Through the keyhole of a Georgian coach house in Bath
- Credit: William Goddard
What was once the old stables doubled in size during the renovation of this Georgian coach house in Bath
Sarah Denholm loved Bath from her very first visit, but she never dreamt that one day she would live there as the owner of Galley Nine in the city centre.
"I came here in the 1970s. I'd just left college where I'd studied interior architecture," she says. "But I didn't move here until 1990 with my then husband. In the interim I'd worked in London for two practices but finally moved here because I'd always yearned after it."
Sarah found work in St James Gallery, but 14 years later when the owner retired she had the chance to take it over. "I changed the name to Gallery Nine and we have gone from strength to strength," she says. "Because nine years ago I met my new partner Steve Chapman and now we run the business together which is much more fun."
In 2001 after her children had flown the nest Sarah bought a Georgian coach house in Bath. It had been converted into a single-storey dwelling in 1963 for the housekeeper of the adjacent Georgian house and was now on the market for the first time.
"Very little of the coach house was left," she says. "However the walls built in random stone were attractive and the location excellent. There was a lovely walled garden and the potential to develop the large but low-roofed loft space. I immediately asked the planning department about this and was told it would probably be granted."
But buying the house proved to more stressful than anticipated because Sarah had to sell her existing home before contracts could be exchanged and there were cash buyers in hot pursuit.
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Luckily all went well although it did take another two years before she gained planning permission to extend the loft. "This is because it fell within the curtilage of the listed Grade 2 Georgian house," she says.
Finally Sarah was able to start work, which involved taking off the roof, raising the walls and enlarging the loft space. "Almost the entire space is taken up by the main bedroom," she says. "It's lit by a roof lantern so on a clear night I can lie in bed and see the stars.
"Next to it is an en suite bathroom and a galleried landing where I can look down into the hall below. Downstairs there are two more bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a second bathroom. What I particularly like is the curved wall which runs along the length of the living room."
Sarah designed the house with an architect and a structural engineer and oversaw the entire project.
"At the time I was working for both Homebase and St James Gallery and I would arrive at the house at 8am to catch up with progress. I remember one day being told by Phil the electrician "Of course, you don't work, do you?" to which I replied, "What? This is my third job!
"Working at Homebase was a godsend," she adds, "as I was able to buy paint and, even better, my maple wood kitchen with a staff discount."
Sarah went for an eclectic look as regards the décor. She has several John Maltby pots on display which she bought directly from the artist in the 1980s. "I've also made several pots myself and the paper seascape was made by my daughter Rebecca when she was just 16."
It was Rebecca who bought the Parker Knoll sofa from eBay and it came all the way from Glasgow. "It has a lovely shape but was in poor condition and in a typically 1960s beige Dralon velvet cover. We've recovered it in a vibrant blue wool felt with white buttons."
Sarah's parents bought the red studio couch from Dunn's of Bromley and they also commissioned the hand woven rug at the same time for her bedroom; it was woven in the Kilkenny workshops in Ireland.
"As for the 1950s dining table and chairs by Heals, I bought them at auction while the sideboard is a Gordon Russel piece. And I bought the 1950s Ercol butterfly chairs in the pouring rain from the back of an antique dealer's van despite the dog teeth marks in one leg."
The display cabinet in the hall, housing another collection of pots, was made by the same carpenter, M J Derrick of Bristol, who made the staircase and windows.
Another important "room" is the walled garden. "Steve and I have worked hard replanting it to make it look beautiful," says Sarah. "A pebble path leads from the house to a pond running nearly the length of the garden in which we have newts, goldfish and toads. There was originally just one toad which would croak all day and night, obviously pining for a mate, so we felt sorry for him and introduced a few more to keep him company."
Steve also brought with him 11 stone troughs bought from a reclamation yard and it took two men three hours to manhandle them all from the van and into the garden.
"In fact," says Sarah, "when friends come to visit they say my home looks just like my gallery - and I can see why."
- Bath Aqua Glass, 01225 328146, bathaquaglass.com
- Carpentry by MJ Derrick Joinery, 01275 839600, mjderrick.co.uk
- Gallery Nine, 01225 319197, gallerynine.co.uk
- Homebase, 0345 640 7036, homebase.co.uk