small but Perfectly formed
This family liked their new-look holiday home in Sussex so much they opted to live there full-time
With a background in interiors PR and now running Harper and Hugo, a store selling accessories for dogs, Helen Smith has an eye for design and detail. She was living in a six-bedroom country house set in five acres in East Sussex, with husband Nick and children, Oscar, 12, and Isabella, 10, when she turned her attention to finding a townhouse in nearby Rye.
‘Nick had started working abroad and wanted me to have a project to keep me busy,’ explains Helen. ‘I used to love visiting Rye, and always said to him that I’d like to have a house there. So one day he told me I should arrange to see some properties – I didn’t wait for him to change his mind and immediately arranged five viewings.’
Helen saw the potential of an unloved end-of-terrace cottage full of beams in the oldest part of the town, and persuaded Nick that it was the perfect renovation to undertake. After nearly losing out to another buyer, the couple secured the house, and Helen set about meticulously planning a complete interior overhaul.
Fast forward a few months and gone were the yellowed walls, dirty carpets, dated kitchen and bathrooms. In their place, Helen chose sleek fixtures and fittings, a mixture of walnut-hued wooden floors and sumptuous grey carpets against a palette of muted colours with splashes of rose-gold and jewel tones. She selected a modern grey kitchen with an oval-shaped island and copper splashback. ‘The scheme for the kitchen-diner came from the three bare-bulb lights that now hang in the dining area with their rose-gold fittings and navy electrical cords,’ says Helen. ‘I loved that combination, which led to me having the idea for the burnished splashback.’
Next door, the sitting room has a panelled feature wall, constructed from MDF and painted a dark plum shade. A multicoloured velvet sofa and cut-crystal pendant lights add to the chic, intimate atmosphere. Upstairs, the family bathroom houses a large shower with metro tiles, plus a reclaimed sideboard, painted charcoal by Helen and transformed into a bespoke sink unit.
Helen was so delighted with the result of all her hard work that the family now rent out their main house and spend all their time at the cottage. ‘ We bought our previous larger house because we wanted what I like to call a “death or divorce” house – it’s the sort of lifelong home that only comes on the market when someone dies or gets a divorce!’ she jokes. However, while the cottage was bought as a weekend home, its irresistible revamp and the fact that Nick is away working for weeks at a time makes it a more convivial full-time home.
Now, Helen can’t praise her new location enough. ‘It’s so easy when it comes to running errands – everything is on the doorstep,’ she enthuses. ‘Most Sundays we go down to a café for breakfast, and if there’s ever an evening when I don’t feel like cooking, we have a big selection of restaurants to choose from. We really do love living here.’
KITCHEN- DINER The beams are a wonderful contrast to the modern cabinets and furniture. Philippe Starck for Kartell Masters chair in grey, £131, John Lewis. Black cage candle holders, £25 each, Ashbee & Co