small but Per­fectly formed

This fam­ily liked their new-look hol­i­day home in Sus­sex so much they opted to live there full-time

25 Beautiful Homes - - NEWS - Fea­ture AMY MAY­NARD | pho­tog­ra­phy RICHARD GADSBY

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

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