Their English Country Cottages
The very moment the previous owner opened the large oak door, I know it would be ours.Lisa Johnson-Richards
The main part of this beautiful cottage is Georgian, dating back to 1710. Originally owned by the Crown it was bought by Sir Henry Vane the Elder, (a Member of Parliament and an advisor to Charles I household) who in 1626 purchased nearby Raby Castle, Barnard Castle and the entire Estate for £18,000, it’s many buildings included this gorgeous farmhouse.
Local legend has it that whilst out riding one afternoon Sir Henry was thrown from his horse; lost in the fog he limped to the nearest farmhouse but was turned away. Filled with anger he forced all his tenants to lime wash their farmhouses, so should it happen again he’d know which were his. To this day the tradition continues, rented farmhouses are whitewashed in lime. Marr Cottage was sold in the early 1960’s however parts of the original white wash render still remain today
It’s not just the history of this cottage that makes it so special, this has been a healing home. Lisa, her husband Mark and their two children Christian and Rebecca planned to combine properties with her parents and buy a plot of land or a property that could be divided to allow both families to have their own spaces. Before they found this incredible house, Lisa’s mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness and devastatingly passed away, leaving the family utterly bereft but determined to support Lisa’s Father and see their plan through to completion. The family have poured their hearts into this property to make it somewhere very special, somewhere to nurture and process their terrible loss. Every inch of this incredible home is filled with care and love, with the most extraordinary attention to detail and the most beautiful, carefully considered style.
The cottage is situated in the stunning Durham Dales, in Lisa’s words: “it is surrounded by unspoiled landscapes of moors and hills, valleys and meandering rivers and dotted with picturesque villages, hamlets and market towns. I love living here.” It isn’t just the area that Lisa fell in love with, despite the leaking roof, the unusual layout with endless doors and an unusable kitchen, Lisa fell in love the moment she first saw the house.
From an artistic background (her Father was Creative Director for one of the big Advertising Agencies), Lisa studied Art and Graphic Design at Newcastle College of Art before following in her Father’s footsteps at one of the top advertising agencies in Newcastle as a Visualiser for 8 years. She worked as a visual merchandiser before leaving to start a family. All this experience came to fruition when she saw the property and she could see it’s brimming potential.
I love organic/natural fabrics like linens, silks and velvets (I think this is from my days of making miniature dolls costumes, always using natural fibres) I think I have a quiet style, with a tendency for pale, subtle shades. I have quite an addiction to Susie Watson Designs and I love Peony & Sage linens too, Kimberly has a such a beautiful eye, and her linens are simply exquisite, like wise with Kate Forman and Cabbages and Roses.
I follow so many wonderful interior accounts on Instagram like the aforementioned, but my favourites are Carrie’s @carrie_thecottage her home is my dream, she’s so lovely and genuine too. I know I’m not alone in saying I love Bee’s cottage and style too @osborninteriors but really there are so many stunning homes out there to admire that’s one of the wonderful things about Instagram, isn’t it?
Basket tray similar from Neptune
The decoration of the house has happened organically, with some planning thrown in for good measure… I’m a traditional soul at heart, preferring timeless classic styles that never go out of fashion.
For me I personally like to live somewhere for a while first getting a feel for the space to see how it flows and how the natural light effects each room.
Gorgeous facebook marketplace bargain dresser filled with Laura Ashley large lamp Tate Base with Susie Watson shade – Megha Grey pleated shade. plates, jugs, cushions and throws also the glorious Susie Watson
The family have done most of the work on the property themselves. They converted a double barn adding a wraparound extension, making a two-bedroom home for Lisa’s Father.
In the main farmhouse Lisa’s Father created the most beautiful “Fairytale” kitchen with no carpentry training “He just loves working with wood and wanted to have a go. My fairy-tale kitchen isn’t just the heart of our home, it’s incredibly special too.”
Lisa’s Father made a dollhouse for daughter Rebecca’s Christening present which sparked a whole new career for Lisa. “This saw my life take a new journey which would span for 22 years: not able to afford the figures I loved, I took a chance, buying a kiln and began making historically accurate miniature porcelain figures for discerning dollhouse collectors, selling all over the world.”. Lisa still makes beautiful creations with the same attention to detail that weaves its beautiful way through this incredible home.
Country Cottage Necessities for Lisa include: “An Aga, log burner, cosy rooms, with beams, low ceilings and throws, I guess that’s my vibe”. But her ultimate necessity is dogs. The family own three Golden Retrievers, Denby (8) Daisy (3 next month) and Elsa (Daughter of Daisy and 1 next month), they also have 6 Cremarli Golden Retrievers (Daisy’s puppies) who are part of the extended family, 4 hens and 2 adopted (during the summer months) tups. Along with the creation of this stunning home, the dogs have played a very important role in the healing process for this family. When Lisa’s mother was first diagnosed, she and Lisa plotted together to buy a dog to look after Lisa’s Father once she was gone. They took Lisa’s Father to see a litter of ten Golden Retrievers, nine of them rushed to greet Lisa’s mother whilst the tenth made a beeline for her Father. “They are like a pair of old slippers Dad and Denby, they go everywhere together. In those early dark days Denby would put his huge paws on Dads shoulders pushing his head gently into the side of Dads face as he sobbed”.
The Gorgeous Golden Retrievers even play a part in Lisa’s description of her dream home: “I love our home, it really is my dream home, especially with the tweaks I have planned, I love the idea of everything being off white and I’m desperate to whitewash the dark oak floorboards but with having three Golden Retrievers (soon to be four) I’m not sure if it’s sensible let alone viable… but it’s definitely on my dream home list”. This family have worked so hard to create something very, very special, although Lisa’s mother never saw this cottage, she is clearly very much part of all the hard work and huge effort that has gone into its renovation. Her wishes have resulted in a truly incredible home that has been restored with love, surrounded by beautiful countryside and a gorgeous gang of very special dogs. What an incredible gift and wonderful legacy to leave to such a lovely family.
Lisa makes beautiful cushions, soft furnishings, pretties/hearts, embroidery commissions, calligraphy labels, fabric covered letters. Head over to @thelinenheart on Instagram to find out more