Luxury living in old village store

CAROLINE CULOT There can't be many Spar shops that look like this! Bank House, formerly a Spar and a bank in the centre of East Harling, is now a majestic village house with a beautiful interior, and it's all down to one man - Andrew Nelstrop.


There can't be many Spar shops that look like this! Bank House, formerly a Spar and a bank in the centre of East Harling, is now a majestic village house with a beautiful interior, and it's all down to one man - Andrew Nelstrop.

Mr Nelstrop bought the Grade II listed, timber-framed property in 1999, when was divided into the shop and house, and decided to make it into a character home again. This meant almost a year of rejuvenating floors and exposed beams, putting in walls and taking out others.

And what a fantastic job he has done - Bank House, on Market Street, now makes a lovely home, boasting a master and four double bedrooms and five loos as well as two self-contained flats which bring in about £12,000 a year. It is for sale for £795,000 with Musker McIntyre.

What really impressed me was Mr Nelstrop's attention to detail and desire to take the house, parts of which date from the 1500s, back to its former glory, retaining its best original features and adding others.

He and his team of builders exposed old hidden fireplaces and stripped original shutters and wooden floors. But his renovation also meant modernising where necessary - putting in bathrooms, cloakrooms and a lovely farmhouse-style kitchen.

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And he also chose the colour scheme for the house as well as the décor (with only a tiny little bit of help from a female friend) even though he is not an interior designer. And what a result!

Mr Nelstrop put in a front door where it originally would have been before the house was converted into a shop and bank, so you walk in off the high street directly into a beautiful, large reception hall with the most impressive inglenook fireplace. Off right from the reception is a stunning dining room painted a deep Regency blue from Farrow & Ball and boasting another marvellous rustic fireplace. Mr Nelstrop has a big round dining table in here and reckons it's a great room for parties (and if you see what he has in his wine cellar, you can see why!)

Mr Nelstrop did not want to lose the character of the sash windows of the property but because the house is by the road, he had new ones made with double glazing and exactly replicating the intricate beadwork of the originals. On the other side of the reception is a large drawing/sitting room with a Norfolk elm floor. This is where the Spar shop entrance was and Mr Nelstrop put in a wall, because the original shop went all the way to the rear of the house. This room is a pale yellow and again has a lovely large fireplace with a huge wooden beam, added by Mr Nelstrop. Both the dining room and sitting room have the original wooden shutters, which have been stripped.

Off an inner hall is a lovely big kitchen which was originally several smaller rooms. The walls have been removed, but the wooden beams remain so it's full of character. On the floor are limestone-style flagstones and Mr Nelstrop put in fitted units, which he painted white, as well as the obligatory Aga - dark red - and a wooden worktop. There's a big utility off this and a walk-in pantry. Also downstairs is a cloakroom and a snug with a fireplace.

Upstairs - and this house boasts two staircases so take your pick - the house has a large master bedroom, with a huge working fireplace (how romantic is that?) and a stunning en suite and large dressing room. The en suite, rich in features such as beams and a brick chimney breast, has been done wonderfully, with a big jacuzzi bath and huge power shower. Even the dressing room has its own feature fireplace. Off these rooms is a further large roof space which Mr Nelstrop has not renovated but uses for storage, although it did have planning permission, now lapsed, for a conversion.

There are two guest double bedrooms on this floor, all beautifully decorated and a bathroom. On the second floor, up a tiny staircase, is a generous attic room with two more doubles and a bathroom.

The house comes with the two flats which Mr Nelstrop devised because the house was so big (it would have given him a total of nine bedrooms). However, the way he has divided the property means that it would be easy to convert the properties back into one if someone wanted to.

The house is right on the high street, between two pubs, and at the back it has a covered patio area perfect for eating outside, housed in the original cart shed. There are also three garages and a lovely little lawned garden, enclosed by a brick and flint wall which Mr Nelstrop had built. There are fig trees and vines, so it's a real oasis in the heart of the village.

The self-contained flats, with an entrance on School Lane, at the side of the house, both have two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and reception.

The property is ideal for commuting to London or travelling into Norwich via the A11.