Thrifty tricks and clever use of colour work their magic on a 200-year-old cot­tage

Country Homes & Interiors - - THE HOME OF MODERN COUNTRY -

Linda and Miles Roberts are liv­ing the coun­try dream. Their stun­ning home is sur­rounded by enough land to keep chick­ens and an as­sort­ment of other an­i­mals, in­clud­ing al­pacas, ponies, Archie the Labrador and two or­phaned sheep. The land – and the op­por­tu­ni­ties it would of­fer – was what first at­tracted the cou­ple to the 200-year-old for­mer shep­herd’s cot­tage, set in seven acres over­look­ing the South Downs Na­tional Park. They had been liv­ing in a much more mod­ern house elsewhere in Hamp­shire, but wanted space for their daugh­ter Francesca’s pony Tabby. ‘We’re only 10 miles from Winch­ester here but it feels won­der­fully re­mote,’ Linda says. ‘And the land­scape is al­ways chang­ing, from lambs in the spring to snow on the hills in win­ter.’

The house, strewn with beams, in­glenook fire­places and cosy rooms, had plenty of rus­tic charm but the 1980s in­te­rior, as Linda de­scribes it, was ‘pretty dire’. ‘Friends would visit and po­litely say, “it’s got po­ten­tial,”’ she says. Fluffy pink car­pets cov­ered the floors, and yel­low and green blazed from the walls. ‘William’s room had a purple mu­ral so ter­ri­fy­ing he re­fused to sleep in there,’ she says.

Although Linda had a vi­sion of how the house should look – ‘coun­tri­fied, but not too per­fect’ – she had no idea how to achieve the ef­fect she de­sired. ‘I’m not artis­tic,’ she says. ‘I’m the sort of per­son who’d go to a store I like

What we love most about liv­ing here… ‘How vi­brant paint colours and beau­ti­ful fab­rics make dif­fer­ent rooms spring to life’

and buy every­thing at once.’ Un­der­stand­ing her lim­i­ta­tions led Linda to Ge­orge Tay­lor of Over­bury In­te­ri­ors who ar­rived armed with floor­plans, mood­boards and the abil­ity to grasp a brief on a bud­get. A large chunk of this was de­voted to re­solv­ing the kitchen, which was an un­invit­ing ‘box’ that led to a flimsy con­ser­va­tory that was al­most frozen in win­ter and full of flies in the sum­mer.

The so­lu­tion was to cre­ate a new light-filled space, where a spa­cious kitchen flows through to a din­ing area and then into a fam­ily sit­ting area thanks to an ex­ten­sion at the side of the house. Un­der­counter units in muted blue and grey give the kitchen that not-out-of-a-cat­a­logue look, as do the wall tiles, which were ‘care­fully ar­ranged for a ran­dom ef­fect’. The fam­ily space was fresh­ened up with so­fas in linens and flo­rals for a re­laxed new look.

This low-key feel stems from thrift and cre­ativ­ity com­bin­ing to bring each room to life. An­tique brass taps have been re-con­di­tioned, old grain sacks up­cy­cled into cush­ions, and once-dull chairs re-in­vented with con­trast­ing checks and pais­leys. Elsewhere, in the main bath­room, Linda had the old roll-top bath re-painted a bur­nished sil­ver and re-po­si­tioned to make room for a walk-in shower. An old door hides un­sightly pipework, new han­dles have re­vived the basin unit and formerly lack­lus­tre nickel taps,

bur­nished to pewter bright­ness. ‘Work­ing with Ge­orge has also opened my eyes to us­ing colour to bring a home to life,’ Linda says. In the boys’ bath­room, a bold rug brings swag­ger to the newly painted floor­boards, while a Dormy desk in the play­room is painted vi­brant or­ange and off­set by smart in­dus­trial stools.

Ge­orge has also taught Linda the virtues of up­scal­ing. ‘When the huge, L-shaped sofa for the snug ar­rived, there was a dis­tinct in­take of breath. But in fact it fits per­fectly – and it’s where we spend most of our time,’ says Linda.

As the house has evolved, so too did the Roberts’ menagerie. ‘We never in­tended to have so many an­i­mals but grad­u­ally more have ar­rived for all sorts of rea­sons,’ Linda says. The minia­ture pony was a friend for the first pony; the sec­ond pony was bought when Francesca out­grew the first; al­pacas needed a new home as their el­derly owner could no longer look af­ter them (plus they serve a prac­ti­cal purpose of help­ing keep the grass down); the ducks were Linda’s birth­day present; and the num­ber of chick­ens grew when a friend moved abroad and left hers with the fam­ily.

‘Liv­ing here re­ally does feel like be­ing in our own slice of heaven,’ says Linda. ‘We all have ex­actly what each of us needs and in win­ter we’ll all curl up on the huge, L-shaped sofa in the snug with the log­burner on.’

Guest bed­room Sub­tle pat­terns up­date this space. Cush­ion, in Daisy Trel­lis by Chelsea Tex­tiles. Head­board, in Ka­mala by GP&J Baker.

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