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Living room Laura’s corner sofa is her go-to chillout zone. Sofa, Loaf. Tripod lamp, Habitat. Sheepskins, John Lewis & Partners. Stool, made by Gemma Metherell Upholstery

finally made up their minds to buy. And as the property is close to stately home Ragley Hall, the couple have since discovered they can watch the air shows and firework displays it hosts while immersed in the relaxing bubbles of the hot tub! ‘The barn came onto the market the day after we had an offer on our Solihull house. Things just seemed to fall into place; like it was meant to be. So although it took six months to complete, it was certainly worth the wait,’ says Laura, who spent the time deciding how she would style her rural retreat. ‘The conversion was only a couple of years old at that stage, which suited us very well. A local builder had done the work and created a living room, dining room (previously used as a third bedroom), two bedrooms and three bathrooms. It was still very new and meant we could put our stamp on it from the start,’ says Laura, who started an Instagram account (@thehappyheartcompany) shortly after moving into the barn, recording her decor choices. ‘A lot of my inspiration for interiors comes through some lovely small businesses that I follow on Instagram,’ she says. The result is a blend of calming natural elements mixed with contemporary styling to make the space tranquil and relaxing. ‘We were especially careful not to overpower the barn’s own structural elements and the >

LIVING THE DREAM Once her children were grown up, Laura Szczygielski was able to downsize to a home full of character.

What was the catalyst for your move to the country? It was a time of self-reflection and wondering what we wanted in life – and we decided the countryside would play a big part in our next step.

How did you prepare for the move? Downsizing meant we needed to re-think our furniture. We took only a few treasured pieces from our previous home and gave the rest to friends and charity.

How do you think big in a smaller space? The barn doesn’t feel small as it’s open plan and we were able to have a large sofa and dining table. We also spend lots of time in the garden during the summer, so it’s like having an extra room.

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