Following years of commuting to London, I realised that I really wanted to set up a business in something that I am passionate about. At the same time, I was spending most of my weekends renovating my Grade 2 listed cottage. The process was arduous to say the least, but it really made me focus on what I can achieve when I put my mind to it!
This essentially became the inspiration for developing my own home accessories and furniture business, with the freedom to stock items that I truly love, in styles that I believe are not on the high street and reflect my slightly eccentric nature.
This journey began in January 2016, when I bought a 2 bedroom, ex-rented Grade 2 listed workers cottage in a quaint village in Sussex. Although structurally sound, the interior hadn’t been touched for about 15 years and with no kitchen facilities (apart from a sink!), it was going to be a ‘project’!
Before I moved in, I had already created mood boards and colour schemes for all the rooms, but before I could get started with the ‘fun’ part, I had some serious renovation aspects that needed to be tackled first.
As most of the walls were lathe and plaster covered with lining paper that had started to come away, the first job really was to remove the blown plaster areas and take the ceilings and walls back to the studs. Not the most delicate or clean task and basically rendered the house looking like something out of the walking dead!
Next step was to screw plasterboard to all the walls and ceilings. This isn’t normal practice to be honest, I should really have taken all the lathe and plaster off, but for the sake of a couple of millimetres, it seemed easier to re-board and then plaster again for a nice smooth finish.
As part of this process, I also had to rip out the old bathroom, kitchen and fireplace - which was very satisfying. Nothing like smashing things up with a sledge hammer! I also removed all the old asbestos tiles (that I found under the old carpet) from the kitchen floor - probably not as safely as I should have done on hindsight!
This left me with a shell of a house, but a completely new canvas which was really where I wanted to get it too. I could now start to play with colour schemes and start to put it back together again in the style and way I wanted to. My first job really was the kitchen. Microwave meals were getting boring and the pub was definitely seeing an increase in trade!
My ambition was to give the cottage a country feel interior to fit in with the history as well as it’s location, but I also wanted to inject some colour and modernity into it too.
The kitchen was very small and pretty boring but it had a lovely window out on to the courtyard garden and a fantastic larder on the side of the room. I wanted to expose the brick of the wall on the larder but having lived through plastering of the whole house, I decided against knocking the old plaster off and then sand blasting. Instead, I discovered brick slips! The most useful way to knock up a faux exposed brick wall. It took me a few weekends to complete, but with the help of some grip fill and cement for pointing, I achieved the look I was after.
The kitchen units were a little more of a hassle. I tried to recycle a kitchen that I bought off eBay for £200 but there was no making it fit! In the end I went to Wickes and bought some cream shaker style units. For the work surface, I wanted it keep the country theme, so I went with a solid oak top and a butlers sink.
I painted all the walls in one of my favourite creams; Farrow and Ball Matchstick and the ceiling in Dulux Timeless. I also decided to paint the original black beams. It took me a while to make this decision, as I generally like to keep original elements, but in this case, it made the room dark and feel smaller.
I loved the lounge, it was a good square size and had old style windows to the front and a little fireplace. I knew I could make it into the cosy, snug room that I had in mind.
I had seen the use of dark blue and teal in smaller rooms and although this room was quite dark, I was keen to try it. Most people thought I was nuts and that it would do nothing to make the room look larger. I was determined, so I decided on Farrow and Ball’s Stiffkey Blue and bit the bullet.
Immediately I saw the difference, it is such a lovely colour. Even though it is teal blue, it isn’t cold and instantly added the modern edge that I wanted. The ceiling was finished in Dulux Timeless again, which created a crisp contrast with the wall colour.
I had already run dark oak coloured wood floor throughout the ground floor of the house and the Stiffkey colour really complemented it.
Combined with this, I decided on industrial style copper lighting, leather furniture and chestnut wood.
To make it a little less masculine, I added some colourful art to the walls and made sure to create a focal point with a new fireplace and rug. I also introduced a large driftwood frame mirror to the wall opposite the window to bounce light around the room.
So that the room didn’t become overwhelmingly dark with colour, I decided to keep a white dado rail and to make the windows a real feature. I discovered these gorgeous white French wood shutters from www.shutters.co.uk. They are a plantation style and were so easy to install myself, even with slightly wonky window frames! They were worth the investment and really pulled the whole room together.
This was my favourite room to renovate and live in.
The final room on the ground floor, the dining room adjoined the lounge. I considered whether it was worth knocking down the supporting wall and putting in a CCJ to open up the space and make it open plan, but with the cottage being a Grade 2 listed building, this would have meant a lot of paper work and building regulations.
Instead, I decided to make this space a place to work as well as eat and host dinner parties. It needed to be calm and relaxing but still maintain a similar interior style and flow.
Essentially, this room was relatively easy, I selected Farrow and Ball Manor house grey for the walls and Dulux Timeless for the ceiling. I then decided that this room would be used more for showcasing a big canvas, my table and chairs (which were also a chestnut oak colour) and a welsh dresser that I had already upcycled.
My beautiful vintage cow hide rug and the same French shutters would seal the deal.
The ground floor of the house probably took me about 4 months to complete in total but it was worth all the sweat, tears and money! I ended up with a kitchen, lounge and dining room that was exactly how I had imagined it in my head and on my mood boards.
Stay tuned for the next instalment, where I will show you the renovation of the staircase, bathroom, 2 bedrooms, not forgetting the garden………