Needing a weekend escape from their busy lives and stressful careers in London, designer Caroline Holdaway and her photographer partner, Fatimah Namdar, relish the peace and quiet of their eighteenth-century cottage in the Cotswolds
Caroline and Fatimah had previously seen Mullions only from the outside, dismissing it on the grounds that it had no garden to speak of, and had a rear extension built into the bank, which they feared might be dark. However, after more disheartening months of searching, they decided to take a look inside. It was the feel of the place and the unexpected light inside that won them over.
They quickly laid bare the interior, leaving a blank canvas to work on. 'I always start with the floor,' explains Caroline. 'We found this one on Lochnagar Street, in the East End - planks from an industrial building that still showed yellow numbers and the imprint of machinery. It was summer, so we laid the board out in the garden and Velcro-padded the lot. This technique removed the yellow numbers while keeping the rest of the character and markings in the boards. Just what we wanted.'
Once laid, the floor was coloured and finished. Care was taken to change the direction of the planks in different areas to add authenticity, so that it looks as if the floor has always been there. They worked with just one 'wonderful builder' called Gordon Anderson, now retired. 'Gordon absolutely shared our aesthetic,' explains Caroline. 'He too rooted around reclamation yards and found the deep stone for the window sills, which had previously been laminate.' Clyde radiators were installed, although the Scandinavian wood-burning stove in the sitting room is so effective that they barely need them. 'It's essential in the winter when we suffer frequent power cuts, because the stove ensures you can have heat and even fry an egg on the marble top.'
The kitchen is tiny 'but perfectly formed', with the same floorspace as a larger kitchen with an island would have, and it adequately suits their needs. They cook on an oil-fired Rayburn, which stands in an alcove - '20 minutes and you can have boiling water', says Caroline. Charles Hurst built the kitchen cupboards, and the elm shelves, of which they are especially fond of, were made by Gordon's son, Gordon junior. As were the shelves throughout the house that are used for simple but effective display.
Upstairs, they replaced an avocado bathroom suite with a white one and took out the low modern ceiling in the main bedroom. The first planning request to reveal the apex was turned down, until Caroline spotted that the original timbers held a trace of distemper. This settled any argument that the timbers had not originally been part of the room, and consent was given. Now the bedroom is light and airy, the apex clad in reclaimed matchboarding giving it a period feel.
The dining table - essentially a rough-hewn piece of elm - sits so perfectly in what the estate agents grandly called a 'dining hall'. 'It nearly made us crash the car when Fatimah spied it in a shop window down Church Street Market - exactly the signature piece we had been looking for.' The Scandinavian chairs around it have been collected from various places, and since they were not originally a suitable height for dining, the legs were extended by Gordon.
But the underlying DNA of the cottage is the collection of pottery that Caroline and Fatimah have made over the years. Plates, bowls and jugs by Michael Taylor - a new find - and Richard Batterham dishes complement the jewel-like green of pieces collected from a Biot pottery in the South of France
Low stone walls, post and rail fencing and old roses now enclose the front garden. 'The pleasure of standing on our tiny handkerchief lawn and looking at the magnificent, enormous skies is a privilege,' says Caroline. 'I am excited every time I leave London with the thought of being here. It is a very welcoming cottage and very giving. When we are really busy at work, it becomes more important to be here and I sleep here so well; it is dark and totally quiet'.
Taken from the January 2015 issue of House & Garden.
Caroline Holdaway Design: 020-8341 6525
Read more at http://www.houseandgarden.co.uk/interiors/real-homes/caroline-holdaway-fatimah-namdar-cotswold-cottage
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