Sto­ry­book style

When Claire Mcfadyen and hus­band Jamie found a ne­glected coun­try cot­tage, they knew they could bring it to life and make sure it had a happy end­ing

Period Living - - Contents - Words and styling Sara Bird

Claire and Jamie Mcfadyen have trans­formed a ne­glected Vic­to­rian coun­try cot­tage into the per­fect fairy-tale home

Claire Mcfadyen and her hus­band Jamie weren’t look­ing to move to a cot­tage in the coun­try, but a chance find by her fa­ther got them think­ing, and they de­cided that it couldn’t be missed. ‘We were liv­ing not far away in a place that was all fin­ished so we were very set­tled,’ Claire re­calls. ‘But my fa­ther found this house and emailed me the de­tails say­ing it was a real bel­ter. As I looked round it, I just kept think­ing it was like a fairy-tale cot­tage from a story book, and I could see that with a bit of work it could be mag­i­cal. We also do like a project, which helps.’ Be­fore long, Claire and Jamie were the new own­ers of this for­mer worker’s cot­tage next to the old hunt­ing dog ken­nels of a coun­try es­tate. The house was suf­fer­ing from damp and de­cay, and was not hab­it­able, so for the first four months the fam­ily lived with Claire’s par­ents while the ini­tial ren­o­va­tions were tak­ing place.

‘When we started, like most peo­ple we had a small bud­get,’ says Claire. ‘And then the first quote came back – just re­point­ing the chim­neys took up al­most the whole bud­get. We re­alised then that we had to take on more of the work our­selves.’ Luck­ily, Claire’s hus­band Jamie was very hands on and did a lot of the labour, but for some tasks they also em­ployed in­di­vid­ual spe­cial­ists and DIY helpers, who could do the ren­o­va­tions for a more rea­son­able fee. ‘Still, I don’t think Jamie slept for the first four months after we bought the house, jug­gling his work and our ren­o­va­tion com­mit­ments.’

Work be­gan in Jan­uary 2017, start­ing with the chim­ney breasts. All the old loose brick­work needed to be pulled out in the main bed­room in or­der to fit a su­per-king-size bed into the room, and the re­main­ing chim­neys were then re­pointed. Next came the rewiring, re­plumb­ing and re­plas­ter­ing.

‘We had a cou­ple of near dis­as­ters in those first few weeks,’ re­calls Claire. ‘We weren’t ex­pect­ing the boiler to break down the day after we bought the house and a heavy snow­fall meant the elec­tri­cian was snowed in!’ For­tu­nately, this all hap­pened in the early stages of the ren­o­va­tion so the cou­ple didn’t have to redo any of the work.

Once the ma­jor re­fur­bish­ments were com­pleted, Claire could start get­ting cre­ative and think about the dé­cor. ‘I didn’t want the house to feel gloomy, which is a dan­ger with a house of this style and pro­por­tions, so I chose the same light, neu­tral colours through­out to keep the look co­he­sive,’ she says. Claire de­scribes her home style as ‘rus­tic coun­try’, and the soft-white paint shades act as the per­fect back­drop for her fur­ni­ture and fit­tings. ‘I have lots of vin­tage pieces, which could be termed as an­tiques, but they don’t feel too old-fash­ioned,’ she adds. ‘As time’s gone on I’ve be­come more con­fi­dent in how I mix these in­te­rior pieces with dif­fer­ent styles and colours. For in­stance, I wanted the girls’ play­room to be snug and cosy, so I chose a darker colour as a con­trast and re­peated it in the con­ser­va­tory din­ing space to counter all the glass.’

At Christ­mas­time, Claire’s style and cre­ativ­ity with this mix of pale and nat­u­ral el­e­ments come into their own. ‘There are a lot of things I keep up all year round, in­clud­ing fairy lights and fo­liage, just adding in sea­sonal or­na­ments, dried flow­ers and glass dec­o­ra­tions,’ says Claire. ‘It’s an easy style that is very cosy and invit­ing, which is lucky as this house is al­ways quite a so­cia­ble one.’

Claire says it was in­ter­est­ing work­ing on the house with her hus­band, as even dur­ing the most labour-in­ten­sive stages of the ren­o­va­tions they dis­cov­ered they had sim­i­lar ideas and agreed on most of the style de­ci­sions for their home. ‘We have more house plans afoot, in­clud­ing a kitchen ex­ten­sion with an open-plan din­ing area and a view to the fields,’ says Claire. ‘It looks as though the next chap­ter in our home ren­o­va­tion is go­ing to be an­other busy but cre­ative one.’

| Pho­to­graphs Dan Duchars

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