As a photographer and keen writer it was a pleasure to join forces with Andrew Kerr Ltd on a recent project. Embracing the old with the new the result has brought colour and a whole new style towards country living.
Restoring period property & dovetailing the features with a more contemporary aesthetic is something Andrew Kerr has been doing since he set up his company in 2002. After time spent in property development he decided to set up a business with an armoury of time served craftsmen and architectural artisans; servicing a discerning clientele around London to a high specification led to this, his most challenging project to date.
Collaborating with a designer who had an eye for detail they lay the foundations to transform an Elizabethan property. Formerly three separate cottages stitched together it overlooked sixty square miles of outstanding natural beauty in the Surrey Hills.
Everything about the building had something of a quirky history attached to it. From its reconstruction of farm cottages that had traversed the country by horse and cart, being used as a location for a couple of famous films, to the rock and roll establishment that had graced its site; Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox wrote music there, Ginger Baker stayed there and the bands Genesis and Queen had even performed there.
It was a place of distinction that was quite unique. A respect for what had gone before was instilled at the very start however much had to be done to turn this glorious residence into something that belonged to the style of the present day owner.
“Much of the material and most of the oak beams dated back to this period however the woodwork was painted black and the timber needed to be stripped and exposed to its former glory”, “the house had been painted pink and though the setting was outstanding and had clear potential everything had to be peeled back layer by layer to discover what originally existed, essentially it then had to be rebuilt piece by piece. Initially it didn’t even have any heating.”
Having worked with the client on his London townhouse Andrew felt very motivated about the prospect to come. “I was very fortunate to be working with someone who had a clear idea of where things should aesthetically be from the start, part of the property recedes towards smaller darker more intimate spaces where the study and audio visual room were positioned, the main bedroom on the other hand took a more prominent placing by overlooking the vast and grand view.” This coupled with his desire for fine quality and to give a home and structure essentially what it needs gave the job at hand more freedom and allowed it to breathe.
Part of the remit was to make the space more stimulating and interesting to be around, to use materials that have a long lasting energy about them; where original framework could be salvaged and to mould and cast these to their original form with bespoke detailing.
Rosewood was chosen for the kitchen and main bathroom as it is rich in colour, has a brave characteristic and a lot of interesting movement in the grain of the wood. Much of this was then bookmatched with sheets of onyx to match a desired effect. Seasoned oak of the size and scale required had to be brought from France.
Perhaps one of the most outstanding features though sits prominently in the main bathroom. Its basin being a single block of onyx weighing over a ton that had to be craned through the window and lowered onto its stand, which in itself had to be reinforced underneath with steel. An artisan was then brought in to hand carve this to its present glory.
The lighting system is an interesting feature that reigns throughout the property and grounds. Described for its ‘intelligence’ as various moods can be set, all of which can be defined and refined on an app.
Having the clients support financially and creatively allowed a freedom for expression to be given throughout the process, a free-reign that stitched together stand alone rooms that are non predictable and not premeditated by way of design in their outcome. This very technique steered the re-construction of a building that was very set in its past. Faith in the project was given from the start and led to shoeboarding a set of ideas; free-wheeling in a piece by piece, room by room manner of construction helped identify it’s provenance and add to what had gone before.
The success of the project has been characterised by the guests fortunate to stay there. Rebuilt over a period of around 18 months it takes in the past, present and a look towards the future. All encompassing in its many themes and styles its impression is a lasting one and one unlikely to fade away anytime soon.