Julie and David Thompson knew that once their children were grown, they would follow their hearts to the countryside and find the perfect forever home for Christmas and beyond.
Having spent her teenage years in a beautiful but very quiet Suffolk village, the last thing Julie wanted for her own children was for them to feel cut off from their school friends and reliant on their parents to ferry them around. So when she and her husband, David, were expecting the first of their three children, they left London to raise their family not in their dream home of a country cottage, but in a contemporary and easy-to-maintain house in bustling Ipswich, where the couple first met.
‘We have such precious memories of that time, so many happy Christmases were spent in that house,’ says Julie, ‘but David and I both knew that as soon as our sons grew up and were ready to move out, we’d be free to follow our hearts and head to the countryside.’
Finding their dream home in the countryside
After so many years dreaming about the move, the search for their ideal nest was not something the pair took lightly. ‘Character was a must have,’ explains Julie. ‘We wanted an old property with exposed beams and brickwork, original walls and floors, along with a bigger garden than our townhouse. But at the top of the list for both of us was a view: we both craved an outlook that would ground us in the environment.’
The couple spent three or four years looking round houses, but nothing ever felt quite right until their estate agent told them about this place in July 2020. 'He said, “When you’re standing at the kitchen sink, don’t be surprised if you see deer wandering past.” It proved to be the house we’d been searching for all those years,’ Julie says.
A fabulous pink exterior
The Thompsons have repainted their Suffolk cottage in traditional Suffolk pink. Despite the house needing a fair amount of work, Julie put her wreath up just two days after moving in, knowing this was going to be a very special house for Christmas. Now that the house is pretty much finished, it has lived up to all her dreams. The wreath is from Thea Lily Loves.
A neutral palette inside
The Thompsons were lucky to move in during a brief window in the first lockdown, and extra lucky in that the previous owner had taken care of the Grade II listed cottage’s 400-year-old bones – the rooms just needed a few repairs here and there, and a little work to bring them more in line with the couple’s taste.
‘It was quite a colourful house previously,’ Julie recalls, ‘with fuchsia pink walls in one room and darker shades in others, and there was a lot of dark wood here and there. We decided to lighten it all up with neutral walls, to replace heavy drapes that had been kindly left behind with blinds in pretty, country fabrics, and old carpets with fresh neutral ones.’
The couple updated the kitchen with a few simple swaps. ‘We took the wall units down to open the space up,’ explains Julie, ‘but as the layout was fine, we kept the floor unit carcasses and worktops, just replaced the carved doors for a Shaker design and added new door furniture to create the feel we were after.’
‘We eat all our meals in the dining room as we don’t have room for a table in the kitchen,' says Julie. 'The room is full of light, so it works for breakfast and lunch as well as cosy dinners as the sun goes down.’
‘I love ditsy florals and knew that various shades of pink and green would work really well inside and echo our intended plans for planting outside in the garden.’
The cosy sitting room features a brick inglenook and exposed beams. Julie picked vibrant and contrasting velvet sofas to keep it from looking too traditional.
There’s a subtle hint of colour on the walls of the main bedroom and the simple divan has a beautiful headboard covered in fabric from Julie’s collection of textiles.
The pretty guest room features a lovely metal bedstead, entwined with fairy lights.
Upstairs, the bathroom was not a straightforward job. ‘The toilet didn’t flush, the sink only had hot water, while the bath only had cold water,’ Julie reveals. ‘So, for many months, we were “bucket bathing.”
We didn’t have a working washing machine during that period, either, so our water usage was pretty low, so low in fact that Anglian Water called to make sure we were ok!’
Flowers at Christmas
Although the first few months were quite hard going, and their first Christmas was not quite what they’d hoped for, Julie and David were determined to finish the renovating in time for their second.
‘We ploughed on and got it done!’ Julie smiles. ‘And with the help of my florist friend, Emma, it always looks extra festive with wreaths, garlands and arrangements in every room.'
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