Safe as houses

Amanda Hamil­ton and John Thorn­hill in­creased the space in their Vic­to­rian cot­tage to cre­ate a charm­ing fam­ily home, pay­ing care­ful at­ten­tion to pre­serv­ing its his­toric in­tegrity

Period Living - - Contents - Words Janet Mcmeekin | Pho­to­graphs Jeremy Phillips

In­te­rior de­signer Amanda Hamil­ton and her hus­band

John Thorn­hill turned a his­toric stone­ma­son’s cot­tage into a prac­ti­cal fam­ily home

Amanda Hamil­ton and her hus­band John Thorn­hill pri­ori­tised the rich her­itage of their his­toric stone­ma­son’s cot­tage when they em­barked on its creative re­mod­elling. ‘John and I were mind­ful of en­hanc­ing rather than de­tract­ing from the char­ac­ter of our home,’ says Amanda. Back in 2007, mother-of-three Amanda was thrilled when she saw this cot­tage, right next to the River Ec­cles­bourne, in the pretty Der­byshire vil­lage of Duffield. ‘On my first view­ing, I could see why other peo­ple had been put off,’ she re­calls. ‘The three-storey cot­tage didn’t have a proper kitchen and the dé­cor wasn’t to every­one’s taste.’ But in­te­rior de­signer Amanda re­alised this was a ter­rific op­por­tu­nity to breathe new life into the prop­erty. ‘The cot­tage was very at­trac­tive, built of lo­cal lime­stone and in a great lo­ca­tion in the heart of the vil­lage,’ she adds. ‘It was struc­turally sound and had a wealth of pe­riod fea­tures, in­clud­ing orig­i­nal quarry tiles, beams, a huge in­glenook fire­place and a unique stone out­house – the vil­lage lock-up where drunks would have been kept overnight.

The prop­erty had a lovely feel, and good bones.’

Once Amanda and her three daugh­ters had moved in, she be­gan light­en­ing and bright­en­ing their dreary sur­round­ings. ‘Scrub­bing the Aga re­vealed its rich blue colour, while paint­ing ev­ery wall white made a huge dif­fer­ence.’ She re­placed all the car­pets and the fit­tings in the en suite, and made cur­tains and blinds for ev­ery room.

‘Since very lit­tle of our fur­ni­ture would fit up the spi­ral stair­case, I had to bide my time and get bed­room fur­ni­ture made,’ she says. ‘Ini­tially, Char­lotte and Emily slept on mat­tresses in their beamed bed­room, but they took it all in their stride and re­ferred to it as their “tree house”. And de­spite the chal­lenges and stresses, the project was an ad­ven­ture and very re­ward­ing.’

Amanda de­signed some Shaker-style cab­i­nets for the kitchen units and the whole cot­tage be­gan to feel much more homely. How­ever, as the girls got older and Amanda met, and in 2010, mar­ried John, their char­ac­ter­ful abode be­gan to feel a lit­tle cramped. Re­luc­tant to move, the cou­ple in­stead drew up plans to ex­tend. ‘We could see that turn­ing a tem­po­rary garage into a din­ing and gar­den room would work well,’ says Amanda. ‘And hav­ing ear­marked the lock-up as a fam­ily room, we re­con­fig­ured the rest of the down­stairs lay­out to add a laun­dry and cloak­room.’

Al­though the cot­tage isn’t listed, it is in a Con­ser­va­tion Area and right be­side a river, so get­ting plan­ning per­mis­sion took time. ‘We didn’t mind wait­ing: we wanted to do our lovely cot­tage jus­tice,’ Amanda adds. ‘We went to great trou­ble to en­hance its nat­u­ral beauty.’

Per­mis­sion was even­tu­ally granted and build­ing work started in June 2014. The lock-up was care­fully dis­man­tled and the stones num­bered be­fore be­ing trans­ported to a lo­cal stone­ma­son to be cut. They were then reused to build two out­side walls for the new fam­ily room. ‘The stone­ma­son made such a great job of cut­ting the stones that, when the walls were re­built, they looked as if they’d been there since 1840,’ says Amanda.

For the other two walls of the lock-up and the new gar­den/din­ing room, Amanda and John took their in­spi­ra­tion from New Eng­land-style prop­er­ties, and the weath­er­board­ing is per­fectly in keep­ing with the de­light­ful river­side set­ting.

‘It adds a lovely new di­men­sion to the cot­tage, mar­ry­ing it all to­gether seam­lessly,’ says Amanda.

As the project pro­gressed, John tack­led a host of jobs, in­clud­ing build­ing a new veranda out­side the laun­dry room, while Amanda turned her at­ten­tion to the in­te­rior de­sign. ‘I chose a neu­tral pal­ette, opt­ing for greys to give a re­laxed coun­try feel, adding in­ter­est with soft fur­nish­ings and ac­ces­sories, many cho­sen from the ranges I sell.’

De­spite the in­evitable up­heaval of liv­ing in the cot­tage while the six-month project pro­gressed, the cou­ple are de­lighted. ‘The ex­tra space has made a huge dif­fer­ence,’ says Amanda. ‘We’re so pleased with our labour-of-love cot­tage, and if the orig­i­nal stone­ma­son who once lived here walked in to­day, I hope he’d be pleased to see how it’s evolved.’

The for­mer stone­ma­son’s cot­tage has been thought­fully ren­o­vated and ex­tended. The front door is painted in Far­row & Ball’s Down Pipe

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