Steve and Sarah Turner on building their dream house
PUBLISHED: 15:34 16 October 2015 | UPDATED: 15:34 16 October 2015
Jim Holden www.jimholden.co.uk 07590 683036 01825 841157
Ever fancied building your dream house? Steve and Sarah Turner did exactly that at Lower Shuckers in Maplehurst, and still managed to keep the most charming elements of traditional Sussex building alive, making the project all the sweeter. Alice Cooke went to find out more
It’s every little girl’s dream, building your own home and decorating every room to your exact tastes. In fact, scrap the girly bit, it’s everybody’s dream, which is why Steve and Sarah Turner were so delighted when they got the chance to do exactly that. Well, almost exactly that.
Steve had lived in Shuckers Farm House for 12 years before the pair decided that they wanted to convert Lower Shuckers into a beautiful home. “The main farmhouse is an idyllic rural dwelling, the classic Sussex country home,” says Sarah. “But we wanted a fresh start, and this seemed like the perfect way to go about it. We didn’t want to leave, but we wanted to create something new.”
The building was originally a traditional Sussex barn, and having jumped through various planning loopholes, Steve and Sarah were told that they could make their dreams a reality on one major proviso – that they kept the original Sussex timber frame of one particular room of the ‘n’ shaped building (originally a timber frame Sussex barn, a piggery and a cottage). “To be honest this originally looked like it was going to be a massive hindrance,” says Sarah, who recalls the numbering of every individual piece of wood so that it could be taken apart and put back together in exactly the same position. “But now we really couldn’t be happier with it.”
That comes as no surprise to me at all, as the original timber beams now form a stunning interior frame that sits over the kitchen and adjoining space. It is at once modern and traditional, being airy and light yet quintessentially Sussex in appearance. I love it, and am hard-pushed to hide it, lest I appear sycophantic.
The décor in this and the rest of the house is modern and practical, yet always with a nod to history, antiquity, the past. This seems particularly fitting when Sarah explains that “we’ve gathered everything here over the culmination of both of our lives – which is fantastic as it is quite literally a part of us and who we are, as well as being our vision.”
Who they are is two very well-travelled and business-savvy individuals – Steve is the owner of a national electronic security company, Turner Security Group, which has its headquarters in Horsham, while Sarah has touched nearly every corner of the globe whilst working for Warner Brothers as Senior Vice President of International and Corporate Human Resources. It’s quite the combined CV, and their worldliness comes across effortlessly in the make up of the rooms. Everything is considered, everything has a place, and yet what makes it work is that everything seems to fit perfectly together, and you feel that if you sat down in any given chair, you would fit perfectly too, for it is a home.
Whilst undertaking what must have been a massive project, Steve and Sarah used as many local tradesmen and builders as they could. In fact Richard Clifford, the man that ended up designing their beautiful kitchen, is a member of one of the opposing teams in a local pub quiz in the nearby Black Horse that they attend regularly. “We’re Sarah’s Stars and they’re The Latecomers,” laughs Sarah.
She says that they were very lucky to find all the fantastic people that they did during the build, and are particularly keen to name Inside Design (www.insidedesign.co.uk), who did all the curtains and blinds, and Matthew Roberts, a young carpenter from Crawley (07776 154212). “We were one of his first projects, and he couldn’t have been better or easier to work with,” says Sarah. “Some of the eaves are really tricky spaces to make wardrobes and the like for, and he rose to every challenge brilliantly.”
Likewise, she says, Joseph McCarthy, a mirror maker from Tunbridge Wells (www.josephmccarthy.co.uk) was fantastically skilled at working within the parameters of the space. “We went to visit his shop and were hooked as soon as we went upstairs – it’s like Olivander’s Wand Shop from Harry Potter, with the moulds of every mirror he’s ever made, filed away from floor to ceiling. Amazing.”
Their next project is the garden, for which they’ve enlisted Bartrams Landscape Gardening from Hurstpierpoint (www.bartramslandscapegardening.co.uk), who they say are “amazing”. And after that? “Maybe another conversion,” says Sarah, who admits she loved the whole process, especially designing the interiors. “I have no Interior Design qualifications, so I might think about getting some, because I think I have a good eye for it.”
Alongside the charity work which Sarah says she finds “fantastically rewarding”, this is bound to keep her extremely busy. She is a Trustee of Dreamflight, a charity which takes 192 sick or disabled children to Florida on holiday each year; and also the Horsham district of Age UK. Between the two of them, I am left in no doubt at all that whatever endeavour they decide to take on next, it will be a resounding success.
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