Katy, with Louis, in her beautifully converted kitchen
Driving up a beautiful no-through road in the county of Berkshire, Katy’s home is one of many 1930s homes that sit neatly along this peaceful and picturesque tree-lined street. ‘In spring and early summer it’s bursting with daffodils and blossom and looks stunning,’ she tells us.
Moving here at the end of 2013, Katy explains how the house needed a lot of work before they could move in. ‘We didn’t live in it straight away as it had to be completely gutted. The house had been rented for several years as the previous owner was an elderly lady whose husband had passed away some years earlier and she had gone into care. It needed total renovation. The plaster was blown, there were three layers of electrics which I think the previous owners had added themselves – it was bizarre – switches in one room that turned a light on elsewhere, plugs in odd places – our electrician was baffled! It all had to come out and be re-plastered with new plumbing. A lot of the old ceilings had dropped and needed replacing. Walls were rebuilt and a new bathroom and kitchen were fitted.’
It was no easy feat then, but it was the potential of this house which ultimately sold it – ‘I liked the fact the house had good-sized gardens and that we could really make it our own.’
As you enter in through the hallway, the kitchen greets you with a big burst of beautiful natural sunlight and ample space. It is light, airy and welcoming thanks to its high pitched roof and patio doors leading from the dining area out into the garden. Although Katy reveals they were living with a ‘very basic and decrepit kitchen’ for the best part of a year at first, the transformation has been more than worth it.
‘The biggest change is, without doubt, the kitchen and utility extension – it was the ability to be able to do that style of extension that really sold the house, and so the whole project focused around that. I knew I wanted a pitched roof kitchen before we found the house. I had seen examples in magazines and just loved them, so finding a house that would lend itself to it was important. The extension has a pitched roof with glass ceiling lights in to give a real sense of height and I think that’s what gives it the ‘wow’ factor.’
‘The kitchen area is my favourite,’ admits Katy, ‘and it’s naturally where I spend a lot of time. It’s where everyone tends to congregate so it’s perfect for hosting and because it backs on to the garden, it’s great in warmer weather too.’
Due to the level of work required, Katy explains they split it into two phases: ‘The first was renovating what we could so we could move in, and the second was the extension which was then done a year later once the planning application had gone through.’ An arduous and enduring process, Katy explains that there are one or two things, looking back, that she might have chosen to do differently: ‘I would definitely have made the utility extension bigger and maybe added a door to it from the main hallway. I may have been able to sneak a small office in it too as that’s the one thing I’m lacking. I also would’ve converted the loft at the same time – I think if budget allows then doing work together definitely saves on cost and future mess!’
Katy’s Utility Room
When it comes to a renovation project or a fixer-upper, it’s always a comfort to know that both your neighbours and others living on the same street have similar ideas to you. ‘Most of the houses on the street have been extended in one way or another,’ explains Katy, ‘so it’s great to go and have a look at how they’ve done it – they are all a little bit different. Many have the lofts converted over a second story and most have the kitchen in a new extension (1930s kitchens were notoriously tiny!)’
~ Our Grey Geo Throw, seen here draped over Katy’s sofa, is perfect for snuggling up with ~
With a plan for her ‘dream kitchen’ always on the cards, Katy explains that this property was the perfect fit. ‘The fact that 1930s properties are usually well suited for loft conversions meant that I could do the pitched roof extension yet still extend the upper part too. I pretty much knew what I wanted to do and so drew up a basic plan myself before taking it to an architect. The roof wasn’t as straightforward as I had first thought but he sorted it and came up with the finished plans.’
‘I knew I wanted to go all out and get a handmade wooden kitchen. It had to have an island and a large cooker hood. I worked with lots of different companies until I eventually decided to work with a local carpenter who made the whole kitchen bespoke.’
Sympathetic to the age of the property, but with bundles of contemporary charm, Katy describes her style as ‘modern country’ with a bit of a twist. It is homely and warm, yet filled with character and interest. Mixing the old with the new, Katy explains that she loves to root around for vintage treasures and scour antique markets. Her taste and eye for this really shines through as you venture from one room to another. There is so much to look at, to feel inspired by, without it ever feeling cluttered or untidy.
~ For a similar modern country style, our Chester Grey Dresser is perfect for kitchen displays ~
‘I definitely prefer a more period look,’ she explains. ‘One of my absolute favourite things to do is wander around antique fairs or shops in search of treasures large and small. I also like restoring things – old, forgotten or discarded dark bits of furniture that can be transformed. I now have an infamous sideboard that I upcycled called ‘Ernest’ that has an interesting story behind it.’
Ernest is not only infamous but well and truly loved amongst Katy’s Instagram followers. Now painted a beautiful millennial pink, he has been brought back to his former glory and sits proudly in the hallway. Initially discovered in a Sue Ryder charity sale, Katy explains ‘it was a dark and serious piece of furniture and very unappealing but it also had the most beautiful handles with interesting carving on the wood so I thought I could transform it. It was messy and very hard work getting all the old varnish off but worth it.’
Upcycling furniture continues to grow in popularity – the idea and joy of bringing a timeworn piece back to life with care and colour. ‘My advice,’ Katy explains, ‘is to prep properly and be patient.’ Although she admits she isn’t always good at taking her own advice, preparation is certainly key to achieving the desired finish. ‘I use Farrow & Ball or Little Greene if I’m doing a ‘neat’ piece or painting over sanded wood, and chalk paint if I’m not fully sanding or want a slightly distressed or matt finish.’
