Ash, originally from Cumbria, is an ex-fitness fanatic who loves outdoor adventure and travel.
“Ash is now tied up in the corporate rat race but is still secretly looking for the next escape.”
Sarah was born and raised in Leicestershire and has been committed to serving the NHS in a digital leadership role for the past 12 years.
“I (Sarah) love to travel and am always dreaming of my next holiday in the sun, by the sea abroad, perhaps an extended 20 year working holiday is next on the cards?”
Sarah & Ash haven’t always been especially interested in interiors, they are just enjoying creating a comfortable home and a nice environment to come home to.
“Working from home during the pandemic and not being able to go out made it even more important to have a relaxing place to be around.”
“The house was built in 1926 for the mother of Lowesby Hall so that the son’s could take sole occupancy of the stately home.”
The couple moved into Woodside in November 2017 having missed out to a higher offer in spring that year. Luckily enough, the buyers dragged their feet and tried to negotiate on price after an offer had been accepted. They eventually pulled out suggesting the WiFi signal was not strong enough.
“We spent around £1,000 on a good network system with hubs similar to what you’d find in a hotel, now we get superfast reliable internet around the entire house and garden and have two offices so we can both work from home without disturbing each other.”
In their early days of dating, Ash passed by the house on the way between where they both lived. Sarah was in Rothley and Ash lived in Rutland. It was a place that they thought they would never be able to afford.
“When we saw the house, we saw an old aerial photograph and loved the way it looked, and the previous owner was keen to sell and move to start a new life”
The previous owners had lived in the property as a family for over 20 years. They then sadly separated and so the house went onto the market. Sarah & Ash have kept in touch with both previous owners, and over time they have grown to love the property just as much as the family before did.
Purchasing a renovation project was not the initial aim for Sarah & Ash.
“It wasn’t really about looking for a project, but more about getting the most for our money in a location where we could have uninterrupted views, peace and quiet, and the luxury of not having any neighbours.”
“The plan was always to get a home where other people couldn’t spoil things for us.”
In Sarah’s previous property in Rothley, just before she was about to put it on the market, she came home from work one day to find that a neighbour had cut down all of their trees. This left her once secluded garden exposed to three other properties which now looked directly into Sarah’s garden, just as viewings started to take place. This was then given as feedback from the agent as to why buyers didn’t want to pursue purchasing Sarah’s property – nightmare!
During the first two years in the property together, Sarah & Ash found ways to recycle and repurpose things lying around the grounds. This included recycling wood and furniture and even some old kitchen scales, mangles and a garden roller!
“We’ve made tables, chairs and planters from old decking boards. We’ve also restored an old stove and use fallen branches and old trees to fuel the property through the winter every year.”
The couple have remained considerate throughout the program of renovation in order to pay tribute to the properties heritage. They have had to change the windows to UPVC for insulation and energy saving purposes, but chose a Chartwell green to maintain the traditional country feel. They have even replicated the design of the stained glass window in the hallway to further honour the property’s heritage. Radiators have also been changed too modern, cast iron fittings to retain a traditional period finish.
“We’ve gone for traditional period colours by Farrow and Ball, complemented by new carpets.”
“Our interior style is random. There is no real theme, but we try and think about not only what we like but what is period to the property. I (Sarah) am open to all styles, from contemporary and modern to characterful and traditional. Ash is more of a traditionalist and jokes that I (Sarah) would have everything gloss white in the house, but that’s maybe more suited to my dream of owning a villa in Spain than a country house from 1926.”
Outside, one outbuilding has been converted into a gym, which is fully equipped with free weights, cardio machines and a yoga space. It’s not all about fitness though, they’ve also turned another outbuilding into a fully stocked bar with a draft beer pump and all the spirits you need for a summer cocktail.
“We still have work to do in the garden, along with installing a Juliet balcony on the separate self contained annex to bring the countryside in on those nice summer days.”
Sarah & Ash had planned to build a holiday cottage or lodge at the top of the garden, and convert another barn into a swim spa and sauna. They would also love to add a large glass orangery to the rear to bring the living room and kitchen together.
In terms of challenges, Sarah highlighted that getting hold of reliable tradesmen was a bit of an issue throughout their renovation.
“Other than having our new windows fitted by Valley Windows, we’ve had to do most things ourselves. If we don’t know how to do something, we’ve found it easier to learn ourselves rather than try and find someone to do it for us.”
Ash’s favourite part of the renovation in the gym.
“We bought some mirrors from an old dance studio, plastered, added a TV with sound system, and filled it with weights, bikes, a rower and a running machine. It’s a great place to get away from work and smash out some weights to some lifting music at the end of a busy day.”
Sarah prefers the bar, (come nightclub!).
“It was once a storage building used for the previous owner’s catering business, so we recycled the shelves and created a bar. We used a leftover mirror from the gym and some glass panels from an old door to create the drink display. We also installed a draft beer pump, 75” TV, surround sound system, smoke machine and laser lights and disco ball. It’s perfect to just pop out for a quiet pint after work without any worry of who’s driving home. It’s also a great place to host girls night!”
Sarah & Ash tend to get most of their inspiration from Instagram and places that they visit on their travels. Sarah also spends her spare time shopping online searching for second hand bargains on Facebook Marketplace, preferring good quality, hardwearing items and inspirational, unique pieces.
@woodside_countryhouse was started during lockdown as something to do not only just to keep busy, but also to document the renovation journey and lifestyle that Sarah & Ash live. Followers are interested in property, renovations and country life in general.
Living in rural Leicestershire directly on the Midshire Way, Sarah & Ash are blessed with beautiful rolling countryside with 360 degree views, all within close proximity to excellent transport links. Rutland Water is just a short drive away and offers stunning scenery and quaint villages, while market towns such as Uppingham and Oakham lay within cycling distance.
“We try to support the local community as much as we can and we have some great friendly pubs close by. We have a garden centre a few hundred yards down the road, with March House Farm Shop and Gates Garden Centre just a short 5-10 min drive away, perfect for fresh and home made produce.”
In terms of the future, Ash wants to buy a yacht and sail around the world whereas Sarah prefers to keep her feet on terraferma and would love to spend her time with their dogs in a Spanish finca with a nice view and private pool.
“We know we will not stay here forever as our hearts are destined for a life in the sun somewhere close to the sea.”
“Summer sun, winter snow, BBQ’s, bonfires, walks on the doorstep, chilling in the hot tub, drinking in the bar, training in the gym. We want to show people that you can buy a lifestyle not just a home.”