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