Moving into their 500-year-old cottage in March 2017 – two weeks before their first daughter was born – Steph Gowland, @stephgowla and her family have gone on to create and build upon a house steeped in history into a home filled with warmth, comfort and character.
“We got the keys nine months prior to moving in so by the time we did we had made it warm and liveable but there was so much still left to do.” An old Bastle cottage that dates back more than five centuries, they were originally built to protect the inhabitants against raiding and cattle thieving using exceptionally thick stone walls. “It had been part ruined but it was built back up 30 years ago,” says Steph.
CLASSIC ENGLISH DESIGN
With so much character to contend with, Steph admits her tastes have evolved over the years. Once one for stark and clinical whites, she’s moved over to warmer colour palettes to complement the age of their home. “I love homes that feel layered and collected as though they’ve naturally evolved over time. Homes need soul and character and I’m looking forward to further layering our home with the treasured finds we’ll collect.
Timelessness is key to me, and plenty of comfort. “At the moment I’m really inspired by my grandparents’ traditional English home and I’m enjoying incorporating some of those design ideas here, like the bathroom curtained cupboard.” Steph explains this love for traditional English interiors played a big role in their recently renovated cloakroom and main bathroom.
“I wanted to balance out the relaxed rusticity with a more sophisticated oldy-world style. Adding English-inspired elements like our freestanding roll top bath and the butt and bead panelling. My main aim was to inject warmth and personality. Previously it was very cold and stark – not the most relaxing space to unwind in! I’ve added in soft textures with a shower curtain and a homemade sink skirt, and a pop of colour using ‘Caddie’ by Paint and Paper Library.
“The bathroom and cloakroom are the first rooms I’ve planned properly, rather than making last minute changes. It’s so important to plan, take your time and communicate with each other when you’re DIYers. Quite often I just assume my husband knows all my ideas!”
A HOME TAKES TIME
Five years after they moved in, Steph explains progress on their house has been slow. Understandably so, with two small girls and taking on every job themselves. “It’s been a learning curve but practice makes perfect and we’ve gained so much knowledge for future projects. It’s been hard to make considered choices because we don’t have much time to think and to plan so every decision has been a quick one!
I know corners have been cut in some places where we’ve rushed to finish a project quicker.” And yet, following their renovation journey on Steph’s popular Instagram account, @stephgowla, gives an authentic and reassuring glimpse of reality. A home does take time and it can’t be completed overnight. By tackling their renovation over a number of years, rather than months, it’s had a positive effect on the way Steph buys furniture too.
A CONSIDERED APPROACH
“We recently had a sorting out session and it scared me as we wanted to get rid of furniture that we only bought two years ago. Mostly because it was cheaper and it hadn’t lasted. I really consider every single item now. Before it comes into the house, I ask myself, ‘Would I be happy to keep this forever? Is it useful?’ “It’s more important than ever for us all to be more considered and sustainable in our purchases by choosing quality, timeless furniture. ‘Buy once, buy well’ rather than buying twice (or even more).
“One of my favourite pieces of furniture in the house is a large antique pine sideboard that sits in our living room. It came from my grandmother’s antiques and gift shop and was used to display the most wonderful array of beautiful soaps, candles and various smellies. It will be cherished forever by us.
“A newer favourite is our Cotswold Company Chadwick sofa in the beautiful green velvet. It really adds that British country style and I love how the green brings in the view of the rolling hills outside our window. I’m so pleased with the quality, it feels like an antique of the future. “Now most of the work has been done in the house, I can really consider the finishing touches the cottage is lacking. Those things that make a house a home.
I’m looking forward to adding more colour and pattern to our all-neutral home. And things like looking for the perfect side table to set down a cuppa and adding more wall art. I can’t believe what a difference things like art make in helping a house feel like a home.”
A SENSE OF THE SEASONS
With its beautifully exposed stone walls and characterful charm throughout, this house comes into its own during winter. You appreciate its thick set walls and heavy stone flag roof, providing cocooning comfort and warmth. “Summer is my favourite season though,” says Steph. “Sunlight inspires me most and the summer light in the house makes our stone walls glow and come to life. I love the abundance of cottage flowers in the garden – cow parsley, lupins, alliums, foxgloves and cosmos.
I’m big on decorating with the seasons. I’m looking forward to filling the house with these freshly picked flowers as they each come into season. I’ve planted lots of bulbs that I’m so excited to see come spring.” Come rain or shine, Steph tells us they spend most of their time around the dining table. “This spot feels like the heart of our home. For crafts, meals, board games, birthdays and homework, now that my eldest has started school. Our Chester Stone table sits in front of our log burning stove so it’s a really cosy place to gather. I love that it can extend out to 260cm to comfortably fit our extra family members when they visit too.
A HOME FOR LIFE
“Practical, well-built furniture is so important in a home, and having the right furniture in the right place. Like our Farmhouse Painted shoe bench next to the front door. We perch on it whilst pulling shoes off and then put them tidily away.”
What else creates that unmistakable feeling of home for the Gowlands? “I think just being comfortable and feeling relaxed. The five senses have a lot to do with making a house a home for me. Hearing giggles and music, feeling soft wools and velvets or hard quality woods, or simply smelling a beautiful candle burning.”
See more of Steph’s beautiful home on Instagram at @stephgowla.