With the winter season now upon us, Katy tells us that for her, the next few months are all about staying warm and keeping cosy. ‘I have lots of sheepskins and blankets dotted around the place as well as candles everywhere but nothing beats curling up in front of the fire with a hot drink!’
That being said, with spring around the corner – or so we hope! – Katy tells us she is already thinking of ways to freshen up the house and bring the outside in. ‘I am also feeling the urge to fill the house with spring bulbs and clean it from top to bottom. I tend to have a lot of white and green flowers around this time – narcissi, white hyacinths, hellebores and anemones, along with daffodils and tulips as spring emerges. I think that’s one of the best ways to keep in harmony with the seasons by bringing in the natural elements like flowers.’
Another popular piece of furniture in Katy’s home is her pink sofa from Loaf. Taking pride of place in the living room, alongside our perennially popular Clover Buttoned Coffee Table, it perfectly complements the ‘shabbiness’ of one of Katy’s best bargains to date – a Victorian fireplace she discovered on eBay.
~ Our Clover Buttoned Coffee Table makes a subtle, yet practical, statement in Katy’s Living Room ~
‘I had searched for months and months for the ‘perfect’ fire surround long before we actually found a house. I just couldn’t find what I had in my mind and then I found this on eBay just as we bought the house! I actually messaged the seller and begged them to sell it to me direct offering a sizeable amount of money but they wanted to let it go to auction. I set my maximum bid so high but in the end, I won it for less than half what I had originally offered – it was the bargain of the century! It’s very early Victorian so doesn’t go with the period of the house but I love it. It’s also completely unfinished – the previous owner had started stripping and refurbishing it but I liked the shabbiness of it and so decided to leave it. I think it works perfectly and it’s one of the most-asked-about things in the house!’
From one living room to another, Katy explains how our beautiful Burford Display Cabinets provide a practical addition to her living/dining area, sitting in the alcoves either side of the fireplace. ‘The room itself was originally the back room of the house so with the extension, even though it lets in tonnes of light, it can be a little gloomy.’ Toying with the idea of having built-in cabinets, Katy explains, ‘I had been looking for something to go either side of the fireplace for a long time. I was worried that anything built in would look too heavy – so I wanted something that would keep a sense of lightness but still be functional. When I saw the Burford Display Cabinets I instantly fell in love. The glass panelling helps the space to look light and bright, and luckily they were an almost perfect fit!’
~ Our beautiful Burford Display Cabinets offer a timeless yet practical alternative to costly built-in cupboards ~
Katy reveals she actually discovered The Cotswold Company via Instagram – ‘how I hadn’t found you before I’ll never know but I’m so glad I did!’ Building up an impressive following on this popular platform that continues to inspire like-minded interior lovers, Katy tells us photos of her kitchen always do very well – ‘it’s probably the thing I’m asked most about’ – and how similar interior/lifestyle accounts, including @laurabutlermadden, @carasuthers and @rvk_loves (read our interview and peek inside Rebecca from rvk_loves home, here!) are amongst her favourite accounts to follow.
Looking to the future then, and Katy explains there is plenty to keep her busy, together with a few larger projects in the pipeline. ‘I’ve been wondering about getting shutters for the front of the house for such a long time, but it’s come down to cost. I’m also looking at replacing the front door – it’s terribly warped and drafty and needs replacing but again, it’s a very costly job! The largest project is to convert the loft, but I’m some way off doing that so it’s not likely to be for a few years. There are lots of little things to keep me busy in the meantime!’
~ Our timeless Chantilly White Chest complements Katy’s cosy, neutral theme in her guest bedroom ~
As firm believers that home is where the heart is – and where the stories really start – we love Katy’s sentiment when it comes to the home: ‘The number one thing that’s important is how an interior makes me feel. While beautiful to look at, it’s also home so it’s important that interiors make us feel good. I am always thinking about what makes a room feel calm and good to be in. Generally, lighter or more muted colours work for me and a mix of textures and accessories that have good associations attached to them.’
~ Katy’s Feather & Black bed reminds us of our beautifully romantic Camille Limewash Oak bedroom collection ~
We’re rather fond of her views on clutter too: ‘I can’t create a sense of calm with too much clutter or mess. For me, a cluttered home = a cluttered mind.’
The beauty of Katy’s home, that while it is filled with beautiful vintage finds – ‘I love French stoneware. Little confit pots, milk jugs and interesting one-off pieces. One of my favourite finds was a set of vintage French tin condiment pots’ – it really radiates a sense of calm and serenity. ‘I have definitely found that getting rid of bits that don’t work, replacing things bit by bit and de-cluttering has made me feel happier and calmer.’ It is a real home – one that has seen joy and heartbreak – but Katy has embraced this, and in turn, created a space that really advocates that there’s no place like home feeling. It’s something you feel as soon as you walk through the door, in fact. There is warmth and comfort, a feeling of safety and contentedness – those priceless attributes that we’re all, in some form or another, trying to create.
‘For me, what makes a house a home is definitely how it makes you feel. Firstly, I think it needs to be comfortable. Secondly, it needs to feel like your place to retreat to, to feel safe in or escape to after a busy or hectic day. Finally, it’s filling it with life – whether that’s people or pets or with things that make you happy. Your home is a reflection of you so it should be full of all the things that bring you joy.’
We’d like to say a big thank you to Katy (www.theartofwellbeing.co.uk) and Louis for inviting us into their beautiful home.