Cheshire Interiors - The Cottage, Bunbury
PUBLISHED: 12:20 02 August 2013
It was love at first sight for Mike Allon, the first glimpse his family had of their Bunbury home was when they were moving in
Thirteen years ago Lorraine Allon and her three children sat on the stairs at The Cottage in Bunbury and collectively burst into tears.
Husband Michael had bought them a new place to live - but hadn’t thought to consult his family.
‘We sat on the stairs and cried,’ reveals Lorraine.
‘The house wasn’t what it is now. It was a mismatch of old cottages and a 1970s extension - not my idea of the perfect home at all.’
In contrast, businessman Mike had walked into the house and was immediately smitten.
He explained: ‘I was based in South Wales and got an opportunity to work near Cheshire on two sites, one in Market Drayton and one in Colwyn Bay. Obviously, there were lots of houses between that distance so we decided to choose one on the basis of the quality of the local schools - Bunbury Junior and Tarporley High.’
‘ But when I walked in here I just fell in love with it.’
From the outside, this looks the typically idyllic country residence nestling as it does against Bunbury’s rolling farmland but in fact the house had been a bit of a mish-mash when the family moved in.
Says Mike: ‘The facade was quite farmhousy. That’s what we wanted. It was horrible, really 70s so we tried to keep it looking farmhouse-like and used reclaimed Cheshire brick.
‘It consisted of the front part which I believe is 1890 and the second part of the house would be ‘70s - and then we put our extension on in 2008 making it four bedrooms,’ adds Mike leading through to the first of two sitting rooms.
‘This was the original bit. When I came here the property sat on a red tile and all the central heating pipes ran along the top of the walls. But original features remained. That’s the original fireplace for example,’ he says pointing to a typically artisan stone fireplace.
‘And up to a few years ago, this part of the house was two farmworkers’ cottages. I met a lady who had lived in one of them and she told me she’d lived here with 11 brothers and sisters.’
He explains that the red tiling was replaced by wooden flooring and into the main dining room the couple installed a table and chairs bought in York.
‘That all came as a set together ‘ he points out.
‘The chair is an old Druid chair left to us by the lady who lived in our old house in Wales. Apparently it was one of a pair but the man who bought it couldn’t afford another one. It’s rather marvellous.’
In the second sitting room the seating was bought at a furniture shop in Chester and the rather elegant cupboard was bought at a local auction.
‘ I just liked it. That was another of my surprises for Lorraine,’ laughs Mike.
‘Off this room is my office, ladies aren’t normally allowed in here - that’s my domain. The pictures on the wall are of my mother and my dad my who flew Lancaster bombers in the war. Incredible. Another world.
‘Somebody did suggest that we pull down the walls and create a much bigger room but that’s too easy isn’t it?
A conservatory, complete with lights from an antique shop in Hereford, that Lorraine wasn’t keen on but Mike bought anyway (can we sense a pattern here?) Ziegler rugs from Turkey and candelabras from an antique fair, form the dividing line between the older part of the house and the 1990s extension.
Explains Mike: ‘We walk into what was the 70s bit with the kitchen made by a local Nantwich kitchen fitter, Harveys. The table was bought from an antique shop and painted up. When we did the extension we wanted somewhere for the kids to chill out so we contacted a local builder who works in oak, called Jeff Harding.
On to another room which was built as a kind of lair for the children.
‘We didn’t want an extension that looked totally different to the rest of the house. The furnishings, the sofa from the Furniture Village - have we got anything from Harrods in here? The picture is just an amateur picture from a local artist,’ says Mike.
Upstairs there’s a double bedroom: ‘The wardrobe we bought at auction. It’s French. The bed is repro, bought from a local bedmaker and the little horse belonged to the kids when they were growing up. Just something you can’t throw away, can you?’ says Lorraine.
‘This was my son’s room which I’ve just redecorated and turned into a home gym, well, I call it a storage room,’ jokes Mike.
The master bedroom is a huge surprise. Created on top of the newer extension it is a lovely big space with a floor to ceiling window that overlooks the fields and beyond.
Furnishings are elegant and again a mixture of comfortable pieces and antiques such as a trunk bought in South Wales that turned out to be Dutch and a chandelier from Laura Ashley, that all seem to work well together.
‘The paintings were from a local artist. The beams are solid oak and were made by the man from Harveys,’ says Mike.
‘The great thing about this bed is as soon as you’re in it you’re asleep within five minutes. The chair is from a little antique shop in Tarporley, while the caricatures on the bedroom wall were done at a conference dinner. That doesn’t look anything like me! And by the bathroom is a picture by daughter. It’s the front of the house and looks like modern art. We’ve got one of the Queen too’.
This is certainly a place suited to family life and summers are spent as much outdoors as well as inside the house.
‘We have breakfast out the back then maybe have tea out in the front garden when the sun comes round, explains Mike.
‘And it is such a wonderful village in which to live. We’ve got three lovely pubs and everything you’d want from village life, bowling club, lovely cricket not 100 yards away, tennis club, amateur dramatics - everything you can think of, however we are now planning to move on.
‘The children have left, I no longer work, my wife’s a nursery nurse who has had enough of children and I have learned I am too young to do nothing. So we thought we’d have a little adventure before we leave the planet.
‘ I bought a farm and I’m going to do what is fashionable at the moment, it’s called glamping. We’re at a great age to do other things.’
At this Lorraine doesn’t look too sure... but then at least she can be grateful that this time Mike has actually told her about their next big ‘adventure’.