How Laura renovated her ancient Hampshire cottage

Laura Dadswell, Director of Westland London, shares the ups and downs of renovating her ancient Hampshire cottage

Ancient Hampshire cottage
Published: May 8th, 2022 at 9:00 am

Tell us about the house…

Our cottage forms part of a 16th-century cruck-frame hall house, which was divided into a small terrace in the 18th century. It is nestled in the heart of Chawton, best known for being home to the Jane Austen museum. My partner and I are addicted to browsing houses for sale online, restricting our searches to include the terms ‘beams’, ‘Grade II-listed’ and ‘in need of refurbishment’. When we purchased the cottage two years ago, it was derelict – a daunting prospect! We fell in love with its potential.

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Where did you decide to start with the project?

Our priority was restoring the building’s beautiful wrought-iron leaded windows, reinstating the lead panes with glass salvaged from my partner’s family home in the Highlands. The uneven glass throws shimmering light against the walls – it’s magical.

Have you been able to salvage any original features?

We discovered the inglenook behind a more modern fireplace. There is even a faint witches’ mark on the beam! We also hand-stripped the beams. They were covered with years of paint and wallpaper, but were too soft for aggressive sandblasting. It was a really messy job, but it was so worth it.

Tell us how your lovely kitchen came together

The units came from Gumtree, and whilst it was a beautifully handmade kitchen, it was made for a much larger space. The biggest challenge was getting the jumble of cupboards and drawers to fit. We had a joiner adapt them, and once we had installed them, painting the units and panelling was transformative! We wanted a pantry, which is now tucked away under the stairs and keeps the kitchen relatively clutter free!

Have there been any surprise discoveries?

Underneath the woodworm-riddled floorboards we found a beautiful prayer book from the 1860s, dedicated from one sister to another. It was wonderful to hold something that hadn’t been seen or touched since it was dropped.

Which places have been useful in sourcing pieces for your project?

I browse auctions for a living, so we have found most of our furniture on auction sites such as the-saleroom.com. It’s an excellent platform as it sends you email alerts for your saved search terms.

Which is your favourite room?

Probably our extension, which was carefully designed to be sensitive to the original structure, creating a space that looked as though it had been built in the Arts and Crafts period. It was important for us to not add anything jarring.

Which aspect has proved the most challenging?

Finding craftspeople who are used to working with traditional materials and old houses!

What are your tips for anyone starting a renovation of their own?

  • The SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) was invaluable, as it allowed us to approach our restoration carefully, making sure we were using traditional methods and materials.
  • Don’t be afraid to live with something for a while – sometimes rash decisions can be costly!
  • Put inspiration aside and consider how you want to live in the space and what works for your lifestyle.
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Follow Laura on Instagram @carnabycottage and @westlandlondonantiques

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