Downsizing can be tricky – but this striking home shows how great it can be

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  • After retiring, the owners made the decision to downsize, and found smart ways to fit their treasures into their new home

    On retiring from their full-time jobs in education, the owners decided to challenge themselves. This involved the adventurous couple spending several months in France, finding new passions (horse racing and art) and even renting a Gothic pile.

    Then a move from Hertfordshire to a cottage owned by their son in Rutland in the East Midlands made the couple come up with a new house rule. ‘We liked the area, but we didn’t know a soul,’ they recall. ‘We agreed that we would never turn down an invitation to anything, so we would make new friends and become involved in the local community.’

    Their time spent in Rutland was so successful, the pair decided to find a place of their own, close to their new circle of friends. They found just what they were looking for in the form of a three-storey house, part of a former hunting lodge dating back to the 17th century. ‘We immediately liked its homely feel and, although the property isn’t huge, the rooms are generously sized,’ they say.

    Exterior 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    Needing help to downsize, the pair turned to an interior designer. ‘She helped us develop ways of bringing our sometimes random collections together and encouraged us to upcycle,’ they say. ‘This not only saved us money, but it also meant we avoided falling into the trap of acquiring yet more stuff.’

    Living room

    Living room from other side 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    To create a sense of unity, walls are painted in soft neutrals throughout the house. In the living room, pale-coloured upholstery creates a calm scheme that’s balanced by a bright rug. Aside from built-in, traditional-style shutters, the windows have been left undressed to let light flood in. Cushions on the window seat add a hit colour and plenty of comfort.

    Get the look
    Buy now: walls painted in Old White Estate Emulsion, £43.50 for 2.5ltr, Farrow & Ball
    Buy now: sofas and cushions, made to order, Elizabeth Stanhope Interiors

    Living room from other side

    Living room 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    While there is a strong sense of their love for all things vintage and antique in their home, the couple also enjoy contemporary design, including shelving units by Sir Terence Conran and modern ceramics in the living room.

    Get the look
    Buy now: Balance Alcove shelving, from £599, The Conran Shop


    Kitchen 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    Mohican, a contemporary limited-edition print by US artist Ludwig Sander, adds a warm burst of yellow to the neutral kitchen.

    Get the look
    Buy now: walls and cabinetry painted in James White, from £43.50 for 2.5ltr, Farrow & Ball

    Kitchen corner

    Kitchen corner 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    An Aga lends the kitchen a strong country feel – and on cold days, the armchair is the perfect spot to sit and warm up from the heat it gives off.

    Get the look
    Buy now: similar cooker, Aga

    Dining area

    Dining area 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    The kitchen is very spacious, with enough room for a large dining table and chairs – ideal for gatherings with friends, but cosy enough to enjoy meals à deux as well.

    Get the look
    Buy now: similar floor lamp, £189, Heal’s


    Stairwell 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    The owners particularly enjoy creating stylishly grouped collections around the house. ‘Things don’t need to be of the same vintage. We just like to make an interesting arrangement,’ they say. ‘It might be a wall of artistically arranged prints and old decorative mirrors, or a group of perfume bottles on an antique tray.’

    Get the look
    Buy now: similar antique mirrors, Selling Antiques

    Guest bedroom

    Guest bedroom 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    This romantic space was inspired by French vintage style. Neutral colours let the toile de Jouy curtains become a beautiful feature and focal point. Careful placement of a round mirror helps to break up a block of wall space.

    Get the look
    Buy now: similar toile de Jouy fabric, Just Fabrics
    Buy now: similar bed, The French Bedroom Company

    Dressing area

    Dressing area 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    An ornate dressing table adds to the luxe feel of the guest bedroom. Mirrors are very important to the couple. In fact, their old mirrors are their favourite pieces. ‘Some are beautiful as they are,’ they say. ‘Others we repainted.’

    Get the look
    Buy now: similar dressing table, Melody Maison

    Main bedroom

    Main bedroom 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    Up in the eaves is the main bedroom, which is full of beautiful textures in soft off-whites and pretty pastels.

    Get the look
    Buy now: walls in Stone 11 Pure Flat Emulsion, £46.50 for 2.5ltr, Paint & Paper Library


    Bathroom 25BH July 17 p80 Close downsizing

    A traditional slipper bath and Victorian-style taps give this room classic appeal. A wooden peg rail keeps towels close to hand, but ensures they won’t get splashed.

    Get the look
    Buy now: walls in Slaked Lime Intelligent Matt Emulsion, £47 for 2.5ltr, Little Greene
    Buy now: similar bath, £1,075, Laura Ashley

    Now that the owners have finally emptied the garage and finished downsizing, do they have any plans to move again? ‘I’m sure there are more interesting times ahead,’ they say, ‘but we will be staying put, as we feel very happy and settled here.’

    This house tour originally appeared in 25 Beautiful Homes, July 2017.

    Image credits: Rowland Roques-O’Neil

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