This Georgian cottage is a masterclass in decorating in neutral tones

A mix of soft neutral tones and natural textures create the perfect backdrop for precious finds

living room with wooden mantlepiece and wood-burner and armchair
(Image credit: Future/Rachel Whiting)

A love of Scandinavian design, both old and new, has been the catalyst for many of Minnie Craske’s life decisions – most significantly, her passion for sourcing and selling the most captivating Swedish antiques she could find. She sold small pieces in her three shops and traded larger furniture by appointment at her former home, a Victorian villa in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. 

But seven years ago, a dramatic change in the fortunes of the high street, paired with soaring business rents, led to a creative rethink for Minnie and her husband, Peter. 

The decision: to downsize both home and business. ‘At the time, we had just closed our shops and had been inviting customers to our home to view furniture for sale, so our home was acting as our temporary showroom while we looked for a new shop,’ Minnie says.

living room with wooden mantlepiece and wood-burner and armchair

(Image credit: Future/Rachel Whiting)

Creating an antique shop and home

Needing to be a commutable distance to their teenage children’s schools in Tunbridge Wells, the pair started their search, finally unearthing a gem of a property in nearby East Sussex. 

‘Peter actually found the house online,’ explains Minnie of the property that came with a surprising bonus. ‘It had a beautiful double-fronted shop as well as a lovely Georgian cottage within the same building, so it was the perfect fit for us,’ she says.

exterior of georgian cottage with antique's shop

(Image credit: Future/Rachel Whiting)

The shop is accessed via a door from the hallway, meaning home and business can run in unison. And much to Minnie’s delight, there was also a workshop that doubles as invaluable storage.  A modern rustic-style barn room forms the extension to the back of the cottage where the original barn/stable would have been, and it leads directly onto a secluded garden. ‘It is the prettiest courtyard garden and a real sun trap in the summer,’ she says.

Humble in its design, and dating back to the early 1800s, the Georgian part of the property has plenty of original period details. The simplicity of this interior architecture appealed to Minnie, as she knew it would suit her preferred palette of colours and could create an elegant backdrop for her collection of antique pieces and shabby chic decorating ideas

scandi living room with white armchair and wooden flooring

(Image credit: Future/Rachel Whiting)

Drawing on Scandinavian style

‘I love Scandinavian decorating ideas, especially Swedish, so that influences my love of light, simple schemes,’ says Minnie. ‘Most of our furniture is antique Swedish, with some French, too, so we wanted the décor to complement these. The use of cream, white and neutral tones throughout the house gives it continuity and a wonderful feeling of space.’ 

scandi-inspired bedroom with painted wooden floorboards and grey chest of drawers

(Image credit: Future/Rachel Whiting)

Without any major restructuring work needing to be done, the couple set about decorating inside and out. ‘The first thing we did was to paint the exterior and add bespoke cast-iron railings to the front garden. We then removed all the existing sisal carpet throughout, painted some of the old floorboards and the stairs, and laid oak wood flooring to the dining area and front living room,’ Minnie says. 

small scandi-inspired kitchen-diner with fridge and peninsula

(Image credit: Future/Rachel Whiting)

Neutral kitchen design

In the kitchen, Minnie also adopted Scandi kitchen ideas. White quartz worktops were fitted to lighten the space and all the cupboard doors were painted in a calming shade. ‘I have always loved interior styling and want my home to reflect my taste for muted tones, with lots of natural finds and houseplant ideas,’ she explains.

kitchen with cream shaker-style cabinetry and linen roman blind

(Image credit: Future/Rachel Whiting)

Decorating with antiques

As a professional antiques dealer, some of the pieces she sources never actually make their way into her shop. Instead, they sit perfectly at home alongside woven baskets, African beaded pendant lights, artisan ceramics and a collection of shells and vintage coral. 

It’s a beautiful mix of the very old and the very new, cleverly brought together with colours and textures that add warmth and vitality in equal measures – just like the house itself. 

oak framed sunroom with antique beaded pendant light and white sofa and armchair

(Image credit: Future/Rachel Whiting)

‘We love the modern barn room with the doors that open out onto the courtyard garden. But we also love the cosiness of the Georgian rooms,’ Minnie says. Perfect, in every way.

Sara Emslie
Contributing houses editor, Country Homes & Interiors

Sara Emslie is an interiors and lifestyle journalist, as well as the author of two books on

interior design – Beautifully Small: Clever Ideas for Compact Spaces and Urban Pioneer:

Interiors Inspired by Industrial Design – both published by Ryland, Peters and Small. Sara

lives in Richmond, London, and enjoys travelling all over the UK and abroad producing

features for many of the leading home interest magazines, as well as organising and styling

shoots for commercial clients. She particularly likes the diversity of work that each new

assignment brings and the numerous opportunities to be able to communicate the

constantly evolving trends in interior design through both words and pictures. When not

working, Sara makes hand-thrown porcelain pieces on the potter’s wheel.