Crumbling bricks, woodworm and a leaking roof didn

PUBLISHED: 10:16 10 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:23 20 February 2013

Crumbling bricks, woodworm and a leaking roof didn't dampen Deirdre Williams's determination to turn this once-derelict property from Dump to dream home

Crumbling bricks, woodworm and a leaking roof didn't dampen Deirdre Williams's determination to turn this once-derelict property from

PICTURES BY JOHN SNOWDON

When Deirdre Williams first clapped eyes on what today is her picture perfect home it was in a sorry state of near dereliction.
"It had been neglected for decades. It was damp and dingy. The roof leaked, the kitchen crawled with woodworm and the garden was used as a dumping ground," recalls the former teacher.
But it occupied an idyllic spot in the pretty Welsh border town of Montgomery. Perched on a bank, sloping down from the hilltop ruins of the town's old castle, it commanded breath-taking views towards the Shropshire flatlands to the east.
Deirdre was unfazed by the extent of its dilapidation. She'd undertaken two major home renovation projects in Hampshire with her late husband. So her imagination whirred with the possibilities. She knew that behind those pretty casement windows she could work her magic.
Deirdre was relocating to live closer to her daughter Nancy. So she moved in with Nancy and son-in-law, Tim, at Garthmyl just up the road from Montgomery, while the builders moved into her place and spent almost a year bashing and pulling it around. Deirdre made the short trip from Garthmyl almost daily to oversee the project.
"It must have poured with rain every day that winter," she says looking back to 2000 and all the squelching around in mud.
But rain or no rain major structural work had to be done. The biggest job was the demolition of a crumbling, single-storey, rear extension, a former scullery that hadn't been used for decades.
"It was in such a bad state that the bricks literally fell away in the builders' hands," Deirdre recalls.
With it gone she could make big changes to the layout of the mid 19th century house. In its place was built a two-storey extension that enabled the builders to knock through and double the size of the sitting room downstairs and the master bedroom upstairs. It also gave the rear of the house an improved symmetry because it reflected the design of a section on the opposite side of the building.
From top to bottom a new house emerged. A new roof, central heating and new plumbing installed, new Welsh ash floors replacing broken quarry and slate tiled flooring downstairs, new cottage-style batten and ledge doors. Upstairs original, cast-iron fireplaces were uncovered behind plasterwork and peeling layers of old, grubby wallpaper. Downstairs ugly modern fireplaces were ripped out. One side of the house had a different floor level to the other so that too had to be remedied.
Deirdre completed the renovation with both style and empathy for the age of the building. But she has been no slave to the past. She has successfully woven a mix of old and modern throughout, from the luxury contemporary bathroom to the bespoke modern kitchen designed by Kenton Jones of Welshpool.
"I think that if you like something then that's good enough to make things mix. I'm not in favour of having all things modern or all things period," she says.
In the older parts of the house she has accentuated many period features. Nancy suggested adding shutters to the old casement windows, instead of putting up curtains. It's a lovely period touch that also makes the windows appear larger.
In the new parts of the house the windows are large and modern and the doors are fully glazed, allowing the light to flood in. In the master bedroom Deirdre has made use of double French doors opening onto a balcony and a door-height rear window to afford her spectacular views of her cottage garden, cascading with flowering shrubs, apple and hazel trees and bobbing hollyhocks, lupins and foxgloves, and the panoramic landscape beyond.
The quality of light is the joy of this house, and Deirdre has decorated in gentle sandy and stone tones that reflect the light, open up the spaces and create a neutral background for both period and contemporary features.
She has used Farrow and Ball's irresistibly named 'Clunch' for most of the rooms, subtly adding a little black here and there to change the tone slightly from the upper floor to the ground floor, from the walls to the skirting boards.
In contrast walls in the dining room have been decorated in cream and sand striped Farrow and Ball wallpaper, a soothing backdrop for the dramatic, large, gilt-framed portrait painting of an unknown cleric who imperiously peers down on dinner guests below.
Deirdre picked up the portrait for £10 from a junk shop many years ago. It's one example of the quirky knick-knacks she has collected over a lifetime of poking around antique markets and car boot sales. They inject a distinctive personality to her home.
Blue and white china, glassware, a little glass case heaving with Victorian travel mugs is a charming touch to the guest bedroom for an example.
"Most of my china is chipped or broken. I couldn't afford to get the good stuff. I never paid more than £10 for the little mugs but I adore them," she says.
A dab hand with the needle Deirdre has rustled up most of the soft furnishings, from cushions covers and curtains to upholstery. She based the beautifully embroidered bedspread adorning the antique French bed in the master bedroom on the famous gardens of Villandry, France. It's dotted with rows of tiny vegetables and herbs - carrots, beetroots, cabbage, basil - all carefully stitched by hand.
Deirdre's own garden started life as a muddy and rubbish-strewn bank. A digger spent a week clearing the rubbish and shaping and flattening the soil. While the rear garden is relaxed in style, the front is more formal with a thick fringe of sweet lavender and a curtain of pleached hornbeam. The old broken floor tiles from the house have been recycled in the garden.
Since the renovation the house has been listed, including the fanlight, above the double opening front door, which Deirdre had made and installed. She finds this an endless source of amusement, but it's a credit to her sharp eye for detail and insistence on the use of only quality natural materials.

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