As a child I spent many family holidays in the Lake District. This was the 1980s and the properties we stayed in were often neglected, uncomfortable and filled with cast-off furniture the owners no longer wanted. When it came to renovating our own cottages, I wanted to make sure they were well-designed with practical, comfortable rooms that were also stylish.
When we moved into Middle Colenso Farm in 2013 Carter's Croft was in a poor state and the problems went far deeper than the dated pine panelling and faux-nautical decor.
The main issue was damp. The cement pointing was not only contributing to the problem but it was ugly and inappropriate to the building. The window frames were rotten and, in a couple of instances, the window openings had been reduced in size, making the cottage seem dark and dingy. The electrics and plumbing were suspect and had to be completely replaced, as did the staircase which was constructed from chipboard and poorly designed.
Damp is a major issue in Cornwall due to our warm and humid climate and the fact most old buildings are constructed from granite. Most builders recommend that external walls are tanked as a preventative measure. However, this had been done by a previous owner in the main farmhouse but after just a few years the plaster still began to crumble
We first encountered lime when renovating a dilapidated barn on our property. Part of the walls were constructed with cob, a traditional building material made from clay, water and straw, which required specialist renovation. Having used lime in the barn with excellent results, we chose to renovate Carter's Croft using the same finish. Lime enables the walls to breathe, resulting in a much drier building and healthier environment. It is also more in keeping with the cottages 18th century origins.
During the renovations the old, inappropriate gypsum and cement finishes were stripped off and we were able see the true state of the walls. The pointing was crumbling and the stones had been coated with bitumen, presumably as a primitive form of damp-proofing. Even the ceilings and stud walls were badly finished and had to be re-plastered. Because these are internal walls they do not need to breathe and were finished with gypsum. The old cement pointing was chipped out by hand and replace with lime and the lime render was then built up in layers. One of the coats contained cork, which has excellent insulating properties.
Once the structural work was completed we were able to decorate the cottage. The walls were painted with Earthborn's eco-friendly, breathable paint. The original wooden floorboards upstairs were stripped and painted while slate tiles were laid on the ground floor. A new bathroom and bespoke wooden kitchen were installed. There were also more practical additions including a wood burning stove, new boiler and radiators.
The new staircase was finished with glass and reclaimed wood to keep the cottage feeling as light as possible. When the scaffolders left they very kindly let us have the old boards which we used for the storage units in the bedrooms. An old door we found in the garden was repurposed as a headboard.
To help create a modern rustic feel, we chose mid-century pieces such as the Ercol dining suite and Scandinavian occasional chairs. Hand-wrought curtain poles and cupboard handles are representative of the British creative traditions as are the Mark Herald cushions and blinds and the citing lights in the double room which are made by Helston-based designer Tom Raffield.
Outside, we enclosed the once-overgrown garden at the side of the house and turned it into a private seating area. We added a classic Fermob dining set and Mediterranean plants to create an outdoor dining area at the front.