Sarah Reed loves hosting Christmas. ‘I relish the prospect of celebrating with family and friends,’ she says. The more the merrier is her philosophy, and this enthusiasm is evident the moment you step through the front door. Decked with twinkling lights and seasonal foliage, from the wreath on the door to the lavishly decorated Christmas trees – one in the kitchen, the other in the sitting room – there is no doubt her guests will be well looked after throughout the festive season.

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But Sarah’s talent for creating a joyful and welcoming atmosphere extends far beyond simply dressing her home for Christmas. As the founder and director of design and refurbishment company Ministry of the Interior, Sarah has established a reputation for sympathetic yet radical property transformations, and this expertise has been put to full use in her West Sussex home.

Back in 2014, when Sarah first saw the property, she had been renting in nearby Chichester, biding her time, waiting for the perfect house. ‘It was quite a challenge,’ she recalls. One of the essential requirements was finding a house in a rural location with enough space in the dining room for a much-loved sycamore and burr oak table that she designed 20 years earlier.

‘I also needed room for my piano,’ she says, ‘as well as the other antiques and pieces of furniture that I would hate to part with.’ In addition to having room for beloved possessions, the property had to offer scope for her own bold and confident style.

Situated on the western boundary of the Goodwood Estate, at the foot of the rolling South Downs, the property’s location couldn’t have been better. ‘It’s an extraordinary place,’ Sarah says, ‘a breathtaking spot, surrounded by woodland.’ Fortunately, the house itself also ticked all the boxes on Sarah’s list: formerly a pair of cottages built in 1790 by French prisoners of war, it had plenty of charm and character.

What might once have been quite tight living space had already been opened up when the cottages were knocked into one property at some point in the 1970s, meaning there was plenty of flexibility in terms of space. Better still, a walled garden offered the opportunity for an extension, which today sits unobtrusively in its tranquil surroundings, linked to the cottage with a striking glazed entrance hall. Sarah says she enjoyed the challenge of coming up with innovative ideas for the house.

These ranged from liaising with a local architect to devise a concept for the extension, similar to that of a stack of Russian nesting dolls, ‘whereby each building would, metaphorically, fit neatly into the next’, to clever storage solutions, such as the charming cabin bed in eldest daughter Araminta’s bedroom. ‘It incorporates wardrobes at each end, storage drawers underneath and built-in reading lights,’ she says.

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Sarah grew up in a large house in Norfolk, where beautiful furniture and antiques were handed down through both sides of the family. ‘From childhood, I’ve always loved antiques and have been very lucky to have been given a number of gorgeous pieces,’ she says, adding that these heirloom antiques, artworks and furniture guided the colour schemes throughout the house.

‘The windows in the old building are quite small,’ says Sarah. ‘Instead of choosing lighter shades to brighten the rooms, I deliberately opted for deeper hues to accentuate the cosy feel and period features.’ Warm tones of grey run through both parts of the building. ‘They pull the home together and create a sense of cohesion,’ she says.

At this time of the year, Sarah’s home is a magical place, bathed in candlelight. She always buys two Christmas trees, one for the old part of the house and one for the extension, and she adorns them with decorations collected over the years. ‘On Christmas Day, we tend to gather in the kitchen for canapés and drinks, before moving through to the older part of the house for lunch in the more formal dining room,’ Sarah says, adding that the table is always set with her Villeroy & Boch Audun dinner service.

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‘I feel very proud to be the custodian of this historic gem,’ says Sarah. ‘And I savour every moment of our festive family get-togethers. When I glance around the dining table and see the people I love smiling, laughing and relaxing in the home I adore, it definitely fills my heart with the true spirit of Christmas.’

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