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Inspiration

Katie's picture perfect holiday cottage

This week we sat down with interior designer Katie McDowell of Poppet Interiors, to talk about the renovation of Hathaway Cottage - her small but perfectly formed, quintessentially English holiday home, nestled in the heart of the Cotswolds.

In today's article, Katie generously shares her design approach for the faithful renovation of a heritage property, as well as filling us in on the challenges she faced along the way in this, her first major renovation project, to help you avoid making the same mistakes!

Hi Katie, thank you so much for talking with us! Perhaps you could start by telling us a little about yourself and your business.

Absolutely. I’ve been working as an interior designer for nearly ten years, and bought Hathaway Cottage in 2014 with a vision to create a charming and cosy holiday home.

The project became the springboard to my business, Poppet Interiors. I offer my services to both residential and commercial properties, although the majority of projects I work happen to be holiday lets. This seems to have become my specialism and I love it!

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Tell us about the cottage - it looks absolutely idyllic!

Thank you! I’m afraid I don’t know a great deal about the history of the cottage, but I believe it dates back to the mid 1600s. It was once part of the cottage next door, but at some point was divided into two smaller one bedroom properties.

When I first saw the cottage, it was love at first sight. I quickly fell for the climbing roses and thatched roof, the old wooden beams in the snug living room and its thick, sloping cottage walls. It was simply lovely, but it needed a lot of work!

What was your vision for the design of the cottage?

I was inspired by a cottage that a friend of mine had recently renovated. So much love had been poured into its design, with simple additions made to the space that respected its original features - beautiful old floorboards, wooden beams and thick walls which curved into beautiful, deep window sills.

I wanted to do the same for my little cottage, paring it back to its foundations and letting the design evolve naturally from there.

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Such a lovely approach. What were the kitchen and bathroom like before you began the renovation?

The small galley kitchen had a tiled stone floor - the kind you would expect to see outside - with bright red walls and laminate wood cabinets. There was a small stainless steel sink and a two-ring hob and oven, with a huge gas boiler that hung directly over the area between the two. It dominated the whole space, making the kitchen look very narrow and cramped, and ran off two large, ugly, bright orange cylinders that were stored on the patio outside. It simply had to go!

I decided to remove gas from the property altogether, and to switch everything to electric. Fortunately there was a storage cupboard above the stairs in the bedroom where I was able to install a large hot water tank, so I was able to open up the kitchen and to spruce up the patio at the same time.

The bathroom was rather plain, but it didn’t need nearly as much work as the kitchen. I kept the bath and toilet and switched out the basin and taps, adding a shower mixer. I also added a strip of countertop using the same pale stone that was used in the kitchen, which instantly lightened the room and updated the overall feel. I then fitted some lovely wide oak floorboards in keeping with the rest of the house which added warmth to the space.

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We love the colour palette you've chosen. How did your scheme evolve?

I had my heart set on creating a dark, blue-black kitchen, but was concerned the dark colour would make the space feel smaller. Instead, I used those inky tones on the lower cabinetry, painting the upper cabinets in the light colour used on the walls and adding a white marble-effect stone worktop. This created a brilliant contrast, drawing the eye up and making the space feel open and light.

Establishing this colour combination in the kitchen turned out to be the key to evolving the design of the rest of the cottage. In the bedroom and living room I decided to complement the beautiful thick stone walls, old beams and floorboards with lighter colours and fabrics layered with striking blue accents.

The wall tiles were key to the design of both the kitchen and bathroom, and were one of the best decisions I made.

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That's wonderful to hear! How did you go about choosing the tiles?

I’ve been aware of Marlborough Tiles for many years and have always admired the beauty and uniqueness of the hand painted tile collections in particular, so I knew I wanted to use them somewhere in the cottage.

I worked with the artists at Marlborough Tiles to create just what I wanted. In the kitchen I chose some delightful illustrations of cooking utensils from the Kitchenware collection, but had them painted onto long bricks. For the bathroom I chose some sweet little creatures from the British Wildlife and Insect collections. I chose to have those painted onto little square tiles called tacos, angled to make a diamond shape, tiling around them with brick tiles to make a feature of each one.

The hand painted images are wonderfully unique and immediately brought the rooms to life. Their heritage quality chimes wonderfully with the character of the cottage.

In today’s fast paced world of mass production, there is something so charming about a hand crafted product that has been made with time, love and attention.

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In the bathroom, Katie chose a variety of insects and woodland creatures, hand painted onto square tacos, angled to create a diamond shape. She then tiled around them with plain brick tiles to make a feature of each one.

What were the greatest challenges of the project?

The greatest challenge was the sanding, beginning with the elm bedroom floorboards, which were embedded with years of stains. I had never sanded floorboards before, and just dragging the large industrial sander up the stairs was a challenge, let alone doing the work.

Sanding the bedroom beams was a close second! They were black when I started. The biggest mistake I made was sanding them after I had painted the walls. Never again! The walls were covered in black dust and I had to wipe them all down, creating an even worse situation. In the end I had to re-paint the walls. It was a nightmare after an exhausting few weeks of renovation. But the tears dried eventually, and I will always look at those floorboards and beams with great pride and love.

Do you have any tips for our readers who might be embarking on similar projects?

I would have to recommend that you begin by considering the property’s original features - let them guide the overall design and feel of the space. Look to properties of a similar age and feel for design inspiration.

I would also strongly recommend that you learn from my mistakes and do the dirty work first - things like sanding floors and beams - before picking up a paint brush or installing cabinetry. It sounds obvious, but I made some classic errors when I renovated the cottage. It was a brilliant learning curve!

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In the kitchen, Katie selected delightful illustrations of cooking utensils from our Kitchenware collection, choosing to have them painted onto long bricks.

Explore our collections of hand painted tiles here and for more photographs and inspiration - or to book Katie's beautiful holiday cottage - follow @hathawaycottagecotswolds on Instagram.

We love nothing more than seeing your completed projects - if you would like to see your project featured here, simply tag @MarlboroughTiles in your project photographs on Instagram.

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