Real home: a clever stable conversion

Designer Abigail Owens put her skills to good use when she converted a stable into a her family home.

Desperate to move her growing family to the country, Abigail Owens has her mum to thank for finding her the perfect home.

“We were living near Thirsk but we were desperate to 
move somewhere more rural. I remember mum saying, ‘I've got this crazy idea' and she suggested that I convert the old stable block next to her farmhouse,” says 

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The result is a sensational property that is a hop and a skip away from work. She and her mum, Carolyn, run their business, Carolyn Parker Interior Design, from another building on the old farmstead close to the Howardian Hills.

Abigail's children, Louis, six, Rupert, three, and baby Willoughby, are doubly happy as they have their grandparents on the doorstep.

Planning permission to convert the building wasn't a problem and neither was somewhere to lodge after Abigail and her husband George sold their house to fund the construction.

“We lived with mum and dad for a 
year, which was great as we were on hand to oversee the project.

“It's all worked out wonderfully and it's great living next to the office, especially during really busy periods.

“I don't have to factor in travelling time and there's no getting stuck in traffic,” she says.

She and Carolyn are renowned interior designers, working on everything from country houses to contemporary apartments and villas.

Abigail also has a new project that is demanding even more of her time.

After she and her mum designed nursery fabrics “The Bunny Gets It” for Gainsborough last year, she came up with the idea for a luxurious and curated collection of furniture, bedding and accessories for babies and young children.

The Abigail's Nursery range is British made and is the highest possible quality.

“The fabric inspired me to do more products because there is very little at the top end of the market for nurseries,” she says.

“The idea is that these are beautifully made products that last. They are heirloom items that you can pass down. I was especially keen to do a range of really high quality bedding. New babies sleep for 18 hours a day, so it matters.”

She now has a collection of 500 thread count bedding that can be monogrammed and is working on a nursing chair, a children's bed and accessories and giftware.

Longevity was also at the forefront of Abigail's mind when she and George, a musician, planned the design of their home.

“The idea was that it would be a long-term home,” she says.

The original stable block was extended and clad in a combination of stone and timber. From the front it looks like a discreet single-storey building but it hides a second extension that adds extra square footage.

As the land sloped at one end of the plot, the topography was exploited to create two lower ground rooms. The music studio and the playroom now lead out into the lower garden. On the ground floor there is a cloakroom/hall, sitting room, kitchen/diner and three en-suite bedrooms.

“It was a challenging build because of the huge hole that had to be dug for the lower ground level and the land that had to be held back but the builders were fantastic,” says Abigail, who used Simpsons of York.

Bringing in natural light and the beautiful views was a priority, so the property has large areas of glazing using the biggest panes of glass that Pilkington's produce. All the frames are in wood.

“Aluminium was an option, but I think a house benefits from the look, feel and warmth of timber,” says Abigail.

The floors are in Polyflor's Camaro wood-effect vinyl, chosen for its hard-wearing qualities “a must with three boys”, though the sitting room features a rug by friends who run Wetherby-based Concept Hand Tufting, a bespoke rug maker.

“That was a wedding present and I love it,” says Abigail.

Zoffany paint was used for the walls. Powder Puff, a very pale pink, adds a pale rosy glow to the sitting room, and the rest of the house is in chalk and warm grey shades.

The kitchen has “cheap and cheerful” units from BMS in Market Weighton with a more expensive Silestone worktop. There's also a separate pantry plus a space-saving sliding pocket door that leads to the sitting room.

The interiors were done on a shoestring after most of the budget was blown on the build.

TK Maxx/Homesense was used for lamps and accessories and built-in furniture, designed by Abigail, helped save money.

The built-in wardrobes look expensive thanks to decorative beading and well chosen handles, while the storage unit in the hall is stylish and practical with a bench, baskets, shelves and coat hooks.

The latest addition to property is a “She Shed”. It was inspired by Abigail's friend Sally Coulthard, author of How to Build a Shed, published by Laurence King.

A joiner used the book to construct the basic shed while Abigail added her own design features including an iron-framed Gothic arched window that she found in a salvage yard.

“I fell in love with that window but I had to have it completely restored and we had to build the shed around it which complicated matters, but I love it,” she says.

She uses the shed, which has power and water, to indulge her love of growing flowers and succulents. It has a potting table and a sofa.

“The shed is the best thing I've ever done and it's now my favourite place. I'm outnumbered by boys in the house, so this is my girly space.”

Abigail's Nursery,; Carolyn Parker Interior Design,