Client: Rosemary Pugh
Style: Thatched cottage renovation and restoration
In the heart of the rolling Ceredigion hills in South West Wales, Rosemary Pugh’s picturesque cottage blends perfectly into the surrounding landscape. The stone and thatch home has a long history – it dates back to around the 1800s.
Rosemary’s family have owned the farmland where the cottage is situated for many years, living in a large farmhouse to the north of the site. For a long time, Rosemary and her husband had planned to renovate the run-down cottage; the couple had seen huge potential in the building, both in its positioning (close to the road, but with stunning views) and its character.
The cottage itself is a typical example of a rural Welsh longhouse, made of readily available local materials, including walls built of compacted earth, straw and small stones. The thatch roof consisted of heather and gorse, and earth clods covered with rushes and straw – over the years this had been topped with corrugated zinc sheeting. In terms of layout, the cottage consisted of a one room parlour with an adjacent bedroom and dairy. Built on to this was a cow shed for milking, a calf pen and pig sty. Over the years, its use as an agricultural building and residence diminished – the last known inhabitants brought up thirteen children in the cottage, before it was abandoned in the early 1960s.
With such a rich history, it is easy to see why Rosemary and her husband wanted to bring the dwelling back to its former glory. Sadly, before the project could become a reality, Rosemary’s husband passed away. Not wanting their dreams of reviving the cottage to disappear, Rosemary, who is now her 70s, decided she would take on the development herself. “Seven years ago, a tree in the apple orchard fell on the building, damaging the walls and roof, and allowing water in,” explains Rosemary. “I knew if I didn’t start planning the project then, it would not be possible to save the cottage. I contacted an old school friend who helped me to gain planning consent to restore the building and extend it.”
Navigating the planning system took some time, as did deciding exactly how the new cottage should look. Rosemary’s builder – who had worked with her on a number of projects – was her first port of call to act as main contractor on the development. Sadly, not long after works started, one of the gable end walls fell down. This unexpected issue halted the project for a while and meant that additional planning consent was required to rebuild this historic element.
Rosemary was keen to use local teams on the job, and her builder suggested she look at the work of Welsh Oak Frame, who he knew would be able to supply the perfect rustic structural beams for the main house, as well as a sunroom- style extension. “I was very well looked after by Welsh Oak Frame. Although it took us some time, and some tricky navigation, to get the project to the stage of erecting the frame, this element was done quickly and seamlessly. Welsh Oak were happy to discuss requirements with my builder to help us to work out how follow on trades would work with the frame – for example the local thatcher who was restoring the roof, and the stonemason who worked on the exterior walls.”
Witch such an emphasis placed on workmanship and craft, this wasn’t a quick project – which Rosemary was happy with. Her son and his family had moved into the farmhouse, and Rosemary wanted to take residence in the cottage when it was complete. With this in mind, she wanted the interior design to reflect her personality, and she knew that she wanted to employ some professional help to ensure this was achieved.
She had worked with Kay, an interior design expert from Laura Ashley, in the past and knew she was the right person for this project, too. “When Kay first saw the house, it was still very much a shell. We worked together on designing the layout, fixtures and finishings. Kay knew exactly how to make the most of a cottage of this type.”
Kay wanted to make the most of the gorgeous exposed oak beams, so chose an interior colour palette that ensured these stood out. She also paid close attention to the lighting scheme to make sure that the home stayed bright, enhancing the feeling of space. Luckily, the new glazed oak extension allowed plenty of natural light to flood into the home, which offset the small, traditional windows through the rest of the cottage.
The country style kitchen was designed to emphasize the height of the oak beams. Set around a bespoke, bright cranberry kitchen island, soft duck egg blue cabinets were used to create a pretty vintage scheme filled with warmth. Antique pieces of furniture have been used throughout the cottage, too, to add extra character.
In the new sunroom, which is located to the side of the kitchen, furniture was placed so Rosemary can make the most of the stunning views, and slate flooring was used to cleverly link the old and new spaces together. “Every aspect of the cottage is just how I want it, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. The sunroom is really relaxing, the kitchen feels spacious and the sitting room is cosy with the wood stove and inglenook fireplace. It took a long time, but the result is ideal.”