The owners of this listed cottage in Wiltshire were keen to uncover their home’s fascinating history
Tom and Camilla Harrington’s home has a chequered history. Back in the 14th century, it was no more than a wine store. ‘The round barrel-shaped cavities are still visible,’ says Tom, pointing out dents in the front façade. ‘Apparently, in those days, wine merchants would roll barrels through these openings for storage and eventual resale.’
Centuries later, the blacksmith who shoed the horses of passing travellers, plied his trade here. His original chimney is now part of the cooking recess in the kitchen. After another 200 years, Georgian gentry added the smarter façade and the new front room, now used as the main sitting room. These hints into the property’s past, Tom’s passion for history, and the cottage’s idyllic Wiltshire location convinced him and Camilla to buy the place.
As Tom explains, ‘When tourists search online for the prettiest village in the UK, up pops ours. There’s a Michelin-starred restaurant nearby, two pubs and a meandering river, which we paddle in to cool down on hot summer days.’ On first viewing, the couple recognised that this characterful property could be turned into the perfect escape for holidays all year round. Camilla, who’s Danish, has a strong sense of design and style, and was quick to spot the potential of its quirky features, while Tom, eager to uncover its history, could hardly wait to see what lay behind the panelling installed in the Sixties. With the go-ahead from the local conservation society, they were able to strip out much of the interior, removing rickety ceilings and rotting floors to improve head height and structural stability.
A new RSJ was required to support the first floor, which, Tom says, ‘ felt as though it might have
been held together with paper clips,’ recalling the day when builders finally discovered some structurally sound original beams and a whole new room, previously boarded up, next to the main bedroom. Installing the new ceilings also allowed for sleek, built-in spotlights and the chance to conceal new pipework and wiring.
Oak flooring was laid throughout the ground level, enhancing the feeling of space and continuity. ‘ We were initially going to distress the new boards, but once laid, we really liked their warm honey colour so we left them as they were,’ says Tom.
Once all the building work was complete, the couple then acquired two cocker spaniels, Gerald and Baxter, who provided the inspiration for their fabric choices. ‘I found dog-themed fabrics from Emily Bond,’ says Camilla. ‘Country-style textiles work well in this house, because it already feels very rural, even though it’s in the heart of a village. Emily’s designs are fresh, with a relaxed, fun vibe.’
The couple largely decorated and furnished the house together, sourcing everything from beehive window locks, doorknobs and coat hooks to paintings and quirky touches such as the silver stag’s head hanging in the kitchen. They share a taste for old-school comforts, soft colours and the occasional bold painting, cushion and throw.
‘ We are a good team,’ says Camilla. ‘My design decisions were inevitably influenced by the Danish style of relaxed living, which characterised my childhood home and that’s a style that Tom enjoys, too – we’re very pleased with the finished look. This home has proved to be a perfect getaway. We love walking the dogs in the countryside – and they love spending time here just as much as we do.’