PITCH PERFECT
Country Homes & Interiors|May 2020
An ambitious transformation saw JP Clark’s Surrey Hills house turn from overgrown wallflower to New England-style beauty
JULIET BENNING

No strangers to the renovation game, JP Clark and his husband John had completed seven property projects before embarking on their eighth – an uninspiring detached house in the Surrey Hills. ‘We got together 22 years ago and had a plan from day one to end up in a detached house somewhere pretty with a view,’ says JP. He refers to this 1920s property as ‘the house that nobody wanted to buy’. But despite the four small bedrooms, lack of light and sloping hillside garden, the couple saw potential. ‘The only reason we bought it was because of the view. The house would have to be changed completely into something bigger and much more beautiful.’

I’M QUITE A PRIVATE CHEF AND I LIKE TO REMAIN SEPARATE FROM GUESTS WHILE COOKING, SO WE ATTACHED ONE END OF OUR ISLAND UNIT TO THE WALL, EFFECTIVELY CREATING A BARRIER

WE TRAVELLED TO CAPE COD. I TOOK MANY PHOTOS OF TINY ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS AND WE KNOCKED ON PEOPLE’S DOORS, ASKING IF WE COULD HAVE A LOOK AROUND THEIR HOMES

Before starting on the house, the epic job of landscaping had to be completed. ‘We knew that once the house was extended, there wouldn’t be enough room to get the diggers in to take the huge amount of soil away,’ says JP. Overshadowing the house, the wild, sloping garden made the rooms dark. ‘It hadn’t been tamed in years. There were 40ft high leylandii and other trees. You could barely see the sky,’ recalls JP. But with grit and determination, the couple transformed the garden in around five weeks. ‘All the plants were ripped out and we started from scratch. We created new terraces, based on the paddy fields of Bali.’

A passionate fan of the weatherboard architecture in New England, JP had long dreamed of recreating the look in a home of his own. Unfortunately, the council had other ideas, and the planning process was long and painstaking. Finally, the project was given the green light after one minor amendment.

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