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A cool yule at Walpole barn

PUBLISHED: 13:08 16 December 2010 | UPDATED: 18:16 20 February 2013

Laura the pony with her Christmas trimmings and Lucy, John and the children wrapped up against the chill

Laura the pony with her Christmas trimmings and Lucy, John and the children wrapped up against the chill

An 18th century working barn became a beautiful home from home for Lucy and John Winter and their holiday guests, as well as a wonderful place to entertain friends and family at Christmas

An 18th century working barn became a beautiful home from home for Lucy and John Winter and their holiday guests, as well as a wonderful place to entertain friends and family at Christmas




Words by JANE GRAINING


Photos by POLY ELTES




No one could deny that old barns are beautiful and dramatic structures, but it is also true that when converted into homes the interiors are often less than cosy. Not so with Old Hall Farm, Walpole, in the heart of the Suffolk countryside and the barn conversions which Lucy and her husband John carried out a couple of years ago.
After a long history as a dairy farm the Winters decided that they needed to diversify in order to move their business into the 21st century. Converting their three barns into holiday accommodation meant the place where John had grown up, which is also near to Lucys family home, could stay intact. Lucy ploughed all her design and decoration skills into the barn restoration, using very much the same style as in the farmhouse at Hall Farm. I wanted to create a real home from home atmosphere for family holidays, she says.
Her previous work experience was in catering. I ran my own business for 10 years before marrying John, but once we had the children, Archie and Rose, now aged ten and nine, it was not so easy. Lucy now cooks for her holiday visitors. If its a special occasion she will cook and serve for a lunch or dinner party, otherwise I take dishes down for people to help themselves or I can do freezer food, fish pies and the like, she says.
Being busy is something both she and John, who still runs the farm, really relish, including lots of the basic labouring work for the renovation. Johns Uncle George, who is a professional builder, supervised their labours and brought in specialists, plumbers and electricians, plasterers and other craftsmen. Together they have transformed the working buildings, reconfiguring the internal space into stylishly comfortable interiors which respect the charm and character of the original 18th century barns while providing all modern facilities.
Inspired by all of the natural materials of the framework like the rich red brick of the walls and the beautiful solid oak beams which make bold, strong patterns on the vaulted ceilings, Lucy chose other furnishing materials to echo and compliment the look. On the ground floor there is a warm biscuit coloured fossilized sandstone in the dining hall and kitchen with oak floorboards in the sitting room. My colour schemes were usually dictated by the fabrics picked for curtains and blinds which I tend to choose first. Spots and pretty floral checks from Laura Ashley and Dunelm Mill feature at the windows with checks and plains for upholstery on sofas and chairs from Ikea.
Lucy picked out the soft oatmeal shade, one of the background tones of the kitchen blind fabric, Bolle Summer by Dunelm Mill, as inspiration for the paint colour she chose for the walls, matching it up to China Cup from the Period Colours Collection by Crown. To this warm, neutral and organic shell she added splashes of bold colour like the vibrant scarlet cushions on the sofas and more strong pastel tones of sugar pink in the bedroom and bathroom.
The furniture in the barn is a clever, eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional. The kitchens are simple wooden farmhouse style from Jewsons and the classic ladderback chairs are also from a local shop, Sole Bay Pine. I also like going to local auctions and junk shops.
She found lots of the furniture like the settle in the porch and the dresser in the dining hall at the Diss Auction Rooms. Coffee tables, bed heads and accessories like pictures also came from Diss and another auction house at nearby Beccles. In order to best utilise bedroom space, Lucy designed simple oak framed cupboards with a hanging rail and calico curtains instead of doors rather than using free standing wardrobes.
Though the barns are ostensibly for holiday visitors they are a splendid asset for all the family parties and get togethers the Winter family have. Lucy is one of four as is John and now there are husbands and wives and children there are quite a lot of us for big celebrations like Christmas.
The traditional programme for the festivities starts with the Christingle service on Christmas Eve at Walpole Church which we can walk to and often we invite friends at the service to come back for drinks here afterwards. The children get to open one present before church on Christmas morning then its home for lunch. We normally have turkey and all the trimmings but sometimes one of the family asks for goose and I usually end up cooking both.
On Boxing Day the Winter family usually go to Southwold and the rugby match on the common the over 30s against the over 40s. John does not play any more but we always go and afterwards we walk on the beach, have a drink in the pub and then come back to Old Home Farm for a late lunch.
Lucy decorates for Christmas with lots of greenery collected from the fields and hedgerows branches of holly, laurel and eucalyptus and tendrils of ivy which are draped along shelves and on window sills. She is particularly pleased this year with her table decoration on the big table in the dining hall which she made using vine and laurel branches and then decorated it with fir cones. The barn is just a perfect place at Christmas. I can entertain at least half of my family here without feeling squashed!


For information about Old Hall Farm Holiday Barns and for details about the small seasonal game shoot run on the farm contact: Lucy Winter, 01986 784345, www.oldhallfarmcottages.co.uk

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