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Inspiration: A Cottage in South Devon

Diane knew that she wanted a place in the country, but her first view of the thatched stone and cob cottage in the heart of Devon's South Hams was less than promising. "It seemed small, dark, badly laid out and suffering from an overdose of pine tongue and groove panelling" remembers Diane. "We later found out that it hid a multitude of sins." However the cottage's position in beautiful countryside less than a mile from secluded coves and the surprisingly large garden persuaded her to take it on as a project.

The 300 year old cottage had originally been a one-up, one down stone and cob Devon cottage, extended many years ago to create a two bedroom house with bathroom downstairs and a corridor-like kitchen leading to a dining area. The first thing Diane did was to move the kitchen to the end of the cottage and create a proper dining area between the living room and the kitchen. Upstairs she cleverly converted a junk room into a smart shower room by borrowing a foot or two from one of the bedrooms to allow the shower cabinet to be fitted. The building work which included gutting the property, rewiring, replumbing, replastering and internal and external decoration was undertaken by local builders, M and J Pitt, and Diane is delighted with the results. "I had excellent help and advice from Mike Pitt, who helped us to save a lot of money with his practical and clever suggestions."

Diane was keen to preserve the integrity of the cottage, and therefore much of the original stone and cob is exposed, contrasting with the milk white paint ('White Moon' by Crown) of the walls and ceilings which she chose for the whole house apart from the second bedroom where there is a warm rosy light ('Rose White' by Dulux). The exposed beams were sealed and preserved and all the existing modern doors were replaced with ledge and brace doors with iron latches.

The cottage had no heating apart from a wood burning stove in the inglenook fireplace in the living room. Diane changed the stove for an open fire with grate and fireback from Adrian Ager and, to retain as much wall space as possible, she opted for electric underfloor heating both upstairs and downstairs. There is slate flooring (from Wickes) throughout the ground floor with the heating wires laid on the screed underneath the tiles. The system comes from Warm-Up and is thermostatically controlled. "We keep it on at a low level even on warmer days so the slate is never cold under bare feet" says Diane. Upstairs the under carpet heating mat was easily rolled out on top of the underfelt before the carpet was fitted.

The front door of the cottage opens out into the cosy but elegant living room. "I was concerned to make sure that the cottage retained a sea-side cottage character; after all we are only half a mile from the sea here" says Diane. "So I tried to use furnishings that would reflect that. For example there is a shell motif running through the living and dining areas, and I have used plain wood, wicker and natural materials for much of the cottage downstairs. 'London' style furnishings would be completely out of place here."

Diane was working to a budget so much of the furniture is inexpensive but presented with style. The sofa comes by mail order from the Sofa Workshop and has removable washable covers which Diane regards as essential. The table lamps came from 'Blue'in Salcombe, one of Diane's favourite shops. The two wicker chairs and the stone vase with dried grasses came from another favourite shop, Teri Walter's 'W' in Padstow. "It's an excellent place for ideas and has a wonderful stock of carefully chosen items" enthuses Diane. The cottage style lights and shades which give the room a great deal of character were ordered from the Jim Lawrence website and Diane was impressed by their efficiency and service. The two cabinets were snapped up at a sale at Furnitureland. "I had seen them before but I didn't want to wait for delivery" smiles Diane. "When I see something I like I want it straight away!"

The dining room is small but feels spacious, thanks to the table and chairs from Habitat. The beech block table reflects the beech effect worktop in the kitchen and along with the exposed beams create a light honey tone for the room, complemented by natural wicker chairs which provide a visual link with the living room. The lighting again was supplied by Jim Lawrence and the shell theme is picked up in their delightful scallop design.

The kitchen is a triumph of planning, in a small area Diane has managed to fit in a fridge, dishwasher, washer dryer, double oven and hob as well as cupboards for pans, tableware and food. One trick she used for maximising space was to use wall cupboards on the floor on one side of the kitchen, they are the same height but less deep and also cheaper than standard units. The dishwasher is a slimline version and she made sure that the fridge has a freezer compartment for frozen food. The appliances were sourced over the internet from Trade Appliances and Diane is delighted that she was able to save so much compared to list prices. The oven and touch control ceramic hob is made by Baumatic, as is the washer dryer, the dishwasher came from Zanussi and the fridge from Electrolux.

For the bathroom, like in the kitchen, Diane needed to be space conscious and with the help of Thompson's of Plymouth she found a Shires suite and taps which fitted the room. The slate floor extends into this room and Diane chose limed oak for the bath panel to complement the natural look and a range of tiles which she felt picked out the colours in the flooring. The accessories came from Selfridges in London. Diane says "the book rest over the bath is perfect for when you're enjoying a good soak!" In the upstairs shower room Diane wanted to create a nautical look; there are white tiles with sleek chrome borders and a chrome porthole mirror from Nauticalia. The handbasin is by Heritage and the chrome accessories came from Marks and Spencer. The shower door is made by Matki and the electric shower is the 'Sports' model by Mira. Diane is delighted by the shower, "It gives a really powerful spray and, being electric, means that it works even if someone is running a bath at the same time. It's also useful if we are returning from being away and don't want to wait for the hot water system to heat up."


Her bedrooms present contrasting styles. The main bedroom boasts a sea view and Diane wanted to create a sea captain's bedroom with mahogany butler's trays from Cargo and a model yacht on the window sill. The curtains are from Sanderson and the brass pole teams with the lantern wall lights which came from the Kensington Lighting Company in London. In her second bedroom with its deep set casement windows under the thatch, Diane decided on a more floral and cottagey look. The cream bedside tables came from Blue in Salcombe and the wall uplighters with their floral cut-outs came from Laura Ashley. The bedlinen is made by Dorma.

Diane has transformed her cottage into a home with flair and comfort on a limited budget. As she says with a smile "All we need now is fine weather!"

The traditional cottage has been turned into a light and airy seaside home.

The living room uses natural materials to echo the exposed stonework.

The dining room with beech block table.

The kitchen with appliances sourced from the internet is a triumph of planning.

The bedrooms have a nautical...

... and a cottage atmosphere.

The garden has palms and banana trees.

One of the secluded coves nearby.



M and J Pitt,
Builders 01548 810633

Crown and Dulux

Underfloor Heating:

Fireplace Accessories:
Adrian F. Ager, Ashburton, Devon 01364 653189

Slate floor tiles:

The Floor Show, Modbury, Devon 01548 830909

Sofa Workshop
Blue, Salcombe, Devon 01548 842262
Teri Walter, Padstow, Cornwall 01841 532292

Jim Lawrence
Laura Ashley
Kensington Lighting Co., London 020 7938 2405

Thompsons, Plymouth, Devon 01752 204860

Trade Appliances


Shower room:
Marks and Spencer

Cargo, London 0207 580 2895
Sanderson fabric
Dorma bedlinen
Moyses beds, Kingsbridge, Devon 01548 852168


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