This dark and dingy cottage has been transformed into a beautiful cosy haven

Find out how the owners transformed this once dark and dingy cottage that hadn't been touched in decades

brick fireplace with log burner and velvet sofas in cottage living room
(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

This 120-year-old, brick-and-flint cottage in Dorset had stood untouched for decades before the new owners' sympathetic restoration turned it into a beautiful home fit for modern life.

Along with the adjoining cottage, the building once housed the laundry for a nearby manor house, and in later years, was a farm-workers cottage 

‘We knew the cottage was a mirror image of our home, but in quite a poor state, but we couldn’t actually go in for two years after we bought it, as there was a long-term tenant,’ they explain. 

When they saw the interior for the first time, they were overwhelmed. 

‘It was so dark. Everywhere was damp, mouldy and so decrepit that we couldn’t really see where to begin.’

Top-down renovation

exterior of brick and flint cottage with climbing roses and new roof

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

They had never taken on such a demanding project. Besides replacing the roof and windows, the cottage needed a damp course as a way to deal with damp, and total modernisation, including new wiring, heating, plumbing, and a new kitchen and bathroom.

To maximise the budget, they did as much work as they could themselves. The couple cleared all the old fixtures, stripping the cottage back to a shell.

view through doorway from cottage living room to hallway with limestone flooring

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

New flooring was laid, while original doors were restored, fireplaces cleaned and wooden panelling preserved wherever possible.

The whole interior was freshly plastered. All the walls were finished with smoothly rounded edges, rather than modern, sharp corners. ‘It took the plasterer a bit longer and cost a little more, but it’s made a big difference. It just feels more authentic.’

Uncovering the original fireplace

brick fireplace with log burner and velvet sofas in cottage living room

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

The top priority was to locate the brick fireplace that they were convinced was concealed in the living room and create a traditional fireplace.

They were itching to take a sledgehammer to the wall and find out what was behind the ancient electric fire.

‘In the end, we knocked out three separate fireplaces, one inside another, before we finally found the original brick surround, with a massive wooden beam above.’ 

They fitted the fireplace with a woodburner.

Living room colour scheme

view towards sofa and small window in a cottage living room

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

Although the owners were keen to give the cottage a lighter ambience overall, the north-facing living room lent itself to a more moody look, so they went with a green living room idea.

‘We decided to go along with the lack of light and make the room feel really cosy. It was very tricky choosing the right green for the walls, but we are really happy with how it’s turned out.’  The colour is Little Greene’s Pearl Colour Dark.

The sumptuous velvet sofas add to the cosy feel of the space as a living room sofa idea, and a rug helps soften the limestone flooring. 

New kitchen diner 

kitchen island in neutral kitchen with bifold doors out to garden

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

At the back of the property, the tiny kitchen and bathroom were knocked together to create a new kitchen-diner space. 

A simple kitchen was installed, with bi-fold doors boosting light and opening to a renovated courtyard garden.

Working with a limited budget and a narrow kitchen, they made sure the fitted cabinetry concealed the dishwasher, bin and washing machine. Stylish pendant lighting as a kitchen lighting idea highlights the centre island. 

Bathroom makeover

freestanding pink tub and wall panelling in cottage bathroom

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

One of the biggest challenges was to install a modern bathroom. The old bathroom was on the ground floor but the couple felt it was worth sacrificing the small third bedroom to move it upstairs. 

Despite a confined space, with their clever small bathroom layout they successfully included a walk-in shower, a traditional basin and a striking feature bath as a small bathroom idea.

‘We weren't sure everything would fit in, as none of the walls are quite straight, but that’s part of having an old place. The bathroom is one of our favourite rooms, and we were determined to have that fabulous bath.’ 

Wall panelling makes an elegant backdrop for the beautiful freestanding bath.

Tranquil bedroom scheme

green panelled walls and upholstered bed in cottage bedroom

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

They painted the main bedroom walls in Little Greene’s Slaked Lime, for a light, tranquil feel. 

As a green bedroom idea, the original wall panelling was painted in Pearl Colour Dark from Little Greene, and offers the perfect backdrop to the statement bed.

Clever hallway storage

panelled hallway bench and storage and cottage front door

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

Inspired by Instagram images, they designed the boot room bench and storage, which was built by a local joiner. 

‘We wanted something really functional, which was in keeping with the age of the cottage. The panelling is painted in French Gray from Farrow & Ball, and the seat is made from inexpensive scaffolding boards, which we’ve waxed.'

Practical hallway flooring of limestone tiles was carried into other rooms.

Outdoor living space

outdoor living room patio area with cushioned seating

(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

They were keen to make the most of the small, sheltered garden, which works as an extra room and makes the cottage feel larger. They laid leftover slabs on the bare ground and painted the fence with Garden Trellis Company’s Manhattan Grey Joinery Paint

The simple, outdoor furniture set and a woven rug complete the room-like feel of this courtyard idea

Their hard work has paid off and the cottage has now begun welcoming guests. ‘The house has a lovely energy, and gets so many compliments.'

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