonged to Lucy’s mother holds court, while smaller lamps from various periods support it. The coffee table holds an 18th- century bread rack piled with reference books. The Georgian fire surround was found at an auction at a country estate in the Cotswolds. The Victorian linen press still has its original green paint. The Georgian chair is Andy’s favourite – he stripped it and added a kilim rug to the seat.
The dining table was made by Andy from a piece of rare burr elm wood. An old English creamer ceramic bowl sits on the table, while behind, a trestle table shows off marble urns and stone pots. Victorian wooden window shutters were added either side of the 1960s oblong window to add architectural character and the wrought-iron chandelier finishes the striking elegance of this room.
The 18th-century moulding above the kitchen door is from an Irish castle and the convex Regency mirror was found at an auction. Stacks of pretty Provençal hand-made ceramic plates, bowls and serving platters line the wooden shelves. The top shelf was once a beam in a cottage and helps to create an aged feel in the kitchen, which is painted in Pigeon by Farrow & Ball.
The vast 20th-century four-poster bed was painted and distressed by Andy. The fabric wall hanging behind it is a 19th- century needlework pelmet that didn’t fit around the bed, so they put it on the wall. The collection of four 1970s smoked-glass mirrors fit perfectly inside the width of the bed and the glass chandelier was from a large Georgian property in Tetbury. The bedside lamps were found at auction.
A collection of Georgian and Victorian mirrors on the wall create a simple but striking effect. The reading stand was bought at auction. The 19th-century continental armoire was bought at a local stately home auction, and now stores towels and sundries.
Four ways to change the exterior of your home (and add value)
Larch timber A cost-effective choice that gives a light, rustic appearance. Siberian larch, from £54 per sq m, Timber Focus.
Charred wood The traditional Japanese method of scorching timber gives it an ultra-cool aesthetic. From £54 per sq m, Timber Focus.
Concrete Here, a nondescript house was given a new look by Sam Tisdall Architects, with a concrete-clad extension.
Paint The easiest way to deal with ugly brickwork is to paint it. Little Greene’s masonry paint comes in 199 colours. £69.50 for 5 litres.