Veronique designed the chimney breast and painted it black to contrast with the light wash of white on the wood-panelled walls. Chimney breast painted in Black Smoke fresco lime, £105 for 2.5L; walls painted in Ashes classico chalk paint, £74.50 for 2.5L, both Pure & Original at Design Studio V. Grey Nockleby sofa, £595, Ikea
Veronique and Evert Veltink-Hendriks thought they had entered a time warp when they viewed an Exmoor farmhouse that the elderly farmer owner had lived in all his life. ‘Nothing had changed inside for almost 100 years,’ says Veronique, a spatial and interior designer.
Four years ago the couple sold their previous six-bedroom farmhouse to downsize, but they could not resist going to view the dilapidated property. What they found was another large farmhouse, standing empty and very uncared for.
Smart tiling and underfloor heating have taken the place of a cold concrete floor. Byron bench, £722, Rowen & Wren, is a match
An old bureau has been revamped. Polar Blue classico chalk paint, £74.50 for 2.5L, Pure & Original at Design Studio V
‘As the farmer got older he had used just two rooms and left the others untouched, so we could see how his parents had lived nearly a century before,’ says Veronique.
The house stands in nine acres of land, at the end of a long lane, surrounded by rolling fields. There were also some crumbling stone outbuildings, plus a neglected walled garden.
‘Many people were put off by the amount of work needed,’ says Veronique. ‘Fortunately we have some experience – and we’d fallen in love with the room dimensions, high ceilings and wonderful light.’ In fact the farmhouse strongly reminded them both of their childhood homes in the Netherlands.
So the couple bought it along with a caravan in which they lived on site while supervising the work. ‘The farmhouse was uninhabitable,’ says Veronique. ‘It was extremely damp, from both the leaking roof and the earth bank against which it was built. So the first thing we did was lots of digging, earthmoving and putting in drains.’ Fortunately, Evert has a drainage business which he runs with their daughter Dorith’s partner Matthew, who lives nearby.
The next crucial work was to repair the roof before winter set in. ‘Exmoor is famous for its rain and wind,’ says Veronique. ‘So we had to remove all the old slates, put in insulation and re-use the slates wherever possible.’ And Exmoor really lived up to its reputation that year. ‘We shan’t forget it,’ says Veronique. ‘Fixing the roof took most of the winter. Once done we put in Velux roof lights and a dormer window, which I designed to have a Dutch look. Our grand-daughters Isabelle, five, and Jasmine, two, love the huge attic, as we’ve hung a swing from the rafters.’
The couple re-used the original materials and anything found around the farmyard where possible. ‘If buying anything new we’ve chosen natural materials. We’ve managed to keep most of the doors and, although we’ve rewired, we’ve retained the original black Bakelite switches.’
Removing a wall and replacing a window with French doors made this space much airier. Black tumbled marble floor tiles, £52sq m, Floors of Stone. Rattan bar stool, £210, Out There Interiors, is an option
The original fireplace now houses a woodburning stove. Fire surround in Oxford Blue fresco lime paint, £105 for 2.5L, Pure & Original at Design Studio V. Antler candle holder, £26, Oka, is similar
As a spatial designer, Veronique knew just how to reconfigure the rooms and now they have a big open-plan kitchen-diner and a large sitting room. One bedroom became a family bathroom and another is part of the master suite.
The whole house had to be replastered and now has new pipework, with underfloor heating installed on the ground floor and in the bathrooms. The couple also installed a renewable-energy heating system in the form of a wood-pellet burner.
‘The old gentleman used a septic tank and so do we, although Evert and Matthew have installed a new one,’ says Veronique.
Soothing neutral tones are ideal for restful sleep. The Dutch secretaire came from Evert’s family. Brambly Cottage dining chair, £92, Wayfair, has this look. Kita grey linen curtains, from £45, Habitat, are comparable
Antler accessories are a theme, evoking Exmoor’s iconic deer. AlexandraHouse hanging antlers, £105, Wayfair, would work
They also renovated some old stables to create a studio for Veronique’s business, Design Studio V. She has just become the UK distributor for Pure & Original paint and this is where she keeps her paint mixer.
‘We did a lot of the decorating ourselves,’ says Veronique. ‘Even though it meant battling my fear of heights when I was perched on scaffolding to paint the exterior.’
Now, however, the challenging work is in the past and the couple can focus on enjoying their beautiful home. ‘From the windows we can see some gorgeous scenes, such as Exmoor’s famous red deer and the wild reed bed in the valley,’ says Veronique. ‘And that is when we know it’s all been worth it.’