Christmas is a special time for the owners of this beautiful property, which really comes alive during the festive season. After living in France for a number of years, the couple stumbled upon this picturesque cottage while searching for a new home in Sussex. ‘As soon as we set eyes on this one, we were smitten,’ they say. ‘In some ways it had a French feel,’ they add, pointing out the round tower. ‘We also liked the Tudor-style features – the arched windows with leaded lights, the big fireplaces and the characterful nooks.’
Undaunted by the discovery of asbestos ceilings, plus plumbing and wiring in need of a major overhaul, the couple worked out a plan to brighten the dark interior and increase the size of the kitchen and dining room. ‘We extended backwards and swapped the position of these rooms, creating a view of the terrace from the kitchen,’ they explain.
The couple were keen to modernise without compromising the character of the house. ‘We wanted to respect the ideas of the original architect, who built around 70 cottages in the area during the 1920s, mainly for his Bohemian friends,’ they say. ‘The wooden beams in the drawing room were beautiful but dark. We kept them, and decided to lighten the grain by having them sandblasted. Upstairs we painted the beams instead, for a softer effect.’
The owners worked on colour schemes with an interior designer, who was brilliant at sourcing just what they were looking for. The house doesn't lend itself easily to contemporary styles but the result is an attractive mix of old and new.
For the owners, the Christmas season kicks off with a drinks party, before the family comes over. 'We have three grown-up children with babies,' they say. 'Our dining table extends to seat 16 for Christmas lunch. We love it when the house resounds with the peal of children's laughter and clink of glasses.'
A traditional door like this is the perfect match for a pretty wreath made out of evergreen fir twigs, pine cones and berries. Take a country walk and gather what you need to create your own, or if you want a ready-made version, there are so many realistic options available. Here, a hanging basket hook has also been used to display pretty foliage.
Fresh pine branches, holly and candles decorate the mantelpiece of this large fireplace and, along with the tall Christmas tree, really make a festive statement. The decorations have been kept relatively neutral here, with plenty of clear glass baubles and just the odd hit of classic red and white. The wrapping paper on the presents piled under the tree adheres to the low-key colour scheme, too.
'Our best decision was to replace the steep stairs for an elegant design,' say the owners. 'These are now the focal point of the drawing room, where we hold parties. This space is particularly special at Christmas.' It's easy to see why - a few candles, some fairy lights and a pretty ivy garland on the banister are all this room needs to make it fabulously festive.
Curved lines on the corner units and island mirror the shape of the new extension windows. The owners' quest to brighten the interiors on the ground floor has been very successful and their choice of colour scheme plays a large part in this, with pale wood flooring, white gloss worktops and a painted white ceiling all helping to lighten the space.
Bright blue walls make this dining room immediately stand out for its contemporary look. However, the chairs are more subtle - they have a very classic appearance until you notice the stripy upholstery. The window dressings are equally intriguing, with their neutral curtain fabric, combined with a stripy pelmet. It's a great example of how to jazz up a traditional space.
Red and white are classic Christmas colours, so a red table runner on a plain white tablecloth is a simple way to create a festive look. A bowl, piled high with fruit and nuts can be very decorative, especially when it's surrounded by a wreath-style decoration at its base. Add a pretty candelabra or a few candlesticks and, voila, you have an impressive table centre.
Similar table runner
Flamingos add an exotic flavour to this restful scheme and the colours of the wallpaper are picked out in the curtains, throw and paint on the wooden beams. Neutral bed linen is the ideal way to accessorise such a striking wallpaper, while smaller pieces like the cushion, curtain trim and table lamps keep the theme going throughout the room without being over the top.
The guest bedroom also features a bold wallpaper, but this one has a much more traditional, French-style feel about it. The look is perfect for a country scheme, especially with the wooden beams in the vaulted ceiling, which have been painted in a modern shade of grey to add interest. Fairy lights and natural foliage along the top of the bed are bound to get visitors into the Christmas spirit.
Wallpaper and curtain fabric
The luxuriously big bath is beautifully proportioned and a real feature in this room, fitting just under the window sill as if it were made for the space. The dark grey colour on the tub has the potential to look overly dark, but with the paler wall colour and the benefit of large windows, it achieves the dramatic appearance that it set out to.