Matthew and Andrew have perfected multi-generational living (Picture: Metro.couk/Simon Murrell)
WIillow Tree House, in the Surrey village of Fetcham, is a true family affair.
When interior designer and lifestyle blogger Matthew Shaw came across the detached Arts and Crafts house, he knew it was the perfect place to create a multi-generational home.
Not only did Matthew and his husband, Andrew, a business analyst, want to create a light, bright family home for themselves and their two daughters, Poppy, 11, and Grace, 9, but they wanted to make sure Andrew’s mother — recently diagnosed with dementia — could have her own comfortable, safe annexe where all her needs could be catered for.
‘The house had just the flexibility we were looking for, so three generations of our family could live together,’ Matthew says.
‘It hadn’t been updated for several decades, but it had so much scope to be extended, and had bags of potential.’
Andrew and Matthew have three generations living under one roof — plus their dog Newt (Picture: Simon Murrell)
Before: The house used to be dated and tired (Picture: Matthew Shaw)
It was also the ideal space in which Matthew could showcase his newly acquired interior design qualifications, ‘although this did mean camping out in a dark, dirty garage for several months,’ he says.
Matthew, Andrew and Andrew’s mother sold up the three properties they owned between them, including a cottage on the Isle of Wight, to buy the four-bedroom house for around £950,000, in the summer of 2018.
The couple worked to a build and renovation budget of about £250,000, with the result a beautifully updated, extended and future-proofed 1920s home with a footprint almost double its original size.
There are five bedrooms, a huge lantern roof atop the dining room and several pale, flowing living spaces, all perked up with a carefully curated scheme of contemporary furniture and lighting, high-street finds and treasures salvaged in reclamation yards.
Perfect for family meals (Picture: Simon Murrell)
Cosy spot in the kitchen (Picture: Matthew Shaw)
Touches such as a secret cupboard with pink neon lights, a jet-black downstairs loo and a gold-leafed cabinet of curios ensure the home is uniquely their own.
When they bought the house — which the family now shares with their cat, Lady Fluffington, and their spaniel pup, Newt — it was in good structural condition, with the living room’s huge floor-to-ceiling windows a real USP.
But inside, Matthew says, it was like a 1980s time capsule. ‘I drew up some floor plans, which included a kitchen extension and the conversion of the double garage into the granny annexe. I was shocked when our architect, Greg Bratza, pretty much rolled them into a ball and tossed them into a bin. Although I wasn’t 100 per cent on board with his plans at first, using an architect was well worth it.’
Instead of putting the annexe in the garage, Greg suggested converting part of the huge living room and study into the annexe. The garage then became the TV room and much-needed laundry room.
Spacious double bedroom (Picture: Simon Murrell)
Study nook (Picture: Matthew Shaw)
‘As one of the things I absolutely loved about the living room was the windows, I insisted they stayed,’ Matthew says. ‘After a long discussion, we agreed the windows would stay, but the end glass panel would be boxed in, with one panel frosted as they would become part of a new bathroom.’
After getting Andrew’s mother comfortably settled, and new electrics, plumbing and heating were taken care of, the ‘West Wing’ was created. Cosy and stylish, it’s painted in Little Greene’s Pale Lime and has a bathroom kitted out with a walk-in bath, taps that turn themselves off and non-slip vinyl flooring, as well as its own kitchenette.
And while the existing first-floor bedrooms were usable, operations for the refurb of the rest of the house were set up in the garage — which was so dank and dusty, they all referred to it as ‘the bunker’.
The girls took it all in their stride, but Matthew says the lack of light, raw concrete floors and having to improvise a kitchen made of stacked up drawers got him down. ‘Andrew and I really had to put a brave face on things,’ he says. ‘I would leave to do the school run an hour earlier than necessary just to get away from the building site.’ From here, though, Matthew could unleash his passion — obsession, even — for interior design. ‘Andrew is the numbers guy, but he knows I have the vision,’ he says.
Before: They undertook from major building work (Picture: Matthew Shaw)
The large extension and granny annexe (Picture: Matthew Shaw)
The to-die-for pantry (Picture: Simon Murrell)
Plenty of vintage touches (Picture: Simon Murrell)
The large-scale renovation job was hard to budget for, however, Andrew says. ‘I kept a close eye on things, and we were frugal where we could be. Some things needed to be splurged on — the grey aluminium window frames, for example, and good-quality taps. ‘I trusted Matthew’s interiors choices, although I did have to veto a pinkish dried plaster colour in the pantry,’ he laughs.
Neither of them wanted the interiors to look brand new throughout, so they added vintage and character touches.
Against a muted backdrop of wall colours dreamed up by Little Greene, Sanderson and Valsar Paint, there’s a classic navy and white kitchen, from Dorset-based Handmade Kitchens, with the pantry door hewn from a gnarly old piece of wood, found in a reclamation yard.
In the open-plan dining space, under the huge roof lantern, sits the dining table they brought from their old holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight, with an antique bench bought at The Cowshed antiques emporium on the island.
Old timber stripped back from a Croatian barn was used to build the basin’s shelf in the dark and dramatic downstairs loo, with the walls painted in Zoffany’s Vine Black, and decked out with an unnerving array of antlers, old photos and portraits.
The family bathroom is yet to be overhauled, as the Shaws needed a breather from the year-long renovations, and they were stung a few times on pricing for labour and products. ‘Always do your own research,’ Andrew advises. But there are no regrets, especially in terms of creating a multi-generational space.
‘Bringing anyone with dementia into your home is no easy task, and none of us know how long these situations will go on for,’ Matthew says. ‘But it’s wonderful for Poppy and Grace to have their grandmother here. And we know whatever comes our way, we will all be facing it together.’
For more design advice and inspiration, head to the Homebuilding & Renovating Shows in Harrogate (Nov 5-7) and Bath (Nov 20-21)
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