We catch up with Sarah Wilkie who, alongside sister-in-law Sally, runs destination vintage interiors store, HomeBarn in Little Marlow, Buckinghamshire. She gives us the low down on swapping London life for the countryside idyll.
Sarah and her family moved in to their current house, a traditional woodman’s cottage in Little Marlow, 12 years ago, having been seduced by the “incredible view of nothing but uninterrupted rolling fields and distant woodland”. Looking past the ubiquitous deep purple walls, they saw real potential in the house. “We do like a project,” Sarah chuckles.
The family took advantage of this potential by adding a substantial extension, doubling the size of their living space downstairs and adding a master bedroom with en-suite bathroom upstairs.
With two small children (Samuel, now 14 and Hannah, now 12) in tow, the family abandoned their London terrace on a busy road and “swapped the sound of sirens and traffic throughout the night for the sound of owls … initially a very frightening sound after living in the city for so long”, Sarah laughs. Both Sarah and her husband Mark grew up in the area and the children’s grandparents are on the doorstep, so despite a temporary adjustment period, Sarah admits that the move “felt like coming home”.
Sarah explains that their previous home was “very hastily put together - after much structural work and with two babies, we went for the easy option, being very neutral and all rather safe.” Inspired by their new beginnings in the countryside, Sarah describes how upon leaving London “we left all the furniture behind and started again.”
In contrast to their first property, Sarah admits that today they are a lot more careful with their home purchases. “We now wait for years if necessary to buy the right piece, preferring not to compromise but to buy something which we will love for a long period of time.”
Their most recent purchase was a custom made reclaimed rustic dining table. “It’s 8ft long and is perfect for informal dining, homework and painting as it’s got a pre-loved and scrubbed look to the recycled timber top,” Sarah explains. It takes pride of place in the hub of the house, their large open-plan kitchen / dining room with stunning views of the surrounding countryside, which is where the family congregate after school and in the evenings.
The house’s decor is a balance between Sarah’s style and that of her husband, Mark Wilkie, Creative Director of London design agency, The Narrative. “His taste is more contemporary so we really have to make the two looks blend together, but the old and the new work so well side by side,” Sarah explains.
Rather than traditional artwork, the family like to make unique pieces a decorative focus. “We have an old colour mixing palette board from an artist’s studio above the fire, we love to use three dimensional items as artwork, such as American tin vintage ceiling tiles,” Sarah explains. They also turn curated collections of personal or interesting objects into pieces art, such as botanical samples in resin or the wall of framed items that the family has collected on memorable walks or holidays.
The family takes a practical approach to the continuing evolution of the house, as Sarah explains, “We never set a budget for home décor, we do what we can when we can afford it.”
Sarah and Mark have finished the major work on the house for now and at present the children are the priority so they have no immediate plans to renovate any more rooms. When pressed, Sarah admits that her next project would be the kitchen. “I’d love to redesign the kitchen with a bigger cooker as we struggle to cater for bigger parties these days,” she admits. All in all, it seems that this was one pretty successful escape to the country.