At was the inviting garden and sense of light in the detached property near Guildford in Surrey that inspired Dawn Smith to see beyond the dated interior and tiny kitchen when she first viewed it four years ago, and recognise that turning it into a beautiful country home would be a great project to take on.

Once the house was hers, Dawn – who owns an artificial plant, flower and accessories company – wasted no time putting her plans in place, one of which included a major addition to the back of the property. ‘The house is on a corner plot, which makes all the difference, as you have so much more room to play with, and you’re not overlooked by other houses,’ she explains. ‘Because the garden was large, I knew that a substantial extension wouldn’t overwhelm the space.

‘If you’ve got the room, I believe it’s worth pushing your budget as much as you can and really go for it,’ she continues. ‘You never hear people say I wish I’d made those rooms smaller! In the end we extended right across the back as well as at the side and took the roof off.’

The year-long project was a dramatic change. ‘We couldn’t possibly have lived here during the work – at one point there were only a few walls standing, and no roof. It was scary at times but I always had faith. I had a great architect, Leigh Bowen, from a local firm called 50 Degrees North, and he got my vision totally.’

Dawn was adamant that the front of the house stay original, maintaining the leaded windows to keep the character, for instance, whereas all the rooms at the back have been designed to take in the beauty of the south-facing garden.

The original galley kitchen was cute, but tiny, and Dawn was keen to create one very large space opening out on to the garden, with zoned areas for cooking, eating and relaxing. The front of the house has a cosy sitting room and an office, with a dramatic hallway leading into the new large light space that’s now the heart of the home, where family and friends invariably gather.

Upstairs has also seen huge changes. Originally with four bedrooms and just one bathroom to serve the household, it had a very dated layout.

‘We’ve now got five good-sized bedrooms, all with their own en suite bathrooms,’ Dawn says. ‘My eldest daughter Charley moved out a while ago and is getting married, but she frequently comes to stay, as do my other daughter Lily’s friends, so all the bedrooms get used, and I love to offer people a place to stay with their own bathroom. The new extension has also created the option for balconies off the bedrooms, which overlook the garden.’

Since the building work was completed, Dawn has taken her time to decorate. ‘I decided to paint every room in the same colour – Dulux’s Just Walnut – so the furniture, accessories and plants would stand out,’ she says.

This calming backdrop combines with furnishings in a mix of greys and creams, along with individual items both old and new, and of course her astonishing collection of artificial plants and flowers. ‘There isn’t one real flower or plant in the house, which people find so hard to believe,’ she laughs. ‘Of course I go for all the unusual pieces like the termite and olive trees, but I have also introduced items like the baskets of hydrangeas, which soften the look and make the house feel homely.’

The ambitious project has undoubtedly paid off. ‘To sit at the back of the house and let the light flood in really makes me feel the upheaval was completely worth it,’ Dawn says happily.


The Owner Dawn Smith lives with her grown-up daughters Charley and Lily along with Tibetan terrier Harvey, and Milo the cat. Dawn is the owner of a bespoke artificial plant, flower and accessories company (

The Home This two-storey home in Surrey, England, has been completely renovated to double its size and create a calm and comfortable country retreat.

Image Source: GAP Interiors/Colin Poole