The Home Tour Series #4 Cara Bale

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In the beautiful county of Norfolk, down a long and winding driveway lies a seemingly inconspicuous single-storey home. With pretty potted plants lining the stable-door entrance, the real surprise comes when you open the front door. Greeted with clean, white interiors and bundles of natural light, you feel as though you’ve stepped into a French holiday home down in the Dordogne thanks to its more-than-spacious kitchen with high-beamed ceilings and curated collection of homely, rustic accessories. It boasts a timeless, minimalist aesthetic with a modern country feel, where each and every piece of furniture has a purpose to serve and a story to tell.

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Tell us a little about your home – what really sold the house to you?

It’s a single storey converted barn, not the sort of property we were particularly looking for but actually the lack of stairs appealed as we had a 6 month old and a 3 year old at the time and the thought of no stair gates was a big plus! Another bonus for us was the size of the rooms. We had a little 2 up 2 down cottage at the time and couldn’t buy regular furniture as it was so small, so this felt like a palace when we moved in!

Oakley Pine Slim Jim

The first thing you notice when you step through the door is how light and airy your home feels – what was the house like when you first moved in?

The high ceilings are a huge part of the feel to our home. When we moved in the beams were stained deep mahogany, the floors had brown carpets and lino and the walls were all a yellowy magnolia. We laid the floor boards and painted them white alongside the ceilings and walls, and painted the beams in an off-white colour as we didn’t want them to get lost amongst the sea of ‘Wimborne White!’ We lived here for two years before ripping out the kitchen and replacing it with a light grey bespoke one with white tops and a butler sink. We actually made the kitchen smaller as we realised we didn’t need as many cupboards, so this also makes the room feel more spacious.

Geo Throw Grey

Tell us about some of the changes you made – did anything turn out harder or more of a challenge than you first thought?

The kitchen has been one of the best and worst experiences for us – we love the way it looks but were so disappointed with it when it was fitted. We had been quoted for a solid wood kitchen that was bespoke to the space and when it arrived we quickly realised the company were not what we thought they were. We ended up falling out with them and leaving them a bad review but they got to keep every penny we had saved for years. If I could give one piece of advice it would be to get your kitchen from Ikea but invest in a good worktop, sink and tap.

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Your home boasts a very minimalist feel to it, do you have to plan your storage and organisation carefully to maintain this clutter-free aesthetic?

My other half works long days and I work 4 days a week, so with the girls on top of that we had to keep in mind ‘what will make my life easier?’ When decorating and buying furniture etc we don’t buy things we don’t need and try to only buy things that serve a purpose. I also think for a long time before buying things and research the best options and prices. I’m also a sucker for anything vintage though so sometimes make spur of the moment purchases which always end up being my favourite items! The girls’ room is a complete anomaly though, they have baskets full of toys that spill out all over the floor every single day. The fashion for baskets is marvellous – we have several laying around that we throw everything in!

Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest now offer a wealth of accessible inspiration – where do you look for interiors inspiration? Tell us about some of your favourite Instagram accounts and favourite independent stores.

I am mainly inspired by Instagram and two accounts spring to mind instantly. I was and still continue to be inspired mostly by Angie Wendrick’s home in Indiana, USA. She and her partner designed and built their home for simple living and her style and way of life inspires me, her aesthetics are stunning with natural materials, colours and fabrics. Her Instagram account is countyroadliving and with 88.5K followers it seems a lot of other people are inspired by her too! Another favourite account for me is Lisa Valentine Home (@lisavalentinehome), an online store for practical homeware. I’ve bought so many items from Lisa as they are practical but so beautiful. Everything she sells is a key piece and can change a room – I especially love my dish rack that I invested in from her which was just under £50. Every single time I see it I think ‘I love that!’ and let me tell you… I see it a lot!

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Is there anything you would still like to do in your home or are there any projects in the pipeline?

YES! We haven’t even touched the bathrooms! I’m really excited to renovate them and have lots of ideas in mind, obviously a roll top bath, vintage units, old mirrors, brass fixtures and fittings. I’ve got a Pinterest board full of inspiration but we need to save for a while before we can indulge in the bathrooms. We also left space on the roof between the solar panels for sky lights, those won’t cost too much and in an ideal world I’d like to get those before winter as I think they will make the space much lighter when the weather finally turns!

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What’s become your favourite corner? Or the spot you go to relax?

I’m usually found in the kitchen, it really is the heart of the home but actually my favourite place to relax is laying on the bed. I often flop there for a few minutes then get up and go again!

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What are the three things that really make a house a home for you?

A kitchen that you can eat in! When we were looking for houses it was the main thing on my list, I wanted a big dining table in the kitchen where the girls could be colouring in/reading/lego etc while I was cooking.

A wood burner. My other half will laugh when he reads this as I protested when he insisted on putting it in as it delayed us getting the kitchen! – but in the winter and especially at Christmas nothing beats sitting by the wood burner.

It doesn’t have to be pretty, but it has to be welcoming and I really hope that our friends and family know that they are always welcome. The kettle is always on and there’s always custard creams in the biscuit tin!

Finally, if you were looking to move, would you look for a similar house to the one you’re in now? What would be on the checklist of things you would like in a new home?

We are looking to move within the next 7 years. We love the barn and the layout works perfectly for us however we have neighbours everywhere we look. I’d love to find either a plot of land or an old house that needs attention as our next project, but once the girls are both in school as at some point I’m looking forward to sitting down!!

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A big, big thank you to Cara for inviting us so warmly into her home. Feeling inspired? Head over to @this_norfolk_mama for more beautiful snaps of Norfolk or to rent this lovely converted barn on Airbnb!

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