The House That Rocks
Surrey Life|November 2020
The House That Rocks
Transforming an impressive, seven-bedroom Victorian property in Dorking wasn’t without its challenges, but the result is a stunning family home that has had the interiors world raving
Zoe Richards

When Philippa McFarlane and her husband Al first saw Sandrock House in 2012 after a two-year search for their next property, they knew it had stacks of potential.

Philippa was captivated by the character and period features in this already imposing Victorian seven-bedroom family home. Describing its condition as “perfectly functional but a little tired”, she says: “We were immediately drawn to the original fireplaces and cornicing, plus its grand proportions. The rooms felt so big, but mainly we fell in love with the welcoming soul of the house.”

Already Dorking residents – Al had grown up there and Philippa moved to the area when they got together – the couple were also attracted by the short walk into town. With an appetite for a project, the pair wasted no time in getting stuck into the structural and cosmetic overhaul, which would take the best part of the next seven years. Philippa had always had an eye for interior design, having studied for a degree in interior architecture in her late teens, and her natural instinct for interiors and styling was ever-present. But it was a passion that had been largely left on the back burner until the renovations at Sandrock House took off.

Describing her style as timeless but eclectic, Pinterest became a “full-blown addiction” as Philippa gathered inspiration for the décor by looking through thousands of images.

This was no simple spruceup though. There were some epic structural challenges that the couple had to face. The distinctive turret feature at the front of the house that defines the property needed some attention. With a fair amount of compression causing the framework to sag, plus draughty windows, it needed fixing urgently so they could use the inside space as a nursery for the youngest of their three boys.

One of the biggest concerns was that the levels were out of sync on the ground floor. Knowing that they wanted to open up the downstairs to create what would become a magnificent open-plan kitchen and orangery, they had to align the floors to make things flow. Knocking out internal walls and a prominent chimney breast meant a huge amount of steels were required, but it’s arguably this area that gives the house such a wow factor.


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November 2020