Shades Of Grey
In our new look Home & Garden feature, Penny Botting visits this detached Georgian Cottage C1780 in West Sussex, an eclectic and unique family home packed full of bold designs and bright colours.
Liz Bee and her husband James and sons Jacob, now 14, and Caleb 12, were happy living in the coastal town of Hove, but were beginning to need a bit more space. “Our Victorian terrace was on three floors and was quite large, but for some reason it felt very claustrophobic. And although the house was quite big, the garden was essentially just a small patio,” she says.
In addition to this, their main living space like many houses in Brighton and Hove, was in the basement. “We had quite large bedrooms, but we spent most of our time downstairs, which was a nice open play area, but rather dark in the daytime,” says Liz.
So, the hunt was on for a property with a bigger garden and a lighter and airier living space. “We wanted another period property and didn’t even bother to look at new houses or in fact anything that wasn’t Victorian, Edwardian or Georgian,” she says.
The place they found was a pretty cottage in a Sussex village. “We’d been looking for ages for the right property and as soon as this one came up, we knew it was right for us, even before actually going to visit it – it just ticked all the boxes,” says Liz.
“As soon as we viewed it, I could tell it had potential – the front door has a really pretty half moon window above it, and on entering the hallway we could see the beautiful staircase. It curves round and goes up through the centre of the property with rooms branching o it, which means the ow of the house is quite unusual, but works really well,” she says.
Although the room sizes were smaller than their last one, there were more of them, and there was much more living space, high ceilings and period features. In addition, the garden was huge, which was a real plus. “It’s also very private and we don’t feel overlooked or hemmed in as we did in the last house.” Another bonus was the space available for their extended family – Maggie the Cavapoo dog, Pretty the tortoiseshell cat, and Tiggy the Maine Coon. “Quite soon after we moved in, we added to the family and bought three chickens and four ducks.”
The purchase of the property was relatively easy as they already had a buyer for their house in Hove, so Liz was able to concentrate on adapting the place to her family’s needs and her taste almost immediately. And there was a lot to do.
“The first thing was to remove the bright red carpet in the snug and on the stairs. After we’d taken it up, the stairs needed to be totally renovated before I put down a new runner. I then brought back the painted details on the side of the stairs to their natural wood state, which really changed the appearance and highlighted the design. Finally, I painted the spindles in a rich, dark shade,” says Liz.
The next big job was the walls. ‘The house was completely covered in wood chip, except for the new extension to the rear of the property, so the old lathe and plaster walls needed to be re-done, plus the windows all needed to be stripped and renovated, which we pretty much did ourselves,” she says.
The side of the house also needed to be re-rendered above the hung tiles and where possible, Liz tried to bring the existing period features back to their original state. “I can’t tell you how many layers of paint there were on the replace in the snug, but underneath was a lovely biscuit coloured stone. It wasn’t in perfect condition, but I like the feeling of age and character that it brings to the room,” she says.
Next on the agenda was the kitchen, which received a total revamp. “Because this room had some structural problems we decided to demolish, and at the same time, extend it to create a large kitchen/diner that can comfortably seat 10.”
“We created a vaulted ceiling with beautiful oak trusses, which really creates a wow factor in the room. And to keep costs down, we re-used and re-formatted the existing pine units, which I then painted. I then had the builders make concrete worktops, which look really good and only cost £500,” says Liz.
In terms of design, she went for something a little more unusual than the norm. “I love strong colours like charcoal grey and raspberry pink, but I also like soft greens and blues – the more colour the better!” she says. “To these, I added quirky wallpaper and lucky vintage finds to create a comfortable, homely feel.”
Much of the work Liz did herself. “I have learnt lots of new skills, such as tiling and wallpapering, and being a perfectionist and lover of interiors, our home is constantly evolving – a job is never as simple as you may think it is, especially in an old house!”
And there’s still more to come. “We’ve got a cellar that we’d like to convert and we also hope to renovate the conservatory and insert a lantern to replace the existing glazed roof,” she says. For the time being, though, Liz and her family are happy to enjoy their home as it is. “We love living here, and particularly enjoy the garden, the animals and birds – in fact the next change we make won’t be an interiors one at all – we’ll be having more chickens!”
Photography by Robert Sanderson