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