A common refrain of those who’ve restored a listed building is that planners and conservation officers are more of a hindrance rather than a help. That’s not the experience of Fred, Neptune’s head of design and build, whose job it is to ensure that every building Neptune acquires is magically reborn as a showroom that looks and feels like the home that its customers have an opportunity to create. These buildings range from agricultural structures to a former tram yard, all of which Fred and his team work hard to improve while respecting the spirit of their past.
The Cheltenham store, which opened in early 2017, is unusual in that it started life as a picture perfect townhouse in the late 18th century. Later, it became a pub and its architectural merit attracted a Grade II listing, meaning that it’s of special interest. ‘The conservation officers were a font of knowledge who really helped us achieve the authenticity you need when restoring a listed building,’ says Fred. The exterior was exceptional: a classic, flat-fronted Georgian house with beautiful proportions, sash windows and the original decorative metalwork canopy still intact (which the team sandblasted back to its original state).
Working collaboratively with the planners, the upper floor was created over a single storey addition, restoring the symmetry of the building. But the interior was a different matter: ‘The house had evolved a great deal over the years and very little of the original layout and architectural detailing remained,’ explains Fred.
The project has also benefited from the expertise and resources that Neptune has to offer. As well as working with local reclaimed timber and stone, materials from the Neptune collection were employed to sympathetically transform the house. Another invaluable resource was Neptune’s team of builders, overseen by Lukasz Krupa who worked on the home of Neptune’s co-founder John Sims-Hilditch a decade ago.
As well as the involvement of the conservation officer, the benefit of the Grade II classification was the deep seam of information offered by the listed building register, which included an overview of the building, the original materials used and planning history. Fred and his team worked with all the available evidence to reinstate elements of the original layout, period cornicing and ceiling roses, while also maximising light to enhance the look and feel of the interior. ‘The greatest focus was on the architectural detail, both inside and out, and it has been the real achievement of this project,’ adds Fred. The result is a seamless joining of old and new that creates the perfect place to seek inspiration for the home.