'I spend a lot of time visiting car boot sales, until it gets deep into winter, when you can no longer feel your fingers at 6:30am!’ says Gemma Lewis, as she reels off her many sources for finding eclectic vintage pieces for her Surrey home.


Other favourites include Sunbury Antiques Market, second-hand shops in Hastings and Bexhill, and French brocantes. ‘It pays to cut out the middle man and travel abroad to find items from the original source,’ she says.

And when it comes to finding treasures, she thinks it’s certainly a case of the early bird catching the worm: ‘I’ve found some phenomenal bargains by being the first to arrive.’

When Gemma and her husband, Gary, wanted more space for their family, they cast the net wide. ‘We travelled all over the country to find a place: Suffolk, Kent, Norfolk, East Sussex and then Surrey,’ says Gemma.

So what was it about this house, tucked away down a leafy lane in a quiet Surrey village, that made it The One? ‘A house has to have period character for me to want to live there,’ explains Gemma, ‘and there was something really interesting about this house and its location.’

Built in the early 1900s, the semi-detached cottage retains much of its architectural style, which shows the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement. The original tiny panes of glass in the upper sashes of the windows and the local crafted materials, such as the handmade clay peg tiles, beautifully weathered over time, add to the aesthetic that won Gemma over, along with the sweeping front garden.

‘It had some established rhododendrons, roses and wisteria. But we really wanted a wild garden, so this was raked back and seeded and now we have beautiful wild flowers there.’ Look closely and you will see ragged robin, clover and other native meadow favourites. It’s a charming prelude to what lies inside.

Gemma’s attention to detail is evident throughout. ‘I knew mixing vintage with new pieces was the only way to decorate this home. As it’s a pretty period cottage, going too contemporary wouldn’t have worked.’

The couple made changes to the downstairs layout, adding an extension to create a larger kitchen/dining room, which features a picture window that frames a section of the garden. ‘The aim was to create a transition from inside to outside, all year round,’ says Gemma. And it works – it’s like a living botanical artwork that changes with the seasons.

When it came to decorating, the couple repainted all of the rooms. ‘Gary has learned that, when we move into a house, I always change absolutely everything. My advice when it comes to decorating is to always create a moodboard and to think about the way you live and how the light affects each room,’ says Gemma. As the house isn’t blessed with lots of natural light, Gemma has introduced dark, warm shades to create a cosy atmosphere.

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Her finely tuned interiors skills mean she understands how crucial it is to achieve cohesion between the different spaces within a home. ‘It was important that there was a flow throughout,’ she says. ‘So in each room I’ve used a colour that runs in some way from one space into the next, whether it’s a shade that features in a cushion or vintage piece of artwork.’ For example, a palette of greens is used throughout the downstairs, while a yellow cupboard in the kitchen echoes the hue of a velvet ochre sofa in the living room.

The approach works, as does the clever fusion of modern with second-hand items. Gemma owns the interiors shop Wattle & Daub in nearby Godalming and finds that, although the pieces she buys at car boot sales and antiques markets are usually intended for the shop, they often find their way into her home instead.

Part of what makes the cottage so visually exciting is the integration of surprising salvaged finds. Kitchen shelves are fashioned from reclaimed floorboards, vintage cinema seats create a theatrical note in one of the living rooms and a broken piece of weathered metal, rescued from a reclamation yard, makes an attractive abstract piece of art.


The most adventurous touch, however, is the vintage barn door that leads to the kitchen. ‘My style is definitely eclectic,’ says Gemma. ‘I love mixing old and new and using rich colours, textures and furniture to create interiors that are anything but ordinary.’