A local affair
Clare and Steve Ball love their home town and were desperate to reflect that in their growing home.
It’s been a long few months since Clare and Steve decided to extend their house, but they’re finally there – and they love it!
Originally the couple had planned to move to a bigger house because, as Clare explains, they were bursting at the seams.
‘We were desperate for some more space,’ she says. ‘When we bought this place 12 years ago it was just me, Steve and a baby – but now we have three growing boys and two dogs taking over the house!’
But the house sale fell through and so they decided to extend instead.
First, they called in the services of local architect Eddie Hunt to help them plan the extension.
‘I knew more or less what I wanted but he helped us work out how to achieve it,’ she says.
‘I wanted a large, open kitchen-living area to become the centre of the home. It’s not often teenage boys sit down and talk to their mums these days, so it’s good to have somewhere we can all sit down together. I also wanted a separate room for them, and a study downstairs so the dogs could be with me while I’m working.’
The list of needs continued: the house was also quite dark, and Clare was keen to bring in some light and space. But she also wanted it to be warm and welcoming, not too modern and have a bit of Berkhamsted in it.
In April last year local builder Karl Donovan from Donovan Interiors began work, and early this year everything was finished as Clare wanted it.
‘I’m so pleased with it,’ she says. ‘It does exactly what I wanted and more.’
The kitchen, as designed by Clare, is the hub of the house. The dining table was commissioned and is made from reclaimed wood with stainless steel feet. ‘It’s huge but I wanted a table that sits 10-12 people so we can all sit round it at Christmas. I also wanted a surface that couldn’t get damaged when I plonked plates and pots down on it!’
More than anything else, Clare loves Berkhamsted and the surrounding area, and she wanted to bring something of that into it. The splashback in the kitchen is a picture of Ashridge Bluebell woods, which was specially made, and brings a real splash of colour to the room.
She was also clear she wanted an island – and she certainly has that! ‘This is the perfect place for us to sit together in mornings to catch up,’ she says. ‘It’s become the centre of the home. I was advised against a stainless steel worktop because it scratches easily but I was adamant and I love it!’
Clare was also determined to use local companies as much as possible, so the kitchen was designed and built by Custom Kitchens on Northbridge Road, the tiles all through the house were supplied by Ebberns in Apsley and the paint and wallpaper was chosen by Brickwood Design in Berkhamsted.
‘It’s important to use local people and companies whenever you can,’ says Clare. ‘If you don’t use them you lose them.’
Looking at the room it’s clear Clare has a real eye for detail, and knows exactly what she wants to make her home her own. Everything has a different story behind it. The picture of the cow is to remind her of Devon, which she loves, and there are pictures and mugs from West End musicals on the walls – ‘I love musicals,’ Clare laughs. ‘I’ve only got a few more to collect.’
Upstairs there’s still a lot of work to do, Clare says, but the thing she’s happiest about is her brand new en-suite bathroom.
‘I wanted a space where I could come and have a glass of wine in the bath – in fact that was in the brief to the builder! – and get away from everyone,’ she explains. ‘This is exactly what I wanted.’
The split-face tiles on the walls are amazing – they look like individual pieces of wood stuck on to the wall. The whole feel is luxurious and relaxing.
The main bathroom, which is mostly for the three boys, has a totally different look and feel. The bath has been replaced with a shower, and the graffiti tiles make it feel young and funky.
Back downstairs is the boys’ den, where the three children from eight to 14 can do their own thing – ‘everything from music to Lego to X-box, this is their space,’ says Clare.
Keeping it local has made Clare happy, and she’s thrilled with the result.
‘There’s still loads to do outside and in the garden but for now, this room makes this my perfect home,’ she says, sitting in the kitchen. ‘I love sitting here when the sunlight floods through the skylights, or listening to the rain pummelling down.
‘There’s only one thing that makes it more perfect – when all the people I love are here too and I can cook for them!’