Claire McFadyen and her husband Jamie weren’t looking to move, and wouldn’t have ended up in this now-beautiful cottage had it not been for a chance find of her father’s.


‘We were living not far away in a house that was all finished, so we were very settled,’ Claire recalls. ‘But my father found this house and emailed me the details, saying it was a real belter.’

When she went to view the property, Claire was reminded of things she’d read about in childhood books and she could see that, with a bit of work, it could be magical. ‘We also do like a project, which helped,’ she explains.

Bought in January 2017, the cottage, which was next to the old kennels of a country estate, was in a state of total disrepair and not suitable to live in straightaway. For the first four months, Claire and Jamie lived with her parents while they sorted the initial renovation work.

‘Like most people, we had a budget, but it was really small,’ says Claire. ‘I remember when the first quote came back, just repointing the chimneys took up almost all of it. We realised it wasn’t going to work, so we decided we had to take on more ourselves.’

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Thankfully, Claire’s husband Jamie was able to take on a large chunk of the labour. ‘We just had to do a lot of the work ourselves to make it all add up. I don’t think Jamie actually slept for the first four months of owning the house, as he was juggling work and renovation commitments.’

Work on the house began with removing unnecessary chimney breasts and loose brickwork, followed by completely rewiring, replumbing and replastering the cottage.

‘We had a couple of near-disaster moments,’ recalls Claire. The boiler broke down the day after they completed the sale, and the electrician was then snowed-in by an unexpected snowfall.

Once the really messy and disruptive parts of the refurbishment were finished, the couple were able to move onto the more creative side of the process – choosing the decor.

‘I didn’t want the house to feel gloomy, which it could easily have done due to its architectural size and proportions, so I chose to use the same light neutral colours throughout to keep the look cohesive,’ says Claire.

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‘As a contrast, though, I wanted the girls’ playroom to be all snug and cosy, so I went for a darker colour to accentuate this feeling and repeated the idea in the conservatory dining room, where the darker colour counters all the glass.’

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Claire describes her home style as rustic country, pointing out that the soft white paint shades act as the perfect backdrop for their furniture and fittings.

‘I have lots of vintage pieces that could be termed antiques, but they don’t feel too old-fashioned,’ says Claire. ‘Over time I’ve grown more confident about how I mix these interior pieces with different styles and colours.’

Come Christmas time, Claire’s style and creativity with this mix of pale and natural elements comes into its own. ‘There are a lot of things I keep up all year round, including fairy lights and foliage, and at Christmas I just add seasonal ornaments, dried flowers and glass decorations,’ says Claire. ‘It’s an easy style that is very cosy and inviting, too, which is lucky as this house is always quite a sociable one.’

Claire admits it was interesting working on the house with her husband, even during the early stages when most of the heavy demolition was taking place, as they discovered they both had similar ideas and agreed on much of the style direction for their home.


There are more plans afoot, says Claire, including a kitchen extension with an open-plan dining area and a view across the fields. ‘It looks like the next chapter in our home renovation is going to be another busy but creative one for us.’