Suffolk’s prettiest homes: A period farmhouse in rural Badingham

PUBLISHED: 13:42 11 January 2019

Shrublands Farm

Shrublands Farm


A mellow red brick farmhouse deep in rural Suffolk provides the perfect haven for Simon and Angela James | Words & Photos: Tony Hall

For Angela and Simon James, renovating property has been more than a mid-life career change. It’s meant a complete lifestyle change.

Simon once had a job in IT and communications with BT at Martlesham. It was what brought him to Suffolk. Angela worked for pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Now, the couple live in a restored farmhouse, surrounded by 11 acres, where they rear animals, and run Revive and Restore, their property renovation business.

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“I had always been interested in architecture, especially period buildings,” says Simon, “so when I decided to leave BT in 2009, and set up a business on my own, it was in that direction I chose to go. When I was growing up I wanted to be an architect, or an astronaut but I was too big for that.”

With great attention to detail and creativity Angela and Simon transformed an unremarkable chalet bungalow into a stylish modern home. They followed it with renovation of a holiday home at Orford and their new careers were launched.

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By good fortune, Simon’s former BT colleague and good friend, Alex Tarry, also left the company to start a holiday lettings business with his wife, Naomi. So, the friends decided to work together on some projects.

“Initially we bought odd properties, mainly in Aldeburgh, to completely renovate for holiday homes. We did most of the building work ourselves.”

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Meanwhile, Angela, who admits she has no formal training in interior design but says she has always had a passion for it, got involved by styling each of the properties. “I‘ve tried to bring in different ideas, often with colour, and top quality. Soon other holiday home owners were asking Simon to renovate their properties and provide a total interior design package, so that’s how the business started.”

Revive & Restore now employs a team of trades people and a receptionist at the company’s office in Halesworth. They also have a third hands-on director in Marcus Church, of Church and Gooderham kitchen and furniture makers.

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“We all have our strengths,” says Angela. “Marcus is good with the crew, Simon excellent on client liaison, myself day to day running and design.”

Angela and Simon’s own home, Shrublands Farm, is a period farmhouse in deepest rural Suffolk at Badingham. Built in 1642, it has later Victorian extensions and received some gentrification with a Georgian style facade in 1849.

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They bought the property about four years ago and embarked on a top to bottom refurbishment. The converted former piggeries on the property provided them with a home while much of the work was done.

Their ethos, says Simon, is to respect the age and integrity of a property, which means attention to detail and quality, good workmanship, traditional materials, doing the right thing for the house for future generations.

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“I like the interior decor to work with the architecture,” says Angela, “true to the style of the house, be it period or modern. I tend to choose big items first, then soft furnishings and then artefacts, until it all comes together. Here is exactly what we wanted – a perfect sanctuary for us and the animals, in truly rural Suffolk.”

One big challenge, says Simon, was stripping the property back to the original, removing more recent features such as laminate flooring and a PVC conservatory. With typical attention to detail, much time was spent designing and creating new architraves and mouldings, and organising replacement window frames made from Douglas fir, just as the originals would have been, with restoration glass, albeit double glazed.

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Simon and Angela’s philosophy, when it comes to renovation, is to be faithful to the origins of the building, but to ensure it provides all the comforts of modern living. So there is underfloor heating beneath the kitchen’s pamment tiles, doors and windows that exclude draughts, and some open-plan living, as in the spacious kitchen/dining room.

The rest of the house is more contained. A formal entrance hall – with its original staircase – a spacious living room running front to back of the house. There is a smaller, garden sitting room on the other side of the house, a cosy nook with a woodstove, much appreciated by the couple’s two working cocker spaniels.

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The bespoke kitchen/dining room by Gooderham & Church, runs the complete depth of the building, and off the kitchen is a cook’s dream, a bespoke larder created out of a former cloakroom. “The kitchen is my favourite room,” says Angela, “so much the heart of the home, although we both also love the garden sitting room. We use it a lot, and Simon likes it as it was the original part of the property. It’s our intention to add a period style conservatory in the future.”

Upstairs, on the half landing is a study-cum-office, and the main bathroom. It’s spacious, designed in traditional Victorian style with period fittings, yet with a nod to modern comfort – a double walk-in shower, low level WC, tiles from Just Tiles in Melton and ingenious radiators that double as bench seats.

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A great place to perch while you’re drying off in winter. On the full landing is the master bedroom, sumptuously furnished with richly coloured fabrics and period furniture. The couple are frequent visitors to local auction houses, scouring them for pieces to suit both their own home and those of their clients.

The bedroom has an en suite bathroom and a dressing room. Also on this floor is the bedroom in the oldest part of the house, evident in the thick clay lump walls which are unadorned by skirting and architraves. The room has a simple charm, especially the bed, cleverly constructed from sturdy, rustic timbers recycled from the former cellar.

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Simon and Angela are self-confessed foodies, concerned about food provenance. It was this, and the potential of the house, that got them interested in the Badingham property. They keep 25 Herdwick sheep, 10 goats, four Berkshire pigs, chickens, turkeys and a couple of bullocks, making them self-sufficient in meat.

“When we first moved here, there was six months of work getting the piggeries habitable, so we could live there. We also had to do a lot of land management – drains and clearing ditches,” says Simon. “Moving into the house is the realisation of a dream. Living here keeps us very much in tune with the seasons.”

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Favourite things

Room: The kitchen, the heart of the home, and the oldest bedroom with real character

Item: The bed in the master bedroom, specially restored and remade for Simon, who is 6ft 6 ins, by Bono Beds/Sleeping Partners in Framlingham

Interiors shop: Haus in Halesworth

Part of the county: Framlingham and its castle

Day out: Heveningham Country Show in June

Walk: Around the farm, with the dogs, working cocker spaniels Molly and Daisy

Pub: The White Horse at Badingham

Cafe/restaurant: Turkuaz, Woodbridge

Hobbies: Simon – anything to do with aviation and classic cars. He got his private pilot’s licence in 1994 and flies either a Cessna or a Piper.Angela loves cooking!

Most magical moment in the county: Sunset over Framlingham Castle

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