On the tip of Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula, Sea Garden Cottage is a restful blend of vintage styling and coastal colours
On the tip of Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula, Sea Garden Cottage blends vintage styling and seaside shades
fter spending a glorious day on the south Cornish coast, what could be more appealing than knowing your journey home is just a five-minute stroll across a wild-flower-fringed field to an inviting little cottage for two? Tucked away in the small fishing village of Gunwalloe on the Lizard Peninsula, Sea Garden Cottage is just such a place. A mid-20th-century addition to the 18th-century farmworker’s house next door, the single-storey dwelling had been in Dan Tarling’s family for more than 30 years. When it fell vacant a couple of years ago, he and his wife Beth decided to take on its refurbishment, as it was in need of updating and a fresh look.
They set out to create a coastal retreat that offered all the modern comforts while evoking the feel of an earlier era. The transformation took around three months, with the couple doing most of the work themselves. “We make a good team,” Beth says. “I come up with decorating and design schemes, and Dan balances this with a more practical, budget-conscious approach – he had the idea of skimming the walls in the kitchen and sitting room with authentic lime plaster, which saved us stripping off the old wallpaper and redecorating.”
Beth also has a talent for seeking out affordable furnishings. Thanks to her keen eye for a bargain and Dan’s expert repurposing skills – he is a builder by trade – they were able to give the entire kitchen a stylish makeover for just £150. A 1950s sink unit from a car-boot sale was a star find, as its old-fashioned steel profile is conveniently that bit narrower than modern versions, making it ideal for the compact galley space. The sliding cabinet doors that sit below – originally yellow – were smartened up with Farrow & Ball’s Parma Gray, which was also used on the run of drawers and cupboards – adapted from the
Nostalgic prints of midcentury seascapes add a decidedly nautical nod
bottom half of a slim junk-shop dresser – on the opposite wall. Set off by the cream tones of the plaster, this cool muted blue brings a calm feel to the space and picks up on the shades of Beth’s collection of Iris utility Woods Ware.
“I love china, particularly from the 1930s, 40s and 50s,” she says. This is evident from the impressive array of blue and white ceramics lined up on the wooden shelves and worktops made by Dan, where classic striped TG Green Cornishware and vintage blue Bretby storage jars sit alongside retro Mason Cash canisters in a bright and breezy display.
Pale blue swallows swoop and soar across one wall papered in a subtle design by Laura Ashley, bringing playful detail to the space without overwhelming it. A weathered toy yacht and vintage postcards of the local coastline add a decidedly nautical nod, but Beth has been wary of overdoing the coastal theme. “I’ve tried not to go too ‘boaty’, as it can look a bit clichéd,” she explains.
The notable exceptions to this are the nostalgic prints of mid-century seascapes in several of the rooms. Beth has devotedly tracked these down, often in their original wooden frames, at boot fairs, flea markets and on ebay. In the dining area, a large image of a sailboat scudding across sunlit waves hangs pride of place above a circular oak table rescued from her mother’s garden and paired with junk-shop chairs. The mellow tones of these simple wooden pieces blend with the new boards laid by Dan, which, like the slate floors elsewhere, can be easily swept clean of sand brought in on feet and boots.
Keen to make the most of the wonderful coastal light, the couple installed Velux windows and renewed the old conservatory that opens off the sitting room. After years of being lashed by salt-laden winds, this was in serious need of attention, so Dan replaced the tired plastic framework with a more aesthetic wood and glass structure. This relaxing space is now filled with foliage and flowers – a lush mix of plants, including jasmine, rosemary
and even olive trees, and vintage botanical fabrics. The soft mauves, blues and greens of a favourite 1950s floral chintz used for a blind and cushion provided inspiration for the rest of the furnishings – and for the garden beyond. “A hebe, some agapanthus and a buddleja that were already there echoed the colours perfectly, so I added varieties in similar shades,” Beth explains. Vibrant cornflowers, nepeta, Verbena bonariensis and ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ wallflower now swell the stylish palette, set off by silver-leaved artemisia, sea holly and lamb’s ears.
A sense of the interior being a continuation of the garden extends beyond the leafy conservatory and into the snug sitting room, where sofas piled with cushions in the same soothing
pale greens and blues make it an inviting place to relax, and a woodburning stove stands ready to take the chill off cooler evenings. “Most of the rooms can be seen from another one, so I’ve kept to just a few colours to create a feeling of flow between them, which makes the space feel larger,” Beth explains.
She chose Farrow & Ball’s restful Pavilion Blue for the bedroom, where stripes and vintage florals are mixed to charming effect. In the light-filled ensuite bathroom, the sea green of the wall tiles is echoed by shapely 1940s Dartmouth Pottery vases, while original Bakelite light switches sourced by Beth also add pleasing period detail throughout. And in almost every room, the distinctive grey covers of her beloved Persephone Books reassure guests they have a literary treat in store should the weather turn.
With three lovely beaches nearby and an ancient inn just minutes away, it’s hardly surprising that this welcoming little cottage is so popular – with walkers on the coastal path, holidaymakers from further afield and locals keen to enjoy a break from their daily routine in such a delightful setting.
To stay at Sea Garden Cottage (sleeps two) or Sea View Cottage next door (sleeps six; see CL April 2017), contact email@example.com.
“I’ve kept to just a few colours to create a flowing feeling”
ABOVE AND RIGHT Farrow & Ball’s Parma Gray unites freestanding vintage fittings in the kitchen, creating a calmbackdrop for a display of blue and white china including Bretby storage jars and Iris Woods Ware cups and saucers
THIS PAGEAn old tin trunk makes an original coffee table in the living room. The blue hydrangea print on the tea tray picks up on the vintage floral fabrics in the conservatory; vintage local postcards, old nautical charts and a compass create a coastal collageOPPOSITE A mid-century seascape print by Montague Dawson hangs in the dining room
THIS PAGE, FROM ABOVELEFT Fresh flowers brighten a junk-shop mirror and chest of drawers in the bedroom; old postcards of the area and an eye-catching vintage vase bring nostalgic appeal; a mix of toning fabrics and coastal prints by Vernon Ward OPPOSITE Dartmouth Pottery picks up on the soft sea green of the Laura Ashley bathroom tiles