‘we did this on a tiny bud­get’

Up­cy­cling and re­cy­cling al­lowed Sue to fill her East York­shire cot­tage with plenty of pretty per­son­al­ity

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Noth­ing is quite what it seems in our cot­tage,’ says Sue. ‘Look closely and you’ll see that it takes on an alice in Won­der­land­like qual­ity, thanks to our love of up­cy­cling and rein­vent­ing.

The shelf in the sit­ting room, for in­stance, is half a chair; a set of coat hooks on the wall is ac­tu­ally the tail­gate from a lorry; and the bathroom toiletries unit is made from tim­ber cast-offs. My hus­band, Greg, is so good at re­work­ing fur­ni­ture that it’s hard to tell which items are the orig­i­nals and which have been mod­i­fied by him. We com­bine our skills in find­ing new uses for things that other peo­ple might not want any more, which has saved us a small for­tune. It’s also given our home a won­der­ful eclec­tic style that’s unique and per­sonal to us.

Rental to love

The trans­for­ma­tion has been a long – and on­go­ing – labour of love for Greg and I. We first spotted the house when we were out walk­ing one day, and asked about rent­ing it for a while un­til we could find a more per­ma­nent home. It had noth­ing in­side; we just loved all the great orig­i­nal fea­tures and its lo­ca­tion. We had to buy kitchen units straight away be­cause it was just a shell, and our short-term plans turned into a 20-year stay.

While we were rent­ing, we put money aside and were grad­u­ally able to spruce the cot­tage up and make it home, but we al­ways felt re­stricted be­cause the cot­tage wasn’t ours. There were changes that Greg and I dreamed of mak­ing, but we didn’t want to in­vest any more of our time and money in some­one else’s prop­erty.

Our pa­tience, how­ever, paid off. The owner even­tu­ally de­cided to sell the cot­tage and gave us first re­fusal – and at a dis­counted price of £65,000. We

‘if you’re start­ing from scratch in the kitchen, choose units with a time­less de­sign, then paint in your cho­sen colour scheme’

were over­joyed and lit­er­ally jumped at the chance to make it our own at last.

We set about adding heart to our home. We re­plas­tered the walls, laid wooden floors, re­moved old-fash­ioned fit­ted cup­boards, hung new doors and put in a chim­ney breast and fire­place in readi­ness for a Suf­folk farm­house cast-iron range. I bought it on­line and it was de­liv­ered in the back of a van. It was far too heavy for me and the van driver to lift into the house on our own, so I called on two of our neigh­bours to help us carry it into the din­ing room. And even then we had to shuf­fle it into po­si­tion in the fire­place – but it was a per­fect fit and I ab­so­lutely love it.

Ev­ery­thing has a story

The house be­gan to evolve in a way that re­flected my love of painted fur­ni­ture and Greg’s pas­sion for wood. He has worked with wood all his life and is al­ways mak­ing things, rein­vent­ing and cre­at­ing.

We gen­er­ally go shop­ping to­gether and rarely come home empty-handed. We like the same things and of­ten see po­ten­tial in some­thing that some­one else wouldn’t even give a sec­ond glance. And we rarely keep things the same as when we bought them – more

of­ten than not, they are re-worked, adapted or painted and com­pletely trans­formed. Some­times I have to be strong and not buy some­thing sim­ply be­cause we haven’t got the room – but there is al­ways space for the smaller pieces that turn a house into a home. I like things that cre­ate mem­o­ries. Ev­ery­thing in the cot­tage has a story at­tached to it.

Trash to trea­sure

Greg and I are both avid col­lec­tors of all sorts of things, from glass­ware and tins to fab­rics, wood and fur­ni­ture. We of­ten spend our week­ends look­ing around car-boot sales and an­tiques fairs for bar­gains. Nei­ther of us likes to see things for­got­ten about or go to waste, es­pe­cially if there’s po­ten­tial for them to be loved and ap­pre­ci­ated by us. It’s re­ally sat­is­fy­ing to be able to res­cue a dis­carded unloved piece of fur­ni­ture and turn it into some­thing that can be both use­ful a nd beau­ti­ful at the same time.

We’ve even res­cued un­wanted fur­ni­ture from skips. The pel­met in the din­ing room, for ex­am­ple, was des­tined for the tip when I spotted it and so I asked the owner if I could have it. Most peo­ple are happy some­one else can find good use for some­thing they no longer want.

Fam­ily tra­di­tion

We don’t want our home to be the same as any­one else’s and this way we make ev­ery­thing in­di­vid­ual and per­sonal. Our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of any­thing with his­tory is rub­bing off on our grown-up sons, Sam and Joe. Sam re­cently got his own house and has al­ready asked us to do up one or two things for him. They both like the idea of cre­at­ing a lovely place to live on a bud­get. Af­ter all, you don’t have to spend a for­tune to cre­ate a beau­ti­ful home.’

‘Most up­hol­stered pieces of fur­ni­ture can be reva Mped quite eas­ily with some rem­nants of fab­ric and a lick of paint’

bar­gain buy. ‘The sofa and chair cost just £60 from a char­ity shop, and I get my cush­ions mostly from Dunelm’

Mix it up. ‘We com­bined units bought on­line with a cup­board from an an­tiques fair’

shelf life. ‘My glass­ware col­lec­tion is kept in cab­i­nets so it stays dust free’

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