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We’ve turned a unique building into our home

With a hands-on approach Maria and Al transformed an old chapel into the perfect home and business

Maria Jones and her partner Al Bauckham had no plans to move, but everything changed when Al spotted a For Sale sign in a village near their home in Somerset. Stopping to investigate, he discovered a large, former chapel, occupied by an antiques dealer, and brimming with character. It seemed ideal for Maria’s florist business, with room at the back for a workshop for Al, who is a builder. Maria was keen until Al suggested that they could live there too. ‘I wasn’t expecting that,’ she says. ‘Thinking it over, I could see it made sense, though I was really unsure at first.’ Al’s idea was to establish their businesses on the ground floor and transform the storage area above into a proper first level where they could make their home. Despite her doubts, Maria agreed, ‘It was going to be a huge challenge, but I knew we’d regret it if we let the opportunity slip away,’ she says.

Maria’s large corner sofa is one of a handful of pieces of furniture brought from her previous home. Piled with throws and cushions it softens the room and the ‘L’-shape creates a cosy seating area. The dramatic metal lighting above was found at a local vintage market

Within months, planning permission had been granted and Maria and Al left their comfortable bungalow for a cold, empty building with little more than a sink and WC. Al was able to install fire-proofing between the two levels before they moved in, but there was no bathroom, kitchen or bedroom, and no heating.

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Happy New Year! I hope you had a great time over Christmas. Is it just me or does your home feel a little sad once you’ve taken the decorations down after the festive season has ended? Never mind though, as we’ve got some great ideas to freshen it up for the year ahead, from chic ways to use this season’s latest pastel shades in your home (p.20), to some budget-conscious buys for revamping your kitchen (p.50), plus some elegant ideas for creating a classic, timeless bathroom scheme (p.56). And if your hallway is in need of a little TLC, then check out our brilliant makeovers to see how three readers have transformed theirs with some clever design tricks I know you’ll want to steal (p24). One of the most common problems we all face is not having enough space, so we’ve put together an 8-page special packed with savvy storage solutions and creative ideas to stretch your space and make your home feel bigger, tidier and more streamlined (p.36). If you’re putting your house on the market this year, make sure you read George Clarke’s expert advice for playing the property game (p.111) and turn to page 106 to find out about the latest alternative ways to sell your home. Learning a new skill is certainly on my New Year’s resolution list, and if it’s on yours too, then take a look at our pick of the best courses to try, from sewing to gardening, DIY to cookery, you’re sure to find one that inspires you.
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