Drawing on Simon Ellis’ architectural expertise, he and his wife Philippa have transformed a former forge into a practical, spacious home.

Fact file

Philippa EllisThe owners: Philippa Ellis, who runs her own landscaping company, and her husband Simon, an architect, live here with their two-year-old twins Lucas and Sophie
The property: A three-bedroom 17th-century former forge cottage
The location: Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire
What they spent: The couple bought the property for £445,000 in 2006 and have spent around £250,000 renovating it. The cottage has recently been valued at around £700,000.

In 2006, Philippa and Simon Ellis decided to exchange life in the bustling city centre of Bath for the Gloucestershire countryside.

‘We’d always loved the Cotswolds and chose the village of Wotton-under-Edge for its lovely charming feel,’ says Philippa.

When the couple first viewed the former forge, it had three bedrooms, with an upstairs living area; it was dark with inadequate lighting throughout, plus it needed to be rewired.

‘The forge had been converted into a village post office many years ago, but the current layout set over three storeys simply didn’t suit the needs of a family home,’ Philippa explains.

On completion of the sale, the couple moved in and lived with the cottage for three years while they planned the structural changes. They also took the opportunity to apply for the relevant planning permission, so they would be able to start work without any delays.

‘We decided to add two extensions to create the space we needed,’ says Philippa.

A two-storey extension – in place of old storage rooms – would house a ground floor utility room and master en suite bedroom on the first floor. The other would be a single-storey extension, above the original kitchen, with a small study area – and next to this a stairwell to a new second floor guest bedroom and en suite. The house also required extensive renovations to turn it into a more practical layout.

Work started in late 2009, which was when Philippa discovered that she was pregnant with the twins.

‘We decided to continue living on site during the build, so we could be on hand to deal with any problems,’ she explains.

The couple planned to redesign the three-storey layout to suit their own style. This included converting the large study on the ground floor into a hallway, as well as creating a spacious guest en suite bedroom on the second floor in place of two small, impractical bedrooms.

‘We knew that we would have to re-roof the cottage, using stone tiles instead of the mix of slate, stone and clay tiles already there,’ says Philippa. ‘We also had to replace the plumbing, install a damp-proof course and rewire the entire house.’

What they hadn’t realised was that the house lacked foundations – in fact, it was leaning against the stone-built retaining wall of the main village road that runs at the level of the first floor. The builders had to create new foundations for the two-storey extension by building a reinforced concrete floor and linking it to the retaining wall of the cottage, which was also reinforced with concrete.

Once the two extensions were complete, the couple created more living space with a stunning new garden room, to help bring in extra light and open up the space.

‘Downstairs we installed underfloor heating and laid limestone flooring above it to replace the mix of quarry tiles and stone flags, which had been laid directly onto the earth,’ says Philippa.

The original timber flooring in the snug and first floor living room was taken up, repaired and re-laid after the builders added rolled steel joists to reinforce the living room floor.

‘We replaced the wooden frame windows, which had gone rotten, and all the external and internal doors,’ says Philippa. ‘We also installed a wood-burning stove in the snug to supply hot water for the radiators upstairs.’

Simon was keen to introduce as much natural light as possible into the dark snug, so he knocked through the dividing wall to create three eye-catching arches facing the walkway, running parallel with the garden room to flood the space with light.

A cloakroom adjoining the kitchen was also demolished, allowing Phillipa and Simon to push the wall back by 2.5m into the now vacant space and create a much larger, practical kitchen.

‘We then created two en suite shower rooms, one in the two-storey extension to serve the master bedroom and the other on the second floor in the new guest en suite bedroom,’ says Philippa. ‘We refurbished the ground floor bathroom too.’

The couple continued living on site until early 2010, when they moved into a neighbour’s spare room before Philippa was admitted to hospital to give birth to the twins. Philippa and the babies remained in hospital for a further 12 weeks before they were allowed to go home to the newly renovated property.

Their builders, Chappell & Dix (chappellanddix.co.uk), carried on with the renovations and, by the time the family moved back to the house, most of the building work was finished and the couple could concentrate on decorating and furnishing the cottage.

Philippa and Simon decided to maintain its character and create a country-style home with a neutral colour scheme acting as a backdrop to statement pieces.

‘We brought a lot of our furniture from our previous home, but we invested in additional pieces to suit our new family lifestyle,’ Philippa explains. ‘We think it works very well.’

‘The project was a challenge, but we now have a bigger, brighter home that’s perfect for our new family,’ she adds.


Building work, including two extensions and a garden room £82,000
Rewiring and replumbing £30,000
Joinery, including stairs, window frames, doors etc £20,000
New roofing £20,000
Flooring £20,000
Kitchen units, worktops, range cooker and appliances £20,000
Central heating £20,000
Bathrooms £10,000
Underfloor heating £10,000
Decorating £8,000
TOTAL £250,000