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17th Dec 2019

The Mulberry Cottage Fairy Tale

A client with a clear vision combined with a construction company with a desire to make it happen (as well as made to measure joinery and kitchens capacity)… the perfect blend for a design and build project.

Nearly two decades ago, our clients bought a delightful stone and timber clad cottage in idyllic South Oxfordshire. Dating from the 1700s and complete with exposed beams and old timber features, flagstone floors and splendid open-fireplaces at either end, the whole property forms a delightful L-shaped suntrap. Situated within easy striking distance of Oxford and although perfect in so many ways our clients "never fell completely in love with it". With one eye always on the property market, “if the right house had come along we would have snapped it up”, they finally gave up the search and decided to turn their focus to renovating the house.

Architect’s plans were drawn up but the cost of the proposed works was significantly more than had been anticipated so things were put on hold. In the meantime, our clients had seen signs for the Barr Group outside local build projects and, happily, everyone they asked had something positive to say. They got in touch and construction director Chris Noonan popped over to take a look, run through their wish list and made a few suggestions as to how the renovation works could go ahead in the most practical and streamlined way.


(Bespoke Drinks Cabinet by BarrJoinery)

In Chris’s words “we started by assessing the whole renovation, looking for the most efficient way to tackle each section. We costed absolutely everything so that we had a start point from which William and Emma could prioritise and make decisions. The fundamental structural elements, for example taking down load-bearing walls in the kitchen area and reconfiguring the staircase, were essential to the scheme and required a sensible but expert approach. An important factor for William was to make the house sustainable with renewable energy: the addition of a ground source heat pump has been left until a future build stage - but with the infrastructure and a high standard of insulation now in place".

(Bespoke paneling by BarrJoinery, Soft Furnishings by Diana Parker, Seamsfine)

In the words of our client Emma “In the end, most of the design elements came from us as we proceeded without an architect. Our daughter is very creative and contributed enormously to the project; together we had a vision for the look we were seeking to achieve. The Barr Group team (we used StuartBarr CDR, BarrJoinery and BarrKitchens) were exceptional at understanding and interpreting our ideas so that there was a meeting of minds. The process was very intense but not stressful. Each evening I would work on the design and sourcing, then Sal (StuartBarr CDR site manager) would arrive early the next morning and we would catch up before I left for work: Sal appreciated that every creative decision and detail of the build really mattered to me - so he patiently checked in with me each day and on every decision".

(Kitchen by BarrKitchens, Worktops by Ceasarstone, Handles by Armac Martin, Appliances by Miele)

Emma’s confidence in the team to translate her ideas into reality grew as the project progressed and she went on to commission more of her own designs. Clever storage solutions, unique glazed cabinets and a paneled secret staircase (William’s inspired contribution)  to name but a few. When asked her favourite thing about the project she said: “definitely the bespoke cabinetry and joinery; the shutters had to be made to a specific design and could not be sourced as made to measure items - BarrJoinery did a brilliant job.  We are absolutely thrilled with the end result. Now I know what is possible I am looking forward to commissioning even more made to measure cabinetry!"


(Cabinetry by BarrJoinery, Tiles by Textures Flooring, Lighting by Hector Finch

“We are delighted with the kitchen, especially the bespoke draw-filled island and, of course, the AGA! We are really pleased with the reconfigured, concealed second stairway – it has totally changed the feel of the house. I love the glass light-reflecting mosaic tiles and the marble in the cloakroom, and the dining room in its new incarnation, with the crittall style doors which were definitely worth the months of trawling to source them and with space for a table and chairs for ten…we can finally entertain again".

“We also love some of the unintended benefits of the build, things we hadn’t really planned but which have made such a big difference to the enjoyment of our home; especially the fact that we can be in the kitchen and feel connected with the rear garden due to the half-glazed doors at the front and back. Since the renovation the house has become our sanctuary, now we can definitely imagine staying here until we retire”.


(Bespoke Front Door by BarrJoinery, Door furniture by Oxford Ironmongery)

A direct to client project will always be an involved process in which trust, communication and teamwork between builder and client are key. Emma and William reported that “The works went really smoothly. We were living in a sectioned off part of the house throughout the project, so it was really important that we appointed builders we got on well with. It turned out that everyone who worked on the job was amazing”.

(Bespoke Cabinetry by BarrJoinery, Radiators by Castrads)

“We are incredibly excited about having Christmas in our finished house. Even now, as grown-ups, Christmas is still the children’s favourite time of year. We are looking forward to decorating the house with a real tree and garlands, cooking Christmas lunch on our AGA, lighting a fire in the wood burner and congregating together as a family in our newly renovated home”.

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