Homes & Interiors

This 12th century English farmhouse has a surprisingly quirky and colorful interior

Wonky walls and sloping floors give this idyllic farmhouse period charm, while a fun and colorful decor injects a modern twist

Exterior of white clapboard Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex
(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Zoe and James Davis and their children were living in a converted barn in East Sussex when they began to consider how they could follow a more sustainable lifestyle. 

‘We were keen for a project – somewhere with land and the potential to generate an income so we could become more self-sufficient,’ says Zoe. 

Fortunately, the couple loved the very first property that they came across – a Grade II-listed six-bedroom farmhouse, complete with holiday cottages and outbuildings, just a few miles away. In July 2015, they moved in with their three children. 

The age of the farmhouse – it dates back to the 12th century – gives it its distinctive charm, with wonky walls and sloping floors. ‘The property has subsided over the years, although it remains structurally safe. While that might have put some people off, we think it creates a wonderful quirky feel,’ says Zoe. 

After first overhauling the holiday cottages so they could start generating an income, the couple’s attention turned to the main house. The interior was dated and it needed new electrics, plumbing and redecorating. 

‘The house has low ceilings and small windows, which is lovely when it’s cold and dark outside but in the summer it can sometimes feel oppressive,’ says Zoe. 

Downstairs, in an attempt to optimise the light, Zoe started off by painting most of the walls white, but was uninspired by the end result. ‘It made the place feel quite gloomy,’ she says. ‘We realised that painting the walls in richer tones gave a warmer, more inviting feel, and the brighter colours worked better against the exposed brickwork and beams.’ 

See: World's best homes – tour the globe’s most beautiful houses 

Kitchen diner

Colorful kitchen diner in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

For little cost, Zoe transformed this family space by painting the walls, tiles and chairs in eye-catching shades.

Colorful kitchen in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

In the kitchen, Zoe kept the existing units and tiles but painted them in rich blue and pink. The pink tiles bring vibrancy to the stove area.

Colorful kitchen in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

A display of ceramics, painted floorboards and bold wallpaper give this area its own identity. 

See: Farmhouse kitchen ideas – introduce modern rustic elements for a laid-back look

Colorful kitchen in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

A collection of hats adds interest to the staircase.

Pantry

Rustic retro pantry in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

This traditional space is perfect for storing the family’s essentials. You can see more pantry ideas in our dedicated guide.

Living room

Colorful living room in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Shades of pink and blue create a playful feel in the living room, while Zoe’s fabrics add a modern edge to the period space.

Conservatory

Colorful conservatory in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Zoe uses this practical area to display plants. 

Bedrooms

Colorful bedroom in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Vivid wallpaper and soft furnishings contrast with the dark ceiling in the loft bedroom. 

Colorful bedroom in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Colorful designs give this bedroom a playful feel. 

White bedroom with splashes of color in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

White painted surfaces lend a restful air in the main bedroom. 

See: Farmhouse bedroom ideas – rustic designs for your sleep space

Corridor

Geometric corridor in Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

Zoe’s own fabric lines the walls of the corridor to brighten up this narrow area.

Exterior

Red brick exterior of Grade II listed farmhouse in Sussex

(Image credit: Richard Gadsby)

The farmhouse and its surrounding gardens have given the family the rural idyll they craved.

In addition to the main house and cottages, Zoe and James have converted another outbuilding into an office and studio for Zoe’s textile business, Zobo Designs. Her vibrant fabrics can be seen peppered throughout the house in the form of cushions and, notably, lining the walls in the upstairs corridor. 

The property has needed a lot of work and there are their pigs and alpacas to care for, too. ‘It’s definitely a lifestyle choice, as there’s always something to be done, whether it’s in the veg garden or the holiday cottages, or fixing and maintaining the buildings and the land. The list goes on,’ says Zoe. 

It has been a huge learning curve and they've had their fair share of mishaps. ‘There have been pigs on the road, escaped alpacas and even a holiday guest who had to call for help when 50 sheep decided to herd themselves into the cottage garden.’ 

It’s clear, however, that the family relish their new lifestyle. ‘With what's been happening in the world over the last year, I will never underestimate how lucky we are,’ says Zoe. ‘We love the open space, the greenery and being surrounded by the animals. When I breathe in the country air, I can feel the stress leaving my body.’ 

For more information on Zoe’s holiday cottages visit Eatonden Manor Farm

Photographs/ Richard Gadsby

Text/  Amy Maynard