'Abandoned' cottage and studio up for sale after huge renovation
- Credit: Lucy Halpin
The former home and studio of a famous Suffolk potter has come up for sale after a huge renovation project to restore them.
Owner Julie Reed says she's always loved Orford - a village you drive to, not through - so when her son showed her the property details for 115 Church Street, which comprises the rare find of two teeny properties in one, she couldn’t help but go along for a viewing.
Margo’s Cottage is an end terrace of four, which were built in 1878 for the estate of the art collector Sir Richard Wallace, who then lived at nearby Sudbourne Hall.
Julie says she had walked past the cottage several times, but hadn’t before then noticed its strange sense of perspective, how the houses appear like a gentle optical illusion.
“I had never noticed how the cottages are all of different sizes,” she says. “They are built with clever, subtle perspective, meaning even each front door is a differing size.
“Being at the end of the terrace, 115 has a fabulously over-the-top magnificent front door and large front window, but it is also much taller than its neighbours, so the top-floor bedroom has full height and has additional side windows which let in wonderful light.”
For almost 50 years, the cottage had been home to the potter Margo Glaister and her husband, Ray, although it had been unoccupied since Margo’s death, in 2015.
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When Julie went to view it, it was empty, although it still felt so full of character. “Despite being empty of furniture, their presence in the property was evident,” Julie says. “It was obvious it had been a much-loved and enjoyed home.
“The old stables’ diminutive coach house had been a studio and the first floor removed to create a double height space – then for spiders, mostly,” she says.
“In one of the sheds at the bottom of the overgrown but charming garden, accessed through undergrowth, was Margo’s pottery studio. It was like the Marie Celeste, abandoned without notice, with her potter’s wheel and clay hardened in bins and little pieces of inspiration everywhere.
“The property delighted my senses – the delicate nature of the old windows, so fragile with age, but still working, the height of the ceilings which made the space feel elegant, the tiny turning staircase with differing tread heights – it all told a story.
“Margo and Ray had used the space to live their lives. It was like a blueprint to show their interests to those who never met them – sailing, reading, art - leaving a glimpse of themselves.”
As well as her pottery career, Margo was an avid sailor. She and Ray circumnavigated the UK in their 32ft sailing yacht, more than once, beginning and ending their journey from nearby Woodbridge. They even wrote a ‘how-to’ book about the trip, called UK Circumnavigation.
But just as Julie was leaving the property on that first viewing, she spotted something that had particular significance to her.
“The last cupboard I looked in was in the dining room and there, like a little message for me, used as backing for the cupboard, was a piece of the same wallpaper – pink, 1960s-style cats – my dear father had used to redecorate my bedroom when I at eight years old was in hospital having my tonsils out," she says. "Any ambivalence about the property disappeared with the sight of that wallpaper and I made an offer.”
Thankfully, Julie’s offer was accepted and she set about transforming it, with the help of John Clarke of London-based architect Hox Design and Suffolk-based builder B A Boyle & Son. “I love bringing properties back to life. Not developing,” she says, but “just helping them become homes.”
They not only restored the cottage, but also the coach house, with basics like rewiring, plumbing and heating all necessary to bring it back to life. Julie says she was keen to keep the integrity and history of both properties intact.
“In the cottage I resisted the urge to knock the ground floor into one open-plan area, thereby making it like so many cottages, where the taking out of internal walls does not, to my mind, make more space.
“In Margo’s, I like the fact the utility room is essentially hidden within the downstairs shower room, and the diminutive kitchen, which has space for a cook with good appliances but no more.”
She says she also loves the colourful, patchwork-style tiles used in the newly-created first-floor bathroom, and that the renovation of the coach house was inspired by its historic building plans. “I found old plans of the coach house, showing two bedrooms on the first floor, and applied to reinstate these,” Julie explains. “The winged staircase was cleverly hand-built on site by Brendon Boyle, to make full of use of the space. It makes a little pleasing moment when you go upstairs.”
As part of the development, they also reinstated several features to reflect the property’s “small but mighty” scale, including reinstating an old boarded- up window, to create an inverted dormer, and putting French windows with a Juliet balcony into the tiny church view bedroom. “I suppose it is another grand gesture in a diminutive space,” she says.
The result has been to create two separate cottages under the same listing, with Margo’s Cottage providing the main living space – complete with three bedrooms, one en suite, kitchen, sitting and dining rooms - and The Coach House serving as self-contained annex accommodation.
Up until now, Julie has rented them out as bespoke holiday lets but is now selling them as a pair.
“I like to live and breathe a project of property enhancement,” she says. “I suppose it is my way of leaving a blueprint of who I am.”
Margo’s Cottage and The Coach House, Orford, are for sale at a guide price of £925,000.
For more information, contact Suffolk Coastal on 01728 677980.
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