A Work Of Art

Les­ley Seeger’s once-gloomy cot­tage is now brim­ming with bright colours, bold pat­terns and her own eye-catch­ing art­work

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - Cookery -

Iloved liv­ing in the city, but when I moved into my part­ner, Michael’s 18th-cen­tury cot­tage in a ru­ral ham­let in York­shire, I saw it as a golden op­por­tu­nity to de­velop my land­scape paint­ings. Deep down, I’m also a coun­try girl at heart,’ says artist Les­ley.

There was just one draw­back. The cot­tage was so small that there was barely enough room for her easel.

‘There were two rooms up­stairs, and two down­stairs,’ she re­calls. ‘First of all, we built a small stu­dio in the gar­den so I could con­tinue work­ing from home, while we worked out what to do with the cot­tage. Michael had bought the house in 2010 and had al­ready had plan­ning per­mis­sion to build an ex­ten­sion so, as soon as we could, we got the builders in and moved back into my house in York un­til the ex­ten­sion was fin­ished.’

The new sec­tion, built of the same stone as the orig­i­nal, in­cludes a sit­ting room, gar­den room and sec­ond bed­room. The floors in the old part of the house were also dug up for a damp-proof course, the walls were in­su­lated and dry-lined, and the floors re­laid. Some win­dows were re­placed with new ones in the same pe­riod style, and a porch and per­gola were added to link the house to the cot­tage gar­den.

‘When we came back, the whole place was not only much big­ger, but also lighter and more mod­ern, with­out los­ing any of its orig­i­nal charm or struc­tural fea­tures, like the ceil­ing beams and low doors,’ says Les­ley.

‘All the rooms look out over the gar­den and coun­try­side, so all the in­spi­ra­tion I need is right here. Work­ing out in the open brings a fresh­ness to my paint­ings. I hang them on the walls of the cot­tage un­til they are sold, which in turn keeps the rooms fresh be­cause they are al­ways chang­ing and evolv­ing. To me, aes­thet­ics are re­ally im­por­tant in a home. It’s rather like a paint­ing – each room is a blank can­vas to be de­vel­oped.’

Les­ley and Michael wanted to keep the char­ac­ter of the orig­i­nal cot­tage by choos­ing semi-fit­ted kitchen units, which they have com­bined with free-stand­ing cup­boards, a dresser and painted sec­ond-hand fur­ni­ture. Les­ley painted the dark beams the same colour as the walls to give them a mod­ern edge.

Tra­di­tional dark oak fur­ni­ture from Michael’s fam­ily is teamed with Les­ley’s colour­ful rugs, throws and cush­ions, and ev­ery shelf and spare wall is adorned with ce­ram­ics, paint­ings and mir­rors, which bring vi­brancy into ev­ery cor­ner of the house. ‘I use as much

colour as I can,’ said Les­ley. ‘Neu­tral shades just don’t do it for me.’

Les­ley has had to make the most of ev­ery inch of space in the cot­tage, es­pe­cially in the ex­ten­sion. The gar­den room trans­forms eas­ily into a guest bed­room and the main sit­ting room also serves as an open-plan study with stairs lead­ing to the main bed­room and en-suite bath­room, which have been built into the roof space.

‘The house has grown ac­cord­ing to our needs,’ says Les­ley. ‘It started out as a small, dark cot­tage which has been trans­formed into a light, bright and colour­ful home. But it was hav­ing the coun­try­side on our doorstep, and the in­spi­ra­tion it offers, that fi­nally con­vinced me to give up city life.’


LESSONS LEARNT: Use big fur­ni­ture and hang large art­works, even in small rooms, to cre­ate im­pact and bal­ance.

DE­SIGN HINT: Houses need colour and va­ri­ety to give them per­son­al­ity. Buy hand­made, orig­i­nal things, whether it’s art, tex­tiles or ac­ces­sories, to make your home beau­ti­ful.

Left: The blue cup­board was built to Les­ley’s ex­act spec­i­fi­ca­tions so that it didn’t take up too much room. The mir­rored doors re­flect light back into the room. A mix­ture of fam­ily fur­ni­ture and bar­gain finds cre­ate a pretty, mis­matched look

Right: The pink front door offers a hint of the bright, bold colours that fill Les­ley and Michael’s pretty coun­try cot­tage. Their home over­looks the River Der­went, which is a con­stant source of in­spi­ra­tion for Les­ley’s

ab­stract paint­ings

Be­low: Les­ley likes de­signs from all eras and of­ten mixes mod­ern or retro fur­ni­ture with an­tiques, like this Ori­en­tal bed­head bought years ago.

Les­ley and Michael wanted a coun­try-style kitchen in the orig­i­nal part of the cot­tage, us­ing the fire­place for an Aga and open shelves to dis­play Les­ley’s eclec­tic as­sort­ment of crock­ery and ce­ram­ics ‘The stone sink in the kitchen was half-buried in Michael’s gar­den at his last house, so we cleaned it up and used it. I don’t like to see any­thing go to waste,’ says Les­ley

Tucked into the cosy roof space, the main bed­room was a chal­lenge to fur­nish be­cause of the slop­ing roof

Left: Splashes of colour gives the sit­ting-room ex­ten­sion a cheer­ful look, which com­bines old so­fas, an an­tique chest and a painted book­case with Les­ley’s colour­ful ab­stract paint­ings

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