Mod­ern clas­sic

Both stylish and com­fort­able, Sam Breck­ner’s home skill­fully blends vin­tage fur­ni­ture with cool con­tem­po­rary touches

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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.

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