Their English Country Cottages
A real labour of love and one we thought we understood when the 57 page survey came back on the house but looking back now I think we were blindsided by the beauty!
Five years ago serial renovators Amanda and her husband Niall decided that they had one last project left in them. Enter The Old Forge cottage, dating back to to app. 1425 with dead rats in the water tank and leaking roof, a chequered history and a ten year project. The cottage was in one of their favourite villages in East Sussex and as soon as they walked up the little brick path and the owners took them into the main living room with the inglenook fireplace they fell in love: “Our hearts ruled our heads that sunny day in July. Afterwards we felt we hadn’t really taken all of the house in, and what needed doing. The owners, a couple in the 90’s, were so delightful and obviously loved the cottage and wanted to share the history with us. We therefore felt we needed to come and look again (and soon) as we couldn’t remember the house lay out!”.
Amanda and Niall have worked full time through the last 5 years of renovating as well as looking after their 3 gorgeous children (Ellen 24, Ross 21 and Fergus 17) and a 7 month old collie puppy Angus and 3 rescue hens https://freshstartforhens.co.uk/ . Initially they projected that this renovation would take ten years and five years later they are half way through – the mark of true renovators!
Originally the cottage was a 3 bay medieval house comprising 2 rooms at the front and the hallway where the fire for the Forge used to be. The cottage has also been a Wheelwrights, Bake House and Undertakers over its many centuries. The original anvil, swage block and large iron mandrel are still in the front garden and the original tarring ring that the Blacksmiths used to put the iron bands on wagon wheels can still be found on the drive.
In the last five years, Amanda and Niall have put in a new kitchen (phase 1 of 2 – the planning for wall removal and bifolds onto the garden comes next). They have added a bathroom upstairs, and are in the process of renovating the second one. Two bedrooms have been completed and they are working on the third at the moment. Wooden windows have to be annually maintained each year, roof tiles need taking off and re doing and there are still several leaks “I could go on and on, as with a listed building and one so old it always turns into a bigger job and costs more than you anticipate!”
The decoration of the cottage has happened rather organically. It has depended upon budget and what the couple already owned. Amanda has always loved sourcing furniture from car boots or freecycle and upcycling items.
We’ve always been really careful with our money throughout all our renovations and it’s never been a case of getting what I want, compromises have to be made along the way if the materials for the repair and renovations have cost a lot then there is less for the decoration and finishing touches!
I guess I would say my style is modern country with a touch of scandi influence! I love greys and neutrals with touches of wood but I also love painting furniture and making an old piece look different. I have been addicted to Joanna and Chip Gaines on Fixer Upper and more recently Syd and Shea McGee on Netflix Dream home Makeover I love both their styles. I want to keep true to the cottage and all its beautiful original features so feel a calm and neutral colour palette makes these things stand out more. To be fair, I do not really have to do much as the cottage sells itself!
Amanda’s favourite interiors books include the White Company book which she is reading at the moment, but her constant has been Farrow and Balls Living with Colour. “Having said that give me Country Homes and Interiors mag and I am in heaven! I struggle to get rid of my magazines and cut pictures out for inspiration”.
Country Cottage Necessities include chickens roaming free range in the garden: they are the most companionable animal there is! I also think fireplaces, with a basket of logs at the ready, are a necessity as these old houses can be chilly. Finally, a big kitchen people can come in from the outside and sit and chat with a cup of tea in their wellies and you are not bothered about mud!
When asked to describe her dream home Amanda says “this comes pretty close to it but if we were able to have anything we wanted we would pick this house up and put it in several acres so we could indulge in our dream of owning a smallholding. Oh, and we need the sea to be on the doorstep too!!”. This is a beautiful home that has been gently and carefully brought up to date without losing the history or heritage of the building. The decor is beautifully pared back and contemporary yet works so well with the old beams and original features. Subtle texture and colour has been employed brilliantly to skilfully create a modern family home with a quiet, ancient feel.
To see more of this beautiful renovation project, head over to Amanda’s Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/theoldforgecottage/