home stories: the tiny cottage that's big on vintage glamour
One of the best things about Instagram for me (aside from the obvious interiors eye candy), is the people behind the squares. This weeks home story comes from one of the loveliest most supportive ladies I have met via Instagram, Claire Lloyd. I connect to Claire's story on many levels, with life throwing her a life changing health curveball, bringing love to her rented home and her love of all things vintage we have a lot in common.
Claire has designed a home which echos her love and passion for vintage. Every inch of her bijou Welsh cottage is layered with treasures, art, texture, pattern and colour. I always greatly admire those homeowners who live and breathe their interiors passions, creating spaces for themselves - ones which truly reflect their personalities from a homes biggest features down to the tiniest decorative details.
Like me, Claire has really found her design niche and developed her style into a business, Angel Vintage Interiors which launched earlier this year. Claire's heritage cottage is one full of delight and magic, enjoy the tour. Over to you Claire...
I relocated to my native Pembrokeshire in 2009 after being diagnosed with MS the year before. I never, in my wildest dreams, expected to fall ill, let alone have a degenerative disease bestowed upon me and yet there it was .. a diagnosis of MS in all its destructive glory. I had always been of the belief that my career would remain intact right up until it was time to retire and even then I would have been dragged out of the workplace kicking and screaming at the prospect of having to ‘hang up my hat’! My job as a Senior Account Manager was based in Bristol and London. I lived in North Somerset but I shared my time working between two offices .. one based in Bristol and the other in central London. As much as I loved my career, it was a demanding one and quite frankly, I had literally ‘burnt myself out’.
Having to contend with my new found diagnosis forced me to take stock and revaluate my hectic lifestyle and I realised very quickly that I had no option other than to ‘make friends’ with the disease and make some very necessary changes. The first ‘change’ was a major one .. i chose to abandon my career and take very early ‘retirement’. Not only did I decide to retire permanently from the workplace but I also made the decision to relocate to my homeland of Pembrokeshire, in the hope that living in a rural area and adopting a much slower pace of life would give my health the best possible chance .. it was a difficult (not to mention terrifying!) decision to make and one which wasn’t made lightly. The decision to abandon my career and relocate was the best decision I could ever have made as it’s paid off in dividends and has resulted in my MS being very manageable .. it’s all down to the fact that I have adopted a far slower pace of life devoid of deadlines and sales targets.
As I realised that I would never again be in a position to buy my own home due to the fact that I no longer had a career to support a mortgage, I knew I wouldn’t be able to embark on my relocation until I had found somewhere suitable to live. I was extremely worried about the prospect of living in a rented property as I needed an appropriate dwelling that would be ‘mine for life’ without having to worry about a potential landlord selling up a couple of years after I had moved in, leaving me in a rather precarious situation. I needn’t have worried however as I seemed to be ‘in sync’ with the universe and a Perrots Trust cottage became available just as I embarked on my search for a suitable property! The Perrots Trust oversee a row of little Tudor cottages in Haverfordwest that had been built by Sir John Perrot in 1846 as alms houses for the people of the town. The cottages are listed buildings and steeped in so much history.
The Perrots Trust was formed many years later where they upheld Sir John’s legacy by renting the cottages out to the local town folk, or people who had been born in the town. I couldn’t believe that I had managed to secure one of these 12 very pretty little stone cottages, as they very rarely became available. It was obvious to me that some ‘higher power’ was involved as the cottage had apparently been advertised 5 weeks before I even knew about it’s availability and in that time 3 applications had been submitted for it but every single applicant had turned it down which was unusual to say the least as, on the rare occasion that one of these cottages became available, they were snapped up almost immediately! The reason for it being turned down had been due to its dilapidated state and I later learned that the previous occupant was a lady who had lived there for almost 80 years until she passed away at the age of 100, which explained why the cottage had been so neglected in more recent times. Anyway … I moved in almost 12 years ago where I tentatively took the first steps toward restoring my little cottage to be a place that I loved and could truly call home.
A close friend of mine ‘gathered the troops’ and painted all of the walls in every room of the cottage white prior to my moving in so that I had a blank canvas to work with. This act of kindness really helped me to see past the chaos of the cottage .. in particular the sky blue paint that adorned nearly all of the walls.
