Make yourself at home in this contemporary but cosy cottage in County Cork

As the owner says, it’s certainly not a typical cottage!

cottage with white wall and dining table and counter with chairs
(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

When the owners moved to Cork, Ireland, from Sardinia in 2008, they weren’t looking to buy. 'We were renting a house on the waterfront that was lovely, but not safe for kids, so we had started the hunt for another rental as we were not ready to buy yet. But then a friend told us that this three-bed detached house was on the market. It had everything we were looking for – a detached cottage with a big garden, an interesting layout and a really nice feel. We absolutely loved it.'

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The couple offered, but were dismayed when their mortgage fell through at the last minute. But they were determined not to lose the property. 'I asked the owner if it was possible to rent the cottage while we waited for our financing to come together, and he agreed. I promised we’d look after it like our own. The house was still on the market though, which was stressful at times as people kept coming round to view, but I knew deep down it was meant for us!'


house with white wall and green trees

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Eventually the couple secured the mortgage they needed and the house was theirs. 'I fell in love with the feel of the property. The layout is quirky, with the front porch leading directly into the sitting room, and stairs running from the sitting room upstairs. And the space in the garden was fantastic. I really wanted the kids to have the freedom and space to roam around safely.'

They quickly got to work. Walls were dry-lined upstairs and downstairs to get rid of damp, and proper outdoor drainage was put in. They also converted a large bedroom into two smaller rooms, and turned the master bedroom’s en suite into the family bathroom. 'We redecorated everywhere,' says the owner, 'and we did most of it ourselves. I even painted all the floors.'


hallway and white wall and wooden cupboard and chair

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

'What you do with the flooring can really set the tone,' says the owner. In the hallway and living room, she simply paints the rough floorboards to giveth space a pared-back, rustic style.


cottage with white wall and dining table and counter with chairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

While upstairs is muted and calming, the owner's eclectic taste gives a contemporary edge to the ground floor. 'It’s more colourful and eclectic downstairs,' she says. 'The kitchen has an industrial feel as well, and it’s a little bit rustic. It’s definitely my favourite room in the house. Not chintzy, more edgy.' The couple’s strategy was 
to accessorise with budget 
finds and pre-loved bargains. ‘Second-hand things can 
really add charm,’ she adds. ‘I’ve come across treasured 
buys in charity shops.’

It needed an overhaul, but mindful of budget, the couple worked with their existing cabinetry. They took took down the wall units and replaced them with open shelving. 'I painted the cupboards, and we put in an oak counter top on the island so we could sit under it. I also changed the spotlights to pendants. I knew the look I wanted to achieve, and it was really exciting seeing it come together.'

Get the look
Buy now: Gunmetal Toledo bar 
stools, £139 each, Cult Furniture
Buy now: Lappljung Ruta rug, from £60, Ikea

Little Greene's Lamp Black has been used on the end wall and beam in the kitchen, which makes the long space cosier. The colour is repeated on the end panel of the peninsula, to add an accent to the white units.

Living room

living room with white wall and couch

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

‘We painted everywhere white, as the rooms are quite dark,’ says Gill. ‘It’s worked really well – the white walls make the perfect backdrop for colourful furniture and artwork.'

room with white wall and frames

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Picture ledges let the owners swap their artwork around. 'Art doesn't have to be expensive or pretentious,' says the owner, 'but it's a big part of what makes a house become a home.'

living room with white wall and potted plants

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

The print over the fireplace inspired the living room's colour scheme. 'We made it cosy with colourful upholstery, cushions and rugs. It feels intimate and eclectic.’

Master bedroom

bedroom with white wall wooden bed

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Pink accessories and natural textures soften the signature black-and-white colour scheme in the main bedroom.

Children's bedrooms

cottage with white wall and wooden floor

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

Green accent – colour-matched to Kermit – bring playfulness to this smart space.

room with white wall and girl sited in chair

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

‘I had to be mindful when choosing colour in the girls’ room, as they are different ages,’ says the owner. ‘Monochrome with pops of colour works well, as it isn’t themed and can evolve as the girls grow up.’

The feather pendant was made simply by wrapping a feather boa around a round shade.

Get the look
Buy now: Polka Dot wall stickers, £12, Etsy


white wall with rounded mirror and sink and soap

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

'I love the Moorish look of the floor tiles,' says the owner. 'They give our small bathroom a bit of wow factor.' You can see more details of the renovation of the house at

Ready for another makeover? Take a tour of this bright and airy four-bed 1950s home in East Sussex

The owner has some words of wisdom for anyone starting out on a home project. 'Never decorate your home to please others,' she says. 'If it reflects who you are, it will shine, regardless 
of whether the decor is 
on-trend or not. If I like something, I buy it or do it. 
I go by instinct so it all comes together organically.'

Heather Young

Heather Young has been Ideal Home’s Editor since late 2020, and Editor-In-Chief since 2023. She is an interiors journalist and editor who’s been working for some of the UK’s leading interiors magazines for over 20 years, both in-house and as a freelancer.