Interior designer Jan Constantine's countryside retreat in Betley
Interior designer Jan Constantine longed for life in the countryside. She found it in the pretty village of Betley where she has built a special home for her family
‘Wherever you wander, wherever you roam, be happy, healthy and glad to come home.’ The picture bearing these words in Jan Constantine’s Betley home sums up her life perfectly. The designer, founder and creative director of the textiles company that bears her name, has visited all corners of the globe. She spends a lot of time commuting to different places and also enjoys holidays in Cornwall. But there is nothing she loves more than returning home to Ravenscroft House.
It is over 20 years since Jan fell in love with her lovely home. Living in the capital city and working as head of design for the prestigious fashion label Shubette of London, she spotted the cottage up for auction while visiting her sister, Ann, who lived on a farm nearby.
The property was in a state of disrepair but Jan could see its potential. Less than a fortnight later, she and husband, David, had bought it. They had just four weeks to sell their Bexley home and move to Cheshire.Jan, who commuted for 18 months to her London job until she became established in the area, said: ‘When we walked in it felt very positive. We just both got a feeling. We had already seen the village and thought it was beautiful.
‘I longed for green fields and to get away from London and we thought we could do something with this. It felt good. I wasn’t sure David would want something with so much work but we walked outside and he said “I think we’ll have a go at this”. We were excited.’
Ravenscroft House is a picture perfect property, once used as the village doctor’s home. It had not been lived in for a few years when Jan and David bought it and considerable work was needed. In fact, one company refused a mortgage because they said it was dilapidated. Lesser mortals might have been deterred by that decision but this couple moved in straight away and rolled their sleeves up to begin a dizzying list of jobs.
First, they tackled part of the building that had been a bakehouse. There were holes in the roof and no floor but they renovated it and turned it into a holiday cottage to give them income while they improved the remainder of the house. As Jan became more established in interior design, and then began the hugely successful company she runs now, she left her job in London and the couple got to grips with working on more of the house.
- 1 Visit the village that people never want leave
- 2 20 of the best places to eat out in St Ives
- 3 Can you rehome Surrey’s loneliest dog?
- 4 Win a picnic hamper from Booths
- 5 For sale: Yorkshire's dreamiest coastal view
- 6 6 waterfall walks in Derbyshire and the Peak District
- 7 12 beautiful waterfalls in Yorkshire
- 8 13 of the best places to get coffee in Hampshire
- 9 One Suffolk beach given Blue Flag status for 2021
- 10 Norfolk's beautiful Blue Flag beaches 2021
This included restoring many of the floors or replacing some of them with reclaimed materials, taking out a 1950s chimney and installing an Aga in the kitchen. They also put in new bathrooms.
Jan said: ‘We wanted to take the building back to how it would have been as a Georgian house. We think it’s nearly 200 years old. We want it to look how it would once have been.’
Jan and David have worked hard to create the perfect home for themselves and their two daughters, Camille, 20, and Mary, 14.
You won’t find much that’s new in the house. There is, of course, a healthy smattering of the trademark designs that have made Jan so succesful. But she has filled her home with beautiful collectors’ pieces, antiques, family heirlooms, mementoes, vintage items and sentimental things she has collected over the years. In the kitchen there’s a giant heart made up of family photographs, tickets, postcards and cards that she has collected from different points in her family’s lives.
There’s also antique furniture that she treated herself to when her first book was published. Plus, there’s a mural she painted to practise the technique before creating something for a customer.
Jan has also handpainted onto the vivid pink walls in the lounge and has made delicate canvases bearing her and David’s initials. They hang in the master bedroom and the hallway.
The couple have decorated the dining room walls with silver leaf – a grand look for a stunning space. There’s also a hint of a coastal theme with maps and charts on one wall and coastal trinkets and treasures dotted here and there.
‘Everything in this house is old,’ she said. ‘I’ve always bought old things. I used to go to flea markets with my mum as a child. I think it stems from then. I just love the idea that things have been loved before.
‘I don’t like buying things new. Everyone does that but I want to be different. I’m always on the lookout for things and I love finding something really special. I love hunting out bits and bobs. I wanted this to be a home. I didn’t want it to be a showroom.’
Jan and David, both originally from Lancashire, have created a beautiful home that offers the perfect escape from their busy lives. And they love every part of it.
Jan said: ‘I wanted this to be a home. Since we first moved in we have done the house a few times and I’ve really enjoyed it. It feels like an ongoing project. I’m a creative person and I like to change it as time goes by.
‘But for us it was also about moving back up north. We had been in London for a long time and we wanted some green space.‘We have got it all and more here.
I love coming home, closing the door and not worrying about anything.’