‘we did this on a tiny budget’
Upcycling and recycling allowed Sue to fill her East Yorkshire cottage with plenty of pretty personality
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.
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’