Whilst I live in a new build, period properties have my heart. Whilst you can look to replicate character, newer properties just don’t have the high ceilings, the space, the features (like cellars) that you get with the older builds. Today I’m chatting with Philippa McFarlane who is the owner of the incredible Sandrock House
We’re talking about the amazing wine cellar, the dentists chair and everything in between.
Hi Philippa, I’d love to know a little more about you and your family…
Me, my husband Al and we have 3 young boys aged 8,6 and 3. We live in a small town in Surrey. I am a creative, passionate about interior design and studied interior architecture at university, whilst my husband is a techie and works within a research and development domain. We are both passionate about our home and spend a lot of time, and money, renovating it and choosing unique and characterful pieces to furnish it with.
Our home is a Victorian, semi-detached with 7 bedrooms, two family bathrooms, a WC, Utility room, a study, two reception rooms, two kitchens, a study and a small music room, spread over 3 floors, with an additional basement (not the wine cellar) used for storage. There is a turret feature in one front corner the of the building and a glazed orangery at the back which opens out onto a courtyard with sweeping steps up to the back garden.
Your house has so many stunning features Philippa,
can you walk us through it?
As you walk into the property there is a study on the right and a living room on the left. Walking though the hallway into the back of the house there is a family living room which leads into the orangery and out into a courtyard to access the garden. This is also open plan from the large kitchen which is also accessible from the hallway.
There is a utility room and downstairs loo on this floor. The cellar is accessible by a trap door from the kitchen and houses a small workshop and the central heating system (a semi commercial boiler & mega flow). We installed a ‘Spiral’ wine cellar into the solid floor just off the kitchen more about this below!
On the first floor there are 5 bedrooms, two are adjoining, and we use one of those as a cinema and games room for our boys. We carved out a section of one of the other bedrooms to create a walk-in wardrobe for the master bedroom and there is also a family bathroom on this floor.
As we move up to the second floor there are two large bedrooms, a spacious bathroom and a small kitchen. There is also an unusual room with a corridor leading to the turret in the front corner of the house that my husband uses as his music room.
The proportions of all the rooms are large, still with the original period features (high ceilings, ornate cornicing, tall skirting boards, an elegant staircase, sash windows and feature fireplaces.) We believe the house was originally a Victorian school which over the years had been converted into 4 flats and back again into a house by the owners previous to the ones we purchased from.
Have you been there a while now and how did you find it (tips please!)
We have lived here for six years now after having spent two years searching for the right property. We were intent on finding a period property full of character that included original features and would give us the space we needed for our growing family as well as extra space to guests. Location was a really important factor as we wanted to be within walking distance to the town we live in and the local schools.
We fell in love with our home the moment we stepped foot through the front door. It met so many of our requirements in terms of the size, space, period features and potential to renovate and integrate our own style into the period property. It has some quirky features, a lovely layout and a welcoming soul. We saw it as our dream opportunity to be the custodians of this beautiful Victorian building and were excited to undertake the extensive, but necessary, work to make it more energy efficient and cost effective to run.
Whilst the building was structurally sound when we purchased it, there was a lot of essential maintenance that needed to be undertaken, for example; repairing the roof and gutter works, rebuilding one of the large chimney stacks and addressing some dry rot that had been treated but not ‘made good’
We bought it from a lovely family who have two boys and bizarrely they previously lived in the same street we were moving from. We lived with my sister-in-law for 7 months whilst the sale of the property went through. We also had our 2nd son during this time and moved in when he was 4 months old.
Your home is full of incredible features, some are structural for example the amazing wine cellar and the kitchen/orangery, and others you have created into a feature (the bath in your bedroom and the beautiful wooden wall and steps in your son’s bedroom). What’s your favourite feature in your home?
I love the period cornicing and the tall skirting boards in the downstairs rooms and hallway, they were the first things that struck me when I first stepped through the front door. I also especially love the Catchpole and Rye weathered copper bath we installed into our bedroom. Its real luxury to have this feature and with the walk-in wardrobe creating an uncluttered and spacious bedroom it’s a real treat to spend an hour or so pampering myself with a long soak in the tub.
Being passionate about interiors and design meant we were keen to renovate and integrate our style into the property. Our big project to renovate the back part of the house on the ground floor has been so rewarding to create what has become my dream open plan kitchen, dining and living space.
Where do you take the most inspiration from for your home?
I am constantly inspired by our travels and take a lot of inspiration from the interesting places, buildings and spaces we visit and enjoy as a family. Quirkiness, practicality and quality materials are important when we embark on planning a space or feature for our home.
Talk to me about original features, how have you saved them?
We are passionate about maintaining the original period features in our home and have gone to great lengths to preserve these features whilst also adding in new elements that are sympathetic to the period of the house.
All the original large single paned sash windows in the house have been replaced with hardwood timber framed, double glazed sealed units, which have identical profiles to the original windows. Some of the cornicing, which was damaged, in one of the bedrooms has been sympathetically repaired and many of the fireplaces which had layers of paint have been stripped back to reveal the original details.
We installed a tiled mosaic floor in the hallway which exactly replicates the original Victorian tiled floor in the porch and we feel that this adds a lot of character to the entrance to our house and so many people presume that it’s an original feature.
As we renovate each room we have been replacing the radiators with new traditional cast iron units, manufactured by Paladin Radiators, which we feel also add to the period feel of the house. We have also added ‘salvaged’ finger plates to many of the internal doors and have sourced period chandeliers for many of the rooms and hallways too.
During the renovation of the kitchen / orangery area we were keen to integrate elements of the old orangery into the new design. Whilst we extended it out by 1m to make it a larger space suitable for a dining room, we kept a similar design of the lantern which is now twice the original width, altered the pitch of the glazed roof and incorporated double doors whilst changing the proportions of the vertical windows overlooking the new courtyard area to better match the the windows above. The overall finished design echo’s the original structure however now presents a wonderful open plan living space within.
I love the old dentist’s chair you have in your home (and with the theatre lights above) I am a lover of having quirky pieces that instantly start a conversation when people come in (but you have a little more space than me!) what other quirky items do you have around your home?
We love the dentist chair too as it a classic piece of design we consider it to be a piece of art. We love to source pieces that have a history to them too. We are passionate about music and have an eclectic collection of Bowers and Wilkins speakers two of which are the Emphasis speakers in the front room which were only made very small quantities and quite rare to come by due to their fragility of their design.
How did you design the wine cellar?
We didn’t! Its designed and installed by Spiral Cellars. These cellars are required to be surrounded by solid floor to achieve the ideal temperature for storing wine and this area in our kitchen lends itself perfectly. Our builders spent a week digging the hole for the wine cellar!
Do you have any future projects coming up for your home?
The family bathroom is the next big project on our hit list this year and we also have plans to makeover the cinema and games room and a bedroom the 1st floor.
I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a pleasure to get some more information about Philippa’s home, I’ve been thinking of which floor I can dig up for that wine cellar, and how long it would take me with a garden trowel…
All images are taken from the Sandrock House Instagram page