Suffolk’s prettiest homes: A renovated barn on the Sotterley Estate
PUBLISHED: 11:14 12 March 2019
A renovated barn on the Sotterley Estate combines open plan living with cosy seclusion | Words & Photos: Tony Hall
One of the great joys of living on the Sotterley Estate in the north of the county, according to Helen and Mark Rushton-Maynard, is being surrounded by Suffolk countryside, with its abundant wildlife, especially from the large windows of their renovated thatched barn.
With 18 months of hands-on work behind them, they can fully appreciate the delights of rural living.
The open plan, modern living/dining/kitchen area of their beautiful barn has a window that reaches from floor to ceiling, and French doors that lead out onto decking projected over a pond. Beyond are lawns and uninterrupted countryside. It is spectacular.
“We were fortunate that the gardens had been nicely planted by Ryl Nowell, a well known garden designer,” says Mark. “They have been simplified, and we cleared the pond and added decking.”
The barn is the second phase of renovation. The couple have already renovated The Granary, an annexe part which they turned into a stylish holiday let, full of character. Both Mark and Helen have been involved throughout this latest transformation.
“Just a few days ago,” says Mark, “I was up a 26 feet tall ladder attaching the lights that hang down over the table. I can tell you, honestly, my knees were shaking.”
Mark retired from his job as an estate agent in 2014, and together he and Helen began to look for property in their chosen locations of the New Forest and Suffolk.
Suffolk proved favourite and, after much searching, they were found the barn and outbuildings on the Sotterley Estate, just 15 minutes from Southwold.
Although the property had been converted when previously sold in the 1990s, it needed a major makeover, which has taken two-and-a-half years.
“When we first lived here – before the conversion – it was like a fridge, with wind whistling through the doors and windows,” says Helen. “We used over £2,000 worth of oil in our first winter.
“So, we have completely redesigned and reconfigured the barn, starting from the floor upwards, adding underfloor heating and completely opening up the living space which was previously divided up.”
They retained the full height of the building in the middle section, adding drama to the interior, while at either end, over the kitchen and sitting areas, they constructed mezzanine levels.
This created two extra bedrooms, with en suite bathrooms, one of which is the master bedroom complete with free-standing bath. It has also given a space that was literally ‘barn like’ a cosy ambience.
“We’ve kept what was our master bedroom on the ground floor, with en suite, but updated it,” says Mark.
“Next door there is now a bedroom for kids with bunk beds and its own bathroom, then a separate guest bedroom, all of which lead off the entrance hall. So now we have five bedrooms, which are ideal for friends, family and guests.
“The whole process took us one year-plus, flat out, but we did part of the cowshed wing first, giving us two bedrooms and a bathroom for some comfort for ourselves.”
Helen has renovated several properties before and has good ideas about interior design. “She does loads of research, both from magazines and the internet,” says Mark, “so then knows exactly what to go for to achieve the look.
“Clean lines, modern styling, muted tones, but odd splashes of colour. Our favourite room, without question is the main living/dining/kitchen area. It’s a very social area, where we and friends can spill out onto the decking. Besides the view – which is, to us, paramount – the areas divide up well.
“Our favourite item, the dining table, we saw on our honeymoon in Bali and had shipped back. It’s a focal point. But we also like the Smithfield Habitat sofas, which are great for cosy lounging in front of the log burner on winter nights.”
Another beautiful room is the summer/garden room that leads off the main space, with its whitewashed beams, wonderful garden and country views from the large window and French doors, its chaise placed just right to admire those views.
“It is only now,” says Mark, “that we both, at last, really have the opportunity to enjoy, not just the super local walks with our two dogs, but this area of Suffolk.
“Although it’s totally rural, we’re fortunate to have a super village stores in Wangford, about five minutes away.
“We love going out for a walk from the coastguard cottages at Minsmere, to the Eels Foot pub, maybe having lunch there. Nearer to hand the Wenhaston Star is a proper local – log fire, dogs, interesting locals, and good beer and food, a real find.
“We have two dogs, one called Kosmo who was rescued while we were on holiday. He had been abandoned, so we brought him home. We obviously enjoy lots of walks with them. And with so much lovely surrounding unspoilt countryside and coastline on our doorstep, we’re truly spoilt for choice.”
Alexander Barn Sotterley is available for holiday rental. Contact: Heritage Hideaways Southwold
T: 01502 322405
Favourite Suffolk things
ROOM: The living/dining/kitchen main room, a wonderful entertaining space
ITEM: The Smithfield Sofas by Habitat
SHOPS: Stag Interiors, Southwold, Wangford Village Stores
DAY OUT: Walking from the coastguard cottages at Minsmere, to the Eels Foot pub at Eastbridge
WALK: Around the local footpaths
PUB: The Star at Wenhaston
CAFE/RESTAURANT: The Lighthouse, and East Coast Cafe, both in Aldeburgh
HOBBIES: Our dogs and birdwatching, gardening, cycling and running
MOST MAGICAL MOMENT IN THE COUNTY: A pheasant coming through the cat flap, then turning around and flying off