Pastures New

17th November 2017

JB and Chris Wild’s eco-friendly Cotswolds home is the epitome of fine country living with 21st century style and flair.

words: natalie flaum | photography: alison hammond

Few Househunters would have shown the courage and enthusiasm displayed by JB and Chris Wild when they first noticed a tumbledown cottage for sale by auction. “On the same day I saw the sign advertising the plot and cottage, a friend of mine phoned to say it was right up my street and persuaded me to see it that evening,’ says JB. “We were looking for an opportunity to design our own home in an unspoilt location and this was perfect… rural and just off the beaten track with plenty of land. Auction day was terribly nerve-racking, so we asked a friend to bid on our behalf. It turned out that the plot had been in the same family for 90 years – we were so lucky to get it.”

Having successfully won the bid, the Wilds moved into the cottage in September 2007 and, together with local architect Peter Yiangou, drew up plans for a new eco-friendly home overseen and managed by Chris and his building firm. “The inspiration behind the project was a local 18th century farmhouse just a stone’s throw away, that we had long admired and drive past daily,” says JB. “Our aim was to create a flexible, fun, sustainable and functional family home that would sit comfortably within its surroundings.”

With no central heating in the run-down cottage, the family faced a challenging time over the next eighteen months. “Thankfully we didn’t have too cold a winter, as we soon realised that we were sharing our bathroom with rats, slugs and every kind of creepy-crawly imaginable… It was fun for the children,” recalls JB. The family stored most of their possessions and furniture in the barns. It was a big change for everyone, but, as JB says, they knew it would only be temporary. “We learned to be incredibly patient until all permissions were consented.”

Finally the building work began in earnest in September 2009, and the family moved to alternative accommodation nearby for a further six months so that the existing cottage could be demolished to make way for the new build.
“We used reclaimed stone left over from the cottage and local limestone which is why the exterior doesn’t look like a typical new build, as it has retained the character of the original building,” JB explains.

The Wilds opted for an advanced building method known as SIP (Structural Insulated Panels) – a system that involves quick-to-assemble composite lightweight panels that offer superior insulation, structural strength and air-tightness.
“It was great to be able to give new technology a go,” declares Chris. “The house is best described as a Georgian farmhouse in style, although given the levels of insulation and air tightness we’ve achieved, it’s cutting-edge in function.”

JB explains that Chris was thoroughly hands-on with the project, not only managing his team but also working alongside them. “This was his first SIP build and probably the largest one we’ve done for ourselves,” says JB. “The process meant that we could build the inside and outer shell at the same time… from foundations to decorating took just four months – very fast work indeed.”

The focal point in the kitchen is the central unit made of solid Scottish elm topped with Cumbrian stone. On the other side of the flank wall, where a long rectangular aubergine storage unit sits, is a unique hidden-from-view walk-in larder.

For the kitchen, JB’s friend and interior designer Helen Holmes recommended designer Dominic Ash. “Helen designed all our curtains for us and introduced me to Dom who is an outstanding designer and a true gem. He thinks outside the box and completely understood what we wanted to achieve with regards to the use of space and his style was exactly what I was looking for. Especially that genius larder-cum-storage room,” says JB. “I also adore the mosaic-mirror splashback that took all of 2,000-odd tiles that had to be individually stuck on – a monotonous day’s work, but you get a beautiful shimmer, the like of which you’d never get from sheet tiling. Our kitchen is a space where you don’t have to pace about as everything is to hand and easy to use.”

For the rest of the decor JB has collected various furniture items and accessories from local antique fairs whilst scouring for silver for her jewellery business.

“We inherited most of the furniture from our parents… we brought it with us from our previous home and stored it in the barns,” says JB. “Most of the colour choices and accessory decisions are to my taste and instinct. My appreciation for colour began during my Art History student days.” She has a particular fondness for the Post-Impressionist period. She has also personalised her art collection with portraits of the children by local artist Lucinda Roper – JB especially loves the one of herself and daughter Amber on horseback – and paintings left to her by her late mother, including one of her granny riding side saddle.

“There are no rules when it comes to interior design,” she continues. I think you have to really love what you choose to live with. The best advice I can give is to mix old with new, be bold, go large wherever possible, try to use what you have and go with your instinct. It’s also much easier to live in a house first, so take your time and observe how it evolves. It’s easy to run out of steam when doing everything all at once, so I think it’s best to do it in stages.’

In the end the project took just eight months, and the Wilds were finally able to move home during the spring of 2010. “We moved in on my birthday in May, so a large part of the day was spent unpacking although we were on a fantastic buzz to finally be in our new home,” says JB “It felt a bit like staying at a five star hotel at first – now we’ve got to the point where we’re really enjoying living here.”

QUICK CHECK

The Property:
New-build eco-friendly five bed farmhouse in Bourton-on-the-Water, Cotswolds

Who Lives Here:
JB Wild, an interiors and silverware designer, and her husband, Chris, owner of Wild Projects (a residential property firm specialising in high-tech, eco-friendly building methods) along with their teenage children Max, Luke and Amber… plus two dogs, one cat, one horse, three ponies and five chickens.

What They Did:
Pulled down an existing cottage and started again from scratch.

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