The owners of this country cottage in Devon had fantasised about living in a home like it for many years. ‘Before we moved here we would often rent a cottage during the Christmas holidays, as we enjoyed the character and cosy atmosphere so much.’
The couple, a legal PA and a maintenance manager, saved to buy their own place for three years, during which time they also began to plan as much as they could for their own home.
‘When we started house hunting, there wasn’t a great deal of choice in our price range, but we were really hoping to find an old property to renovate,’ say the owners. It was pouring with rain the first time they viewed this house but they both loved the wooden sash windows and chocolate-box look of the outside. Inside they found plenty of light and the perfect layout.
They found that the interior was dated, however, and decided among other jobs to rewire the house themselves, as well as fitting a new kitchen with French windows.
However, problems appeared with the back wall, which had to be stabilised, and rotten timbers in the kitchen ceiling, which had to be replaced. At the same time they were starting a family, with the arrival of their son.
After three months the owners decided to move in and complete the work while living there. Fortunately their savings and advance planning allowed them to create the home of their dreams. 'Renovating this house was hard work, but now we've got all the charm and character we wanted,' they say.
High on the owners' wish list was a fireplace with a chimney, because a woodburning stove was a must-have for them to create the proper country cottage feel. Installing the stove was one of the tasks completed in the three months between completing their purchase and moving in. Decorating their own cottage for Christmas is a special pleasure for the owners, having rented one for the festive season in previous years.
The owners changed the black tiles and oak units they found in the kitchen for cream, country style cupboards with chunky wooden handles. They managed to sell the old kitchen units online and put the money towards the new ones - the cream range cooker was found online as well. In fact, the owners purchased the cooker before they'd even bought the house, so certain were they about the look they wanted.
This sunny breakfast area was created when the owners reworked the kitchen to increase the sense of light and space. Woven vegetable baskets add a rustic touch and help to divide the preparation and eating areas - as well as being useful for storage. Pops of red on polka dot seat cushions, cake tins and pretty heart decorations make perfect country style finishing touches.
The owners were keen to include a utility room off the kitchen, especially when they started a family. The cupboards are the same style as those in the kitchen, while a practical airer has been suspended from the ceiling. The owners have added fun stickers and mottoes to several walls in the house: 'We love the quirky sayings and they're cheap and easy to apply and take off.'
It was important for the owners to have a separate dining room in their new house, which they have decorated in country style. A classic wooden table and matching chairs, plus a console table for the telephone, set the scene for the ideal country dining room. Soft pastel tones are a theme throughout the house - in this room, a gentle lilac produces a calm and relaxing atmosphere.
This pretty painted bookcase in the dining room fits in perfectly with the owners' soft neutral theme, with mauve touches to complement other fittings nearby. It's being used to display important family treasures and photographs, offering a reminder of happy times they've spent together. Placing all the photographs in similar frames creates a sense of unity that means the shelves never feel cluttered.
'Duck-egg blue is a very cosy colour at night, and lovely to wake up to as well,' say the owners. It's a classic country colour and a perfect choice to create a relaxing, refreshing space. Different bedlinen is probably the quickest and easiest way to change the look of a bedroom while wallpaper is more of a commitment - an easy way to make sure you love it is to fix a sample to the wall and live with it for a while.
A period-style slipper bath was a country essential for the owners it looks stunning and it's a great space-saver, too. 'The bathroom has a smart spa feel, but with the traditional-style suite, it still suits an old house,' say the owners. A deep pile bathmat is cosy underfoot, while a decorative mirror frame and white-painted storage baskets add imaginative finishing touches.
The newest member of the family has a carefully-thought-out space too. 'The colours are neutral but there are lots of things to look at,' say the owners. Subtle shades of cream and white are suitable whatever age a child is, and colour will inevitably be added by their toys and books. Easily removeable wall stickers add age-appropriate decoration that can be changed as they grow up.