Both stylish and comfortable, Sam Breckner’s home skillfully blends vintage furniture with cool contemporary touches
One reader’s charming Hertfordshire cottage
Finding your dream home isn’t easy, but when Sam Breckner spotted a Victorian cottage for sale in a local magazine, it seemed to tick most of the boxes on her wish list. ‘My husband Philip and I were after a period house in a rural setting, close to decent transport links for commuting into London,’ says Sam.
The house, a semi-detached former gamekeeper’s cottage, is at the end of a long, winding track on the outskirts of a Hertfordshire village, with only one neighbouring property – an adjoining cottage. ‘I loved the house and thought the setting was idyllic – and, fortunately, Philip agreed,’ says Sam. ‘Although it was too small and rather dated, we intended to extend and put our own stamp on it. And the big garden, framed by mature trees, was an added bonus.
‘The kitchen was tiny and had a tatty conservatory tacked on the end, so we decided to remove it and add an extension across the back of the house, doubling the room’s size and
lengthening the living room next door,’ says Sam. They had no problem getting planning permission, but had to give up the idea of adding more bedrooms, as the local planning department wouldn’t agree to a two-storey extension.
With building work underway, Sam focused on shopping for furniture and accessories, while keeping an eye on how work was progressing. Inspired by her home’s age and setting, she went for country-style decor, but with modern twists. Rooms were decorated in soft,
muted tones and furnished with a mixture of secondhand finds – sourced from antique fairs, markets and auctions – and a few new high-street pieces.
The once poky and gloomy kitchen is now generously-sized and filled with light, thanks to the extension and the addition of French windows leading on to a patio. ‘I wanted it to have a homely farmhouse feel, and hired a local joiner to make the solid wooden units and island,’ says Sam. Reclaimed French terracotta tiles continue into the hall.
The open-plan room, adjacent to the kitchen, stretches the entire length of the house. Folding wooden doors in the centre enable it to be divided into two sections when privacy’s required.
Upstairs, Sam has kept the decor pale and simple to prevent the main bedroom and daughter Georgia’s room looking cluttered. ‘We don’t spend much time up here during the day as the rooms are so small,’ says Sam. ‘Although we couldn’t make them bigger, we moved the bathroom into what was originally a box room, as there was only a shower up here.’
Once the cottage was finished, Sam decided to use her experience to set up B’s Yard (bsyard.com), selling vintage furniture online and at fairs. ‘I’ve always enjoyed decorating and dressing rooms, and it was wonderful to have a whole house to play with, as well as make a living,’ says Sam. ‘This is a very cosy and welcoming country home that’s warm in winter, plus cool in the summer – when the garden also looks amazing.’
COSY CORNER The squashy leather sofas are a favourite place for sitting and chatting to guests (for similar, try Darlings of Chelsea). Sam had the fireplace built from reclaimed bricks, and it’s in constant use in winter. The mantelpiece is an old railway sleeper.
FULL OF CHARM Sam and Philip fell for the charming mid-victorian cottage before they’d even set foot through the front door.
Sam and her beloved German shepherd, Saskia.