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Renovating is often likened to an emotional roller coaster: In between all of the things that go wonderfully right, there’s bound to be a handful of disappointments. The stakes are even higher when you’re taking over the house you grew up in and giving it a new lease on life. Hugo Guest vividly recalls the day the builders came to start work on Glebe House, the Georgian vicarage overlooking a lush valley in England’s Devon countryside, which his parents had owned for more than four decades. “It was so intense, suddenly seeing wallpaper that’s been there for 40 years being ripped down,” he recalls. “I remember looking at Mum, thinking: Oh, God, what am I doing?”

Along with his wife, Olive, Hugo, who retrained as a chef in 2017 after leaving his job in the insurance industry, wanted to re-create the spirit of an Italian agriturismo by cooking with seasonal produce, while keeping the remarkable house in the family. Glebe had functioned as a small bed-and-breakfast ever since Hugo and his two older brothers left for university, but with his parents talking of downsizing in 2020, it was the perfect moment for the couple to swoop in. “Growing up, it was a really busy and communal, sociable place. My parents acquired so many friends from all different walks of life,” he says. 

Olive describes Hugo’s parents’ willingness to rent them the property, coupled with a developmental grant to fund improvements, as “an aligning of the stars.” They were able to create an on-site bakery, a temperature-controlled aging room, a vegetable garden, and a professional-grade kitchen. They also increased the number of bedrooms to five and converted an outbuilding into an annex that features a working wood burner, king-size bed, sofa, breakfast nook, and freestanding tub. 

With Hugo overseeing all things culinary, Olive, an artist, took on the decor. “Color for me is a big thing. I paint with color and it makes me feel happy. Hugo agreed that we wanted it to feel joyous and vibrant,” she says. When the decision-making reached an overwhelming level, Alexandra Childs of Studio Alexandra helped refine Olive’s choices of wallpaper and fabrics. “Allowing one room to sing and one to feel more calm—Alex was amazing at that,” says Olive.

The Guests weren’t interested in replicating particular details from hotel chains but rather a certain mood that all of their favorite stays have in common. “The most memorable [ones] felt like they have a sense of family history, and like there has been a lot of love poured into them,” says Olive. They achieved this authentically by keeping some existing pieces from Hugo’s parents, like the wood dresser in the kitchen and the AGA stove, as well as pieces from Olive’s childhood home. With the majority of the furniture sourcing taking place during the pandemic, Facebook Marketplace and eBay offered some gems: The antique floral sink in the pink bathroom was $12. “I got comfortable knowing that often it’s the shipping that’s going to be more expensive than the item,” says Olive, laughing. 

Since opening in April 2021, Glebe’s decor has continued to evolve. The walls in the Rose Room have gone from allover blue to a patterned archive wallpaper by Sanderson. Last year Olive oversaw the construction of a self-contained cabin and painted a floral mural on its walls. All of the mattresses have been upgraded with organic styles from nearby maker Naturalmat, and the walls are an ever-changing rotation of locally produced art, most of which is available for guests to buy. 

Hugo’s parents have relocated nearby and are loosely involved with the day-to-day running of Glebe House: His dad helps with handy jobs and mows the lawn, while his mother will happily roll up her sleeves in the kitchen. Olive was nervous as to what the family would make of the overhaul, but it was Hugo’s brothers who gave the ultimate stamp of approval: “They said, ‘This feels like home.’ That was the biggest compliment.”