Absolute beginner

Refurbishing the home she bought after her divorce proved a learning curve for Sara Hamilton. ‘ As a paediatrician, I’m trained to make important decisions in my field. But I had never chosen tiles, floorboards, kitchens and bathrooms, or done house refurbishment, andlacked confidence in these areas,’ she says. absolute beginner (7)

Sara enlisted the expertise of her friend and architect Johanna Ahrberg Jackson. ‘I wanted one communal space in the house to accommodate the needs of an eight year old, a 23 year old and a 40 year old – all of whom are very sociable,’ says Sara. ‘Johanna advised me to take down three walls – two separating the kitchen from the lounge and another separating the bathroom from the lounge.’ Creating the new open-plan kitchen, sitting room and dining area cost a metre from the bathroom – though raising the ceiling balanced the appearance. ‘Removing the kitchen wall improved the area and made four months living with rough floorboards, a temporary kitchen and a bath in the garden almost worthwhile,’ says Sara.And with her newborn she also have to find a place to store her best double jogging stroller after every time carrying the baby out.

An ugly built-in wardrobe was removed from her bedroom and replaced with a workbench-come-chest of drawers; her great dresses are displayed on an old coat stand. ‘I like the unconventionality, the turning expectations upside down. Just don’t open the door to the en-suite shower room or the contents of the former wardrobes will fall out,’ Sara laughs.

A quest for perfection

If Lucy Howard’s West Sussex home could talk, it would no doubt be offering her its heartfelt thanks. From a property that appeared to be stuck in an Eighties rut – think colour combinations of oxblood red and apricot, plus black- stained beams – she has created a home that is stylish and supremely comfortable, with fresh country schemes that carefully respect the period style of the building.A quest for perfection (1)It is Lucy’s enthusiasm, drive and, in her own words, ‘a lot of bossing’ that has turned this Grade II-listed cottage into the welcoming home that she shares with her husband Joe, a lawyer, teenage sons Harry and Oliver and two miniature dachshunds, Lottie and Linus. The first time the couple, who were based in London, drove down to visit it in 2008, Lucy recalls that they took one look at the breathtaking view from the garden across the South Downs National Park and knew this was the one. ‘That was before we had even set foot inside the house,’ she laughs. ‘We’d been coming to the area for years because Joe’s parents have a house nearby, so we knew that places in a location like this rarely come up for sale.’ The building, which was formerly two workers’ cottages serving the nearby farm, dates back to 1660, with later additions in the 1900s.