Cor­nish Charm

Mag­gie and Mike Black love dec­o­rat­ing their pe­riod home for the hol­i­days, and en­joy­ing gath­er­ings with fam­ily and friends


This pe­riod prop­erty in Cornwall has an el­e­gant sim­plic­ity that’s per­fect for fes­tive fam­ily gath­er­ings

Mag­gie Black en­joys ev­ery minute of the time she spends choos­ing and putting up her Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions. ‘I keep some from year to year – they bring back so many happy me­mories – but I also like to add a few new ones to be fresh and a lit­tle on trend,’ she says. ‘I adore un­wrap­ping my stash of dec­o­ra­tions, de­cid­ing which ones will make the fi­nal cut.’

After more than 30 years in the prop­erty, Mag­gie and her hus­band Mike have an am­i­ca­ble ar­range­ment: Mag­gie, a re­tired nurse, is in charge of the dec­o­rat­ing while Mike, a lo­cal GP, does the gar­den­ing. ‘It works for us,’ says Mag­gie. ‘I’m never bored – I’m con­stantly tweak­ing things. The house is ver­sa­tile and I have re­painted it a lot over the years.’

When the cou­ple bought the 17th-cen­tury prop­erty, it felt bland and fea­ture­less, all its char­ac­ter hav­ing been re­moved or cov­ered over. Mag­gie un­der­took much of the ren­o­va­tion work, open­ing up fire­places, ex­pos­ing beams and strip­ping back lay­ers of paint. ‘I did a lot of the de­mo­li­tion, then called in a builder to build things up again,’ she says. Even­tu­ally, Mag­gie and Mike also fit­ted a new kitchen and bath­room, but it was while work­ing on the sit­ting/ din­ing room that Mag­gie made her great­est dis­cov­ery – a wat­tle and daub wall, con­cealed be­low mod­ern plas­ter­work. ‘I ex­posed a lit­tle bit of it and re­alised there was some­thing lovely go­ing on,’ she says. ‘I took the plas­ter off with a pick­axe – and there it was.’

To­day, the house’s in­te­rior has a touch of the Scan­di­na­vian in its em­pha­sis on pale colours and charm­ing sim­plic­ity. Mag­gie’s dec­o­rat­ing style is in­spired by the build­ing’s unique char­ac­ter. ‘There is so much tex­ture here – stone, slate and wood,’ she ex­plains. ‘This led me to keep the decor as sim­ple as pos­si­ble. I’m also in­spired by the Cor­nish light, and so I use a lot of blues, greys and whites. My style is mainly vin­tage, things that I’ve col­lected over the years, with some mod­ern pieces thrown in.’

The cou­ple take plea­sure in wel­com­ing guests to their home. ‘Our daugh­ter Amy lives nearby and brings her daugh­ters Lilly and Isla over reg­u­larly,’ says Mag­gie. ‘ We rel­ish the fact that they use our house so much and keep it alive. We also love hav­ing our son Tom to stay. The more the merrier.’ This prin­ci­ple def­i­nitely ap­plies at Christ­mas, when the Blacks en­joy tra­di­tions that go back years. Mag­gie puts the tree up just a few days be­fore Christ­mas. ‘ We like it to be fresh and not lose that ex­cite­ment,’ she says. ‘On Christ­mas Eve we give each other new py­ja­mas and on Christ­mas Day we go for a walk. We have turkey and all the trim­mings and play board games in the af­ter­noon. This is what I love most about this house: we have so many happy me­mories here and we are con­tin­u­ing to make them.’

best buy ‘Rather than buy­ing new fur­ni­ture, I pre­fer to keep rein­vent­ing my old pieces with a change of paint colour, which al­ways gives them a fresh look’

GUEST BED­ROOM Tongue-and-groove pan­elling pro­vides a rus­tic-style head­board. try the Duck egg blue her­ring­bone throw, £59, the bri­tish blan­ket Com­pany

MAIN BED­ROOM White walls and pale blue bed­ding cre­ate a coastal feel. the lac­quer but­ler’s tray, £95, is sim­i­lar; St Ives bed­li­nen, from £15 for a pil­low­case, both the white Com­pany

EN SUITE A gloss-white unit adds a con­tem­po­rary touch. east­brook oslo van­ity unit, £524.40; and basin, £234, both Doug­field Plumbers Sup­plies

STAIRS Pale grey painted wood­work max­imises the feel­ing of light. Parma gray es­tate eg­gshell, £60 for 2.5L, Far­row & ball

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