a warm wel­come

Sarah Mon­tague re­worked a listed cot­tage to cre­ate a fam­ily bolt­hole filled with stylish fur­nish­ings and ideas

25 Beautiful Homes - - NEWS - FEA­TURE Faith Eck­er­sall | PHOTOGRAPHY colin Poole

Care­ful plan­ning and a clever new lay­out have re­vived this quaint cho­co­late-box cot­tage in the New For­est

Down the road from Sarah Mon­tague’s cho­co­late-box cot­tage lies the pic­turesque land­scape that was made fa­mous in the Os­car-win­ing movie, A Man for All Sea­sons. ‘The Beaulieu River was one of the things that first at­tracted me to this area,’ says Sarah, who loves to sail and kayak with her son, James, along the stretch made fa­mous in the film.

But when she started search­ing for a for­ever home – work­ing as an army GP meant liv­ing in a mil­i­tary quar­ter – she hadn’t con­sid­ered the New For­est at all. ‘I was look­ing in north Hamp­shire and spot­ted this place for sale at auc­tion,’ says Sarah. ‘Per­haps it was be­cause it was Au­gust and there weren’t many peo­ple bid­ding but I walked away re­al­is­ing I’d just bought the most amaz­ing house.’

Apart from boast­ing a new thatched roof, the prop­erty was in need of quite a bit of love and at­ten­tion. ‘The cou­ple who owned it be­fore had started ren­o­vat­ing but never man­aged to fin­ish it,’ ex­plains Sarah. ‘So the in­te­rior was a war­ren of dark old-fash­ioned rooms.’ Sarah knew she would be rent­ing out the prop­erty as a hol­i­day home in be­tween us­ing it her­self, so she con­cen­trated all her ef­forts on en­sur­ing it would be as ac­com­mo­dat­ing as pos­si­ble, which meant a major ren­o­va­tion.

‘Orig­i­nally the kitchen opened up to ex­pose the beams above, so I knew get­ting in a fifth bed­room would be tricky and quite cramped,’ says Sarah. After think­ing over the prob­lem for a few months, Sarah and her builder dreamt up an am­bi­tious scheme, which in­volved low­er­ing the kitchen ceil­ing and sus­pend­ing it on a be­spoke, steel beam, so she could have greater headspace in the room above.

Down­stairs, the old bath­room was con­verted into a bed­room over­look­ing the gar­den and a new shower room was fit­ted in the mid­dle of the build­ing. Un­for­tu­nately, dur­ing the ren­o­va­tions, Sarah dis­cov­ered that wa­ter run-off from the ad­ja­cent field was drain­ing into the ground be­neath the cot­tage. ‘When we took up the floor­boards, it was like a swim­ming pool un­der­neath,’ says Sarah. ‘But I was

ex­tremely lucky be­cause it took £250 and a few days’ work to re-route the drain and solve the prob­lem.’

The kitchen was an­other de­sign chal­lenge. On the sug­ges­tion of her builder, Sarah placed bi­fold doors each side of the din­ing area, flood­ing it with light and trans­form­ing it into a wel­com­ing space. To cre­ate more wall space for cup­boards, she blocked up a side win­dow and in­stalled two new win­dows that look out onto the meadow. ‘How­ever, I soon re­alised that the blank wall be­tween the win­dows looked wrong and so I had a false hous­ing built in over the range,’ she says. The room is also home to the strik­ing wood and steel stair­case, which leads up to an­other guest room.

Even be­ing posted abroad 14 weeks into the project didn’t daunt Sarah. ‘Through­out this time I was com­pil­ing a mood board with colours, ideas fab­rics and sketches of how each space would look,’ she says. This en­abled her to make de­ci­sions on what to buy more eas­ily as she al­ready knew what she needed. She de­cided each room would have a theme and some kind of mean­ing, there­fore one of the down­stairs bed­rooms con­tains a small metal bed that be­longed to her great aunt, and the snug room dis­plays her late fa­ther’s fish­ing rod. She also took in­spi­ra­tion from the coun­try house decor at the nearby Pig Ho­tel, choos­ing hardy tweeds and solid, wooden fur­ni­ture along­side lighter touches.

While Sarah is away, she rents out the cot­tage for hol­i­days and week­ends, but al­ways en­joys re­turn­ing home. ‘ We’ve found that it re­ally is a year-round house,’ she says. ‘Cosy in win­ter with the fires lit, beau­ti­ful in spring with the bulbs in the gar­den, and re­lax­ing in the sum­mer with its out­door space.’

sit­ting room sarah opted for a wood­burn­ing stove as it’s a safer al­ter­na­tive to an open fire in a thatched cot­tage. Sto­vax Hunt­ing­don 25 multi-fuel wood­burn­ing stove, £795, Stoveson­line. Bead mir­ror in Cham­pagne, £115, John Lewis, is a close match. Stag Toile wall­pa­per in Moss, £74 per roll, Lit­tle Greene. Beams painted in Mole’s Breath matt es­tate emul­sion, £ 43.50 per 2.5 litres, Far­row & Ball

snug ‘Light-coloured blinds were a slightly more practical choice in here as they don’t cover the smaller win­dows too much,’ says sarah. Cush­ions and blinds in Honey Bees fab­ric in Char­coal, £54m, Barneby Gates. Cam­bridge two-seater leather sofa, from £1,549, So­fa­sofa. Walls painted in Radicchio and Down Pipe es­tate emul­sion, both £ 43.50 per 2.5 litres, Far­row & Ball

Mas­ter bed­room Chest­nut Cot­tage is avail­able to book for hol­i­day breaks via airbnb and New For­est es­capes. French hard­wood double ma­hogany-stained sleigh bed, £ 499, the Fur­ni­ture Mar­ket, has this look

bath­room ‘We or­dered three baths be­fore we could find one that would fit up the stairs,’ re­calls sarah. Del­i­cato floor tiles in Vol­can, £119.70sq m, Man­darin Stone. burling­ton wind­sor bath, £562, Sanc­tu­ary bath­rooms, has this look

Guest bed­room sarah based this scheme around the vin­tage fern prints on the walls. wild fern fab­ric in Cit­rus, from £29.50m, Clarke & Clarke at eden Fab­rics. For vin­tage botan­i­cal fern prints like this, try oka, £295 per set of eight. Checked throw, £85, National trust

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