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From blank canvas to beautiful home at Lavenham

PUBLISHED: 10:57 11 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:19 20 February 2013

From blank canvas to beautiful home at Lavenham

From blank canvas to beautiful home at Lavenham

A fine property deserves a fine interior and that is exactly what Susie and Jonathan Darvell-Wright have created in their lovely Lavenham home.

From blank canvas to beautiful home at Lavenham

A fine property deserves a fine interior and that is exactly what Susie and Jonathan Darvell-Wright have created in their lovely Lavenham home.

You can see why former conference and banqueting organiser Susie Darvell-Wright fell in love with the Old Rectory at Lavenham, a sought after property in one of the countys prettiest villages.
In fact, Susie wanted it so much she started negotiations to buy it before informing her husband!
I suppose I was naughty. It suddenly came on the market and after viewing it I knew it would go quickly so I had to act fast. It was then that I had my lightbulb moment. How could I convince my husband to buy it? The answer just came to me, I could turn it into a bed and breakfast and sell it to him as a business proposition.
Despite living in Surrey at the time Susie knew about Suffolk. I lived in Reydon for about five years when I was 20, and we have a holiday cottage in Southwold, she says. And the slightly off the beaten track whereabouts of the property hasnt been a problem. Susies husband Jonathan liked what he saw and the two decided to take on the project. He commutes most days to his job in the City as chief executive of a headhunting company.
Although Susie has become something of an expert in developing properties and appears the type always keen to improve her home and garden you sense this is the family home she always wanted.
It belonged to a well-loved local doctor and despite my misgivings about some of the interior colours, the gas bar fires in front of the fireplaces, and being overgrown at the front it was undeniably a fine property, says Susie. For me it was like a blank canvas, a big investment but one I knew was going to be worthwhile.
Previously, the Darvell-Wrights had owned a 1960s bungalow in Surrey which Susie developed from a basic three bed layout into a 5,000 square feet show house and Susie had project managed other home v
v improvements in that county.
We rented out the house in Camberley then sold it just before the property crash, she says.
With Susies drive and love of interiors (her mother was a fashion designer) and ex Formula 3 racing driver Jonathans business acumen, it was only a matter of time before their life together took another exciting turn.
Cue the move to Suffolk.
There are two parts to the house, the rooms occupied by the Darvell-Wrights and those areas for the bed and breakfast guests. Both are lovely.
Guests booking in go through a hallway to a staircase with ornate wrought iron balustrades (something of a challenge for the workmen who had to install it, says Susie) and up to three elegant and individually-designed bedrooms. They are named after the countys celebrated painters, Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable but also after John DeVere, the 13th Earl of Oxford, who was instrumental in building the stunning church which stands opposite the rectory. All have en suite bathrooms and there is an original (and very heavy looking) Victorian shower bath in the Gainsborough room (another nightmare to install, no doubt, but a really interesting addition to the room). v
v The guest rooms have luxurious bed linens, flat screen televisions, tea and coffee making facilities but all, points out Susie, have their own individual style. We have travelled and been in five star hotels where there is a uniformity and slight coldness. We wanted to make these rooms more intimate.
Downstairs, breakfast can be taken in an enchanting bright and welcoming breakfast room that looks out on the garden.
And outside, those gardens are spectacular with ponds, herbaceous borders, arched walkways, rose and vegetable gardens and a Victorian style greenhouse. Theres even a Japanese look to the grounds at the front of the house with its little white arched bridge spanning a pond.
There is much to admire but its been hard work for the Wrights. Early reward has come in the first year with the Independent newspaper ranking the Lavenham Old Rectory v
v B&Bs in Britain.
The local community have been so supportive, people used to walk past and tell us we were bringing the property back to life.
What appealed to me from the start was this was not an isolated house, and there is a real sense of community here. Even our teenage son, used to living nearer to London, sees it as home. Its about the quality of life we have here and feeling comfortable.
Though not too comfortable . . . Susie next wants to develop the coach house and create a swimming pool.

-For details on how to stay at the Lavenham Old Rectory in Church street, Lavenham call 01787 247572 or email


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