This garden designer’s home focuses on the outdoor space

While most house hunters start with how many bedrooms they want and what the kitchen and living room are like, the owner of this 18th-century home in a village in Oxfordshire, UK took an unconventional approach. Ailsa Richards is a garden designer and was far more concerned about the type of trees in the garden and whether there was an opportunity to encourage everything from pollinators to hedgehogs into the outdoor space. She sees things from the outside in, and so it was a 300-year-old yew tree and some gnarled old apple trees that sealed the deal on this house. Never mind that the small two-bedroom cottage did not have room for the growing family and that the main rooms did not have a view of the garden – all these things could be fixed in time.

Fourteen years later, the house has more than doubled its footprint with side and rear additions. The interior of the house, now one of the the best home in the world, was inspired by its partially enclosed garden and the green space behind it. The result is a harmonious and relaxing home, completely at one with its surroundings, as the indoor and outdoor worlds merge in a soft palette of natural shades. Here’s how it all came together.


(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

One of the most important things in redesigning the interior was to open the house to the view of the garden. All the main living areas are now at the back. The new kitchen includes a beautiful bay window dining area with a custom built banquette, perfect for admiring the garden and observing the changing seasons. From the new window seat you can see apple blossoms in the spring, then parts of hostas, hydrangeas, sedums and so seed heads and bronze hornbeam in the winter.

Kitchen ideas include a large island worktop painted in Farrow & Ball’s Stone Blue. Simple Shaker-style cabinets are topped with marble and customized with antique-style handles.

blue kitchen cabinets and steel stove with gray-blue tiles in herringbone pattern and herringbone wooden floor

(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

A stainless steel stove is mounted under a false chimney hood that hides an extractor hood. Glossy gray-blue tiles are arranged in an eye-catching herringbone pattern that mirrors the herringbone floor.

Dining room addition

dining room extension with vaulted ceiling and skylight with wooden table and steel framed windows

(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

This high-ceilinged family dining room and sitting room was part of the latest phase of house renovations. Large picture windows were never part of the plan here, instead steel frame doors frame the view to the garden and add to the charm rather than revealing everything at once. Dining room ideas for this busy family room include simple bench seating with a heavier, statement dark wood table.

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