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How a Designer Transformed an Old Stable into a Charming Guest House

This transformed stable reveals the magic of repurposing tiny spaces in our homes

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By House & Garden | February 22, 2024 | Design

While working on the statelier interiors of a 19th-century former vicarage on the edge of Bath, designer Anna Haines also took on the renovation of this small stable in the grounds, which is now a delightful place to accommodate guests

It is not often that we visit a house for a shoot and find ourselves falling hook, line and sinker for an outbuilding, but then not that many are quite as lovely as the one at this 1840s Grade II-listed former vicarage in Bath’s Combe Down. Don’t get me wrong, the house, which is now online with House & Garden, is unbelievably lovely, but the converted stables at the bottom of the garden had such charm that I found myself pleading with the owner to turn the one-up-one-down space into a holiday let.

Perhaps, it is due to its bijou size, which makes you realise that all you really need to be happy in life is somewhere to sleep, wash, cook and eat. Or perhaps it is because, like the main house, it has been thoughtfully and elegantly renovated by London-based interior designer Anna Haines, alongside Ailtire Architects. ‘We really wanted to respect the fabric of the building and give it a very lived-in feel,’ explains Anna. ‘It was about seeing the bones of the space,’ the owner adds.

When Anna started work on the stables it was a fairly rudimentary space with no plumbing, which was used for storage and as an impromptu gym space. ‘Our plan was to turn it into a self-contained dwelling for guests,’ explains Anna. It is essentially two rooms – one on each floor – so the idea was to create living quarters with a kitchen downstairs and a bedroom and bathroom upstairs. ‘There was a rickety old ladder between the floors, so our first task was getting a compliant staircase put in, while also retaining the floor space,’ recalls Anna, who, like with the main house, worked with Wraxall, a Bath-based building firm known for their historic renovations. An elegant and discrete staircase was added to one side of the space, leaving the ground floor, with its original stable paver floor, relatively open.

Along the back wall, Anna added an unfitted kitchen, created through a combination of an oiled oak sink unit with Merchant & Mills curtains, an antique shelf unit and a wall unit from Berdoulat, the Bath-based design studio headed up by Patrick Williams, who designed the kitchen for the main house. An Aga, originally in the main house, was reconditioned and slotted next to the sink unit, while an antique dining table and modern chairs, also from the main house, were positioned in the centre of the room. ‘We wanted this room to feel like it might have always been this way,’ explains Anna, gesturing to walls that are finished in a textural parchment-toned limewash. A rather lovely antique bench, which belonged to the owner already, sits under the stairs so neatly that you would almost think it had been made for the space.

Upstairs, Anna carved out space for a bathroom at the back, which sits above the kitchen. The floorboards were pretty damaged, so Anna had a new floor installed in the bathroom, but managed to retain the original pine boards in the bedroom. As lovely as this room is, with a Loaf bed upholstered in a Robert Kime ticking and a sweet original fireplace cleaned up by the builders, it is the full-height original door that opens as a window that really makes it. ‘There is something so charming about it,’ says Anna, who had the door painted in Farrow & Ball’s ‘French Gray’.

For the owners, the space is now more than just accommodation for guests. ‘Their children use it for sleepovers and the husband uses it for poker nights with friends,’ Anna explains. ‘They really use it as a family, which we didn’t totally anticipate at the beginning and that’s brilliant.’ It is ideal in summer too, as there is a lovely outdoor stone oven next to the stables, so the whole family can gather around the table and feast on pizzas. It looks like I might have to keep begging for it to become a rental, but really who can blame them for enjoying it themselves?

This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK.