Cool, Calm and Christmassy

13th November 2015

Jo and Simon Rutt extended their loft to create a tranquil master bedroom suite inside their dream home, brimming with charm and character

A stroke of luck and a twist of fate brought Jo and Simon Rutt and their two sons to their new Hertfordshire home several years ago. “I remember feeling very reluctant to leave our Victorian flat in Finchley, which we had outgrown by the time William was a toddler and Harry was born,” says Jo. “My sister lives on the next road down from us and had noticed this pretty cottage had come up for sale and informed my mother who persuaded me to have a look. As soon as I walked up the path and peered through the letterbox and saw the original cast iron fireplace in the hall I was sold!”… and without delay, Jo and Simon sold their flat and proceeded with a private purchase, buying from two daughters who had inherited the cottage from their elderly parents.

“The house had been rented out for a few years but was in good condition with all the original features including cupboards, fireplaces and wooden floors,” adds Jo. “We moved in when Harry was just six-months old. Moving day went smoothly until we returned from having dinner in a local pub and couldn’t find the cat, who, through fear, had escaped up the chimney! My mum always says the first thing you should do when you move into a new house is to make up the beds, which luckily we had done, so when the cat finally came out of hiding, she ran into our bedroom and headed straight into our bed for comfort.”

The first job Jo and Simon tackled was to replace the old-fashioned boiler in the dining room with a combination boiler housed in the utility room adjoining the kitchen. “An old range cooker would have once stood inside the central cupboard in the dining room, which had long been replaced by a large tanked boiler that we took out,” explains Jo. “I use the centre cupboard to store away my vintage china, glassware and crockery and the boys have claimed the other two to store their books, toys and games.”

Jo’s talent in discovering vintage homewares, antiques and upcycling furniture has led to her business ‘Nickel and Goose’, one of several units inside a vintage barn called the Hertfordshire Craft Collective at Battlers Green Farm in Radlett. “I have a huge interest in Vintage homewares and love to spend my weekends going to flea and antique markets and vintage fairs where treasure hunt for my shop and my home,” she adds. “Lots of my favourite finds have been from local car boot sales. The pine chest in the sitting room was from the back of a van during a house clearance. I negotiated some great prices for a few items including a pine chest. When I got home and opened it up it was full of old photographs. I later learnt that servants used to keep all their treasures in old boxes like this one.”

Their biggest undertaking took place three years ago, when Simon sold his software business enabling the couple to finance a loft extension to create a master suite and update the family bathroom.
“Everyone asked when we were building the loft extension if it was for the boys – and I laughed, replying ‘no it’s for us!’…” admits Jo. “The boys both have great size bedrooms and we turned Harry’s old bedroom into an office for Simon.”

Having inspected several building projects of theirs, the couple hired Danny Bowell of Building Services, Harrow and employed his architect to assist with the council planning application. “As the scaffolding went up at the front of the house, there was hardly any mess or inconvenience caused to us living here,” Jo adds. “Danny was fantastic and completed the job in just six weeks and did such a great job at matching the original balustrades on the new staircase leading up to the loft, which looks seamless.”

The master bedroom is a tranquil space with powder blue painted walls and built in floor to ceiling cupboards, elegantly hidden from view located behind the door. “I didn’t want to see rows of wardrobes and a small part of me thinks I should maybe paint the old mahogany chest of drawers but the rest of me loves it as it really stands out from the blue walls and other white painted woods,” she adds. “I’m constantly moving furniture, objects and artwork around, I find it easier to live with neutral backgrounds allowing colour to come from accessories. I seem to be drawn to pale soft blues, earthy greens and muted greys which I find particularly calming colours to live with.”

Jo visited her local Fired Earth showroom where she selected green retro metro tiles offset against traditional white and chrome style fixtures and fittings and a contrasting black slate floor for the family bathroom.
With Jo’s creative eye to seek out antiques and bargains, the cottage has interesting finds and touches dotted about in every corner as well as colourful abstract paintings by Jo’s sister in law, artist Philly Rutt.
Having recently celebrated a special birthday, Jo and Simon returned from France with even more treasures for their home.

“We had an incredible experience staying in a French Chateaux in Bordeaux where we ate the most amazing food and visited fabulous antique shops where I discovered a selection of vintage glass decanters we bought back,” says Jo. “People always ask me where to go to pick up bargain furniture and antiques. I always say Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton on every second and last Tuesday of the month, but you need to get there early in the morning to pick up the best bargains. All the dealers from France and Belgium attend with their beautiful finds.”

Turning their attentions to their inherited kitchen, Jo and Simon hope to transform the space next year. “I still see the house as evolving and its very much work in progress,” Jo admits. “Having seen the extended space in our neighbours home, which is amazing, we’d love to do the same and open up the back of the house and enlarge the kitchen.”

This Christmas will be a real family affair spent at Simon’s father and stepmother’s country home, lovingly known to all the family as ‘Rutt HQ’. “We have a large family so Christmas time is always chaotically busy with lots of fun to be had. Simon's stepmother Sandy is an incredible cook and the days are filled with astoundingly good food, champagne, Christmas games and plenty of festive cheer and laughter.”

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