The kitchen was the first room that I tackled as it was the by far the room that was in the greatest need of attention. There were no kitchen units to speak of and the floor was made up of broken Marley tiles. I was fortunate enough to acquire the kitchen floor cabinets from a flower shop in Haverfordwest before I had even moved in. An unusual find in a florists you may think but they had a beautiful kitchen to the rear of the shop which they were making redundant so they promptly became mine. I have never been a fan of ‘the fitted kitchen’, preferring instead a more eclectic mix of hand painted units. I have changed the colour of the floor units more times than I care to remember .. they have been various colours including jade green, French grey, vintage blue and more recently a very soft pink.
I wanted to paint the units pink for quite some time but had been put off by the thought of them appearing too ‘sickly’ but then, out of the blue, French Chic Paints approached me and asked me to be an ambassador for their brand and to my delight, I managed to find the perfect shade called Ballerina, which is the palest of ‘ballet shoe’ pinks so I took the plunge!
I also have various wall mounted cupboards and shelves, which I have bought second hand and then upcycled with chalk paint. I have previously been known to work through the night until almost 3 am finishing a piece with the space lit by a floor standing floodlight and armed with my chalk paint, layering, sanding and waxing until the look I wanted was achieved. Thankfully, there is a large walk in pantry in the kitchen which allows for plenty of storage. Next to tackle was the flooring and I initially had a very realistic ‘wooden’ vinyl laid which carried through to the back hallway. I later replaced these floors with slate.
Every room in my cottage starts with a focal point and in the kitchen it was the pink Smeg fridge which I bought a year after moving in. In fact it was bought for me by my partner, Martin, whom I had met a year after I had moved into the house! My 4 year old grandson has lived with us for the last two years and apart from his bedroom, the kitchen is the palest room in the cottage because I wanted to create a pretty, vintage feel. I bought Nina Campbell wallpaper in a floral design to hang on one of the walls and the other walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Theresa's Green’, which was the perfect match. Both, I felt, complimented the fridge. Although the majority of the rooms in the cottage are very dark in appearance, interestingly, the kitchen is consistently the most popular room on my Instagram account.
The next room to have a complete overhaul was the bathroom. It was in similar shape to the kitchen with broken Marley floor tiles adorning the floor and the same shade of sky blue paint on the walls. It’s a tiny bathroom and the only one in the cottage .. no en suite or such luxury in this little cottage .. there just isn’t the space to squeeze any more in! I immediately replaced the toilet and sink but I chose to keep the original bath as it was a substantial size and made of a heavy enamel.
Originally I painted the walls a dark grey but several years ago I won the most beautiful roll of Designers Guild floral wallpaper in an Instagram Giveaway which I decided to hang in the bathroom. I have a real love for florals and you will find them somewhere in every room. The same slate tiles have been carried through into the bathroom and the white wall tiles surround the bath area in a brick effect but I wanted them laid vertically around the sink as I thought that this would make for a more interesting appearance. Don’t be fooled by the white tiles and the soft white background of the wallpaper as this is where the ‘pale’ shades end. The bath and sink areas have been boxed in with wood and painted black as have all the woodwork. The ceiling is also black.
There are two reception rooms in the cottage, with the bigger of the two being the dining room, although it wasn’t always this way. It was previously the living room but we changed it to the dining room approximately 5 years ago and it’s now my favourite room in the cottage. This ‘favouritism’ is largely down to two contributory factors .. firstly because of the colour palette I have used … my favourite colour combination is black and dark green and it’s very evident here. I chose to paint the walls in Calke Green by Farrow & Ball and I have also used a very distinctive wallpaper for one of the walls which is ‘Midnight Garden’ by one of my favourite designers, House of Hackney.
I have to confess that I ‘stole’ the current wallpaper from Pearl Lowe after visiting her beautiful home in Frome. The Midnight Garden wallpaper adorned the walls of the room we were in and my heart skipped a beat as soon as I clapped eyes on it and I just knew I had to have it. I’ve since apologised for stealing her wallpaper and my two, animal print bolster cushions are from the Pearl Lowe collection .. so all is well!
They add a touch of vamp to the dining room’s already sultry vibe. When this room was previously the living room it underwent a couple of revamps in much softer colours, including a Zoffany gold and cream chevron wallpaper which was teamed with Spanish Olive wall paint. It was a very elegant colour scheme but it didn’t have nearly enough ‘guts’ for me and it was quickly dropped in favour of my love of dark, moody colour schemes. We chose to decline the option of a real fire in here, despite it housing the original chimney breast. This was purely and simply because we would have had to compromise what little wall space we already have.
The dining room leads to the tiniest hallway imaginable .. it’s so small in fact that we had to abandon the idea of a pendant light because the ceiling is so low! Guests would often bang their heads upon entering a leaving the cottage so we got around that by taking my love of fairy lights and using them as our only source of overhead lighting in the hallway. Twinkly, ambient lights, connected to the mains, now wind their way through the tiny hallway and up the stairs and I have to say, I really love the end result!
Opposite the dining room is the living room, or the ‘Snug’ as it’s affectionately known due to its tiny proportions. We struggled when it was originally our dining room because it was just too far away from the kitchen. I can’t cook but Martin and I love entertaining and the trek from the kitchen each time, laden with plates, was incredibly inconvenient. Having the dining room next to the kitchen made much more sense but I couldn’t see how a room swap could work initially, although Martin had suggested doing so several times. It was quite by chance that the ‘swap’ eve took place. It only came about when we had to move the furniture out of the then living room for a damp proof course to be carried out. When we moved the sofa into the little room that was then our dining room I could see immediately that it could really work .. so we took the plunge.
The colour scheme in this room has remained the same since we decorated it almost a decade ago. I just love the colour scheme so I see very little point in changing it. The walls are painted in Little Greene’s Dark Lead and a contrasting dark metallic Cow Parsley wallpaper from Cole & Son hangs on one of the walls.
We had considered installing a very small log burner in the chimney breast however Martin pointed out that as much as we love the appearance of a ‘real’ log fire, the heat they give is immense and we would literally ‘roast’ in such a tiny space. Instead we opted for a large cast iron electric stove which we have on every night without heat .. the flame is very real and makes the room feel very cosy. We have a large TV on the far wall which isn’t aesthetically pleasing so when it’s not in use I hide it by placing a large screen in front of it which works very well.
Up the very narrow, painted, wooden staircase are the only two bedrooms in the cottage. We are literally in the eaves which means we had to sacrifice the practicalities of having an attic. I decided many years ago that I wasn’t a fan of traditional wardrobes. We knew that we required a great deal of wardrobe space in ours, the master bedroom. I wanted wall to wall wardrobes, which Martin built and I decided to use fabric panels to replace doors. We have used this idea in both bedrooms. I chose Kate Forman’s Roses design in Sage.
In my usual style, I wanted the room to feel ‘moody’ and glamorous but with a bit of an edge, so I chose a very dark, almost battleship green to paint the walls and the ceilings with. It’s ‘Invisible Green’ by Little Greene and the floor is of course, painted black. Personally I wouldn’t have the floor in any other colour and I love the ‘boudoir’ ambience it provides.
My love of what I call ‘vintage glamour’ can be seen throughout my little cottage. I am happiest when I’m surrounded by dark colour schemes that evoke a sense of drama. So much of our furniture has been purchased from antique shops, with many pieces bought from junk shops and upcycled by yours truly. I feel very ‘at home’ when I’m in touching distance of tactile fabrics, particularly velvet and sheepskins. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m smitten with floral designs which can be found everywhere in the cottage .. in various guises. I have reinvented my home to be a place that energised me and sparked my imagination. We now have a place we love .. although I am constantly adding to what we already have .. much to Martin’s dismay! I live in a cottage of the tiniest proportions, which I found difficult at first but I soon realised that size doesn’t actually matter .. what matters is that it has been created with love and that’s it’s characterful and a true reflection of ourselves.
Thank you Claire for sharing your home story. Creating such impactful interiors in tiny spaces is always a challenge but Claire has been clever with her choice of pattern and colour throughout her colourful home. You can follows Claire's interiors journey HERE on instagram and find out more about her interior design business HERE