Our little piece of New York in the heart of Hanham
SETTLING into an unfamiliar house can be exciting, but it may be some time before new occupants work out how to live in a different abode – and whether it's necessary to make any changes.
The Hartnell family is a case in point. Julie and Jerry and their two girls, Drew and Harry, aged five and three, moved into their terraced cottage in September 2006 and have since made several significant alterations, both inside and out.
But part of their original plan was to demolish the conservatory at the front of the cottage, which turned out to be one idea that wasn't followed through.
Julie and Jerry had decided that it had to go because it was out of keeping with the look of the row of three stone cottages, which were built in the 1880s.
While that may be true, the conservatory remains because the family discovered its usefulness in addition to its role as an entrance hall. It doubles as a boot room and buggy store and is the perfect place to dry off muddy dogs after walkies in the nearby fields.
Of course, the south-facing outlook makes the conservatory a great place to sit and enjoy the outdoors while indoors, too.
Among the changes that did go ahead is a radical reworking of the ground floor. When the Hartnells arrived, the hall, dining room and lounge were combined into one huge space 30ft long, which they found rather cold and impersonal.
Having put up two walls, they've created separate, but still sizeable, reception rooms, along with a hall, and a WC, all at the front of the house.
At the back is a kitchen, utility room and a third reception room, with laminate flooring and glazed sliding patio doors, which would make an ideal office or playroom.
The transformation continued upstairs following a trip to New York, where a hotel stay inspired Julie to get creative with her own bathroom. The result is a striking affair. The white suite includes a big, free-standing roll-top bath and a separate shower cubicle, while the floor and walls are tiled in black slate.
All three bedrooms up here are kept cosy with beige carpets, which cover the once-exposed floorboards, though the boards remain along the connecting corridor. The master large bedroom includes an en suite shower room, again with a white suite.
Redecorating, installing a stack of insulation, replacing the kitchen cupboard doors with sleek white ones, hanging solid oak doors and plastering over a 1980s brick fireplace completed the indoor alterations, while outdoors was the subject of yet more investment.
Garden plans began with the removal of an overbearing row of massive leylandii trees and continued with the laying of two decks.
One is immediately outside the back door, from where wooden steps rise up to a lawn and a stepping-stone path leads to a further, enclosed deck, complete with blue and white inset lighting and electric sockets, which makes it a great party platform.
In all, Jerry guesses they've spend around £40,000 on their home – £10,000 of which went on the bathroom – and everything is now just as they like it.
"Everyone thinks we are mad to leave because of the location," said Julie.
"It's within walking distance of the swimming pool and the cinema and it's so quiet here.
"But long term an older property needs looking after and we want to move to a house that needs less time in terms of cleaning and maintenance."
The couple, who both work, have seen a very smart 1930s house they like (it's owned by interior designers), but they smile and admit they may never find the perfect home.
One thing they do agree on is the general location. Julie explained: "We are still going to stay in the area because our eldest daughter is in school in Hanham, but we are looking for something a bit newer with not such a big garden."