The stylish in­te­gra­tion of an old Ken­tish cot­tage with the vil­lage stores next door has cre­ated a chic coun­try retreat

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - words by celia rufey styling by ben kendrick pho­to­graphs by jody ste­wart

The in­te­gra­tion of an old Ken­tish cot­tage with the vil­lage stores next door has pro­duced a chic coun­try retreat

twenty years ago, an­tiques dealer Diane Sher­man was dream­ing of opening a tea­room. “Ac­tu­ally, I was des­per­ate to do it,” she re­calls, think­ing back to the hol­i­day in Kent with her hus­band Ian when she first spot­ted a cot­tage for sale with a shop at­tached. “We hadn’t thought of find­ing some­where in this

part of the coun­try and although we loved the views over the Rother Val­ley, Rol­ven­den Layne was a bit out of the way, so we dithered,” she ex­plains. “But what we didn’t re­alise then is how con­ve­nient this small ham­let is to Ten­ter­den and Rye, and the fa­mous gar­dens at Siss­inghurst and Great Dix­ter.”

The shop it­self of­fered an ideal space for a tea­room and the cot­tage had five bed­rooms – a per­fect fit for the fam­ily as their chil­dren, Char­lotte and Louis, were then still liv­ing at home. There was the charm fac­tor, too. A typ­i­cal Ken­tish clap­board cot­tage with an un­du­lat­ing peg-tile roof and leaded win­dows, it dates back to the 17th cen­tury. The shop, built at an an­gle to the cot­tage, was added 200 years later. “It had been the lo­cal store and was the hub of the vil­lage at one point, but was empty when we viewed it,

although some­one was tak­ing ad­van­tage of the space to build a car from a kit!” Diane says.

Hav­ing fallen in love with the prop­erty, Diane trans­ferred the stock from her ex­ist­ing an­tiques shop in north Lon­don and opened up as a tea­room that also sold an­tiques. “It was quite a learn­ing curve,” she ad­mits. “I’d never baked be­fore.” She ran it for six years and, with that am­bi­tion sat­is­fied, they ap­plied for plan­ning per­mis­sion to re­turn the shop to res­i­den­tial use – and a new phase in its his­tory be­gan.

The cou­ple’s op­ti­mistic, can-do ap­proach was a great as­set. They don’t re­mem­ber wor­ry­ing too much about the con­di­tion of the cot­tage when they bought it, even though Diane can vividly re­call go­ing up into the loft and see­ing patches of blue sky through the roof tiles. The ex­cit­ing po­ten­tial of the prop­erty meant they were able to look be­yond the rot­ten rafters and ren­o­va­tion hard­ships.

Both brought dif­fer­ent skills to the task of in­te­grat­ing the shop with the cot­tage in­te­rior. Ian’s ex­pe­ri­ence as a car­pet fit­ter came in handy in the sit­ting room when lay­ing old floor­boards from the de­mol­ished vil­lage hall. “You can still see stiletto-heel marks from dances held there,” Diane muses. “Not many floors carry signs of so many peo­ple hav­ing fun.”

The sit­ting room and its open-plan din­ing area oc­cupy the foot­print of the old shop, its walls still clad with

boards that Diane thinks were fixed there when the shop was built. The won­der­fully at­mo­spheric mood of these rooms is a re­sponse to the cou­ple’s re­ac­tion on first paint­ing the walls white. “We re­alised more depth was needed to show off the fur­ni­ture, so we then used Lamp Room Gray by Far­row & Ball,” Diane ex­plains. That warm shade runs through ad­join­ing ar­eas, off­set by a white beamed ceil­ing, cur­tains in off-white linen and a sofa and foot­stool up­hol­stered in vin­tage French linen sheets with the tex­tu­ral con­trast of hes­sian seat cush­ions – up­hol­stery just hap­pens to be an­other of Ian’s skills.

Diane’s par­tic­u­lar tal­ent is for put­ting fur­ni­ture to­gether in stylish ar­range­ments that please the eye: of­ten un­pre­dictable, they al­ways work out rather well. And her knowl­edge of an­tiques and where to source them has been very use­ful in find­ing pieces that sit eas­ily in a build­ing of this age, such as the Ed­war­dian drop-arm sofa in the sit­ting room and the 1930s oak ta­ble and chairs in the break­fast room. “Some­times I buy things without know­ing where I’ll put them,” she con­fesses. “And my hus­band is as bad as I am, if not worse. As well as fur­ni­ture, I try to track down ac­ces­sories rel­e­vant to the time when this was a shop, such as the glass cake cabi­net, vin­tage sweet jars for stor­ing ce­real and large scales.”

Although Diane and Ian did most of the work on the in­te­rior them­selves, they com­mis­sioned a car­pen­ter to make the oak work­top in the lit­tle gal­ley kitchen

and to build the frame­work for the cab­i­nets, onto which Ian fit­ted the doors. He also laid the slate floor here and in the ad­join­ing break­fast room. A dresser op­po­site the sink pro­vides dec­o­ra­tive de­tail with its dis­play of china, cook­ing in­gre­di­ents in jars, and cad­dies for tea and sugar. In­stead of fit­ting a length of work­top be­side the cooker, a butcher’s block – found by Diane in Rye – runs along the wall, adding a dis­tinc­tive el­e­ment.

They never buy new fur­ni­ture, be­liev­ing older pieces to be a bet­ter fit with the age of the prop­erty. How­ever, Diane ac­knowl­edges the need to re­spond to the changes in cot­tage style. “We like to add a bit of con­tem­po­rary edge by mix­ing met­als and dark wood with painted pieces,” she says. And they are con­stantly see­ing fresh pos­si­bil­i­ties for mak­ing sub­tle tweaks to the colour scheme: “We are pas­sion­ate about the house and re­gard it as a work in progress that is evolv­ing all the time.”

The Stores, Rol­ven­den Layne, Kent. For B&B details, call Diane on 01580 241217 or 07786 582661. Dou­ble room, from £ 100 per night. CL read­ers can en­joy a spe­cial of­fer of three nights for the price of two (pub­lic and bank hol­i­days ex­cluded). Book­ings must be made by 31 May 2017.

OP­PO­SITE Vin­tage scales, earth­en­ware stor­age jars and tin cad­dies echo the build­ing’s orig­i­nal pur­pose as a shop THIS PAGE Gleam­ing metal­lic and mir­rored ac­ces­sories bring light touches to the at­mo­spheric scheme in the sit­ting room

THIS PAGE, CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE LEFT A 1930s oak ta­ble and chairs fits per­fectly in the break­fast room; pale painted pan­elling and fur­ni­ture is off­set by the dark slate floor; an old butcher‘s block makes a state­ment in the kitchen OP­PO­SITE A col­lec­tion of jelly moulds is dis­played in a vin­tage glass cake cabi­net un­der the stairs

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE LEFT An in­for­mal still-life ar­range­ment bright­ens a cor­ner of the din­ing room; weath­ered French shut­ters sep­a­rate an en­suite from the twin bed­room; 1930s burr-wal­nut head­boards are teamed with con­tem­po­rary ac­ces­sories to great ef­fect

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