Nestled in idyllic English countryside, with a picturesque yellow façade that gleams in the sunshine, discovering Holly Tree cottage was, for André and Lisanne, like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
While driving around the countryside they would often stop to admire the thatched cottages with their wraparound gardens, and dream about happy summer days there with their family. Never did they expect it to become a reality, until one day luck intervened.
Read on to hear the couple's story of how they came to own this dream cottage and the history they uncovered.
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‘We passed a yellow chocolate-box property in Kent many years ago and fell in love with it,’ says Lisanne. ‘There were terraced yellow cottages with exposed beams opposite our old house, which we always admired, and there was a pretty cottage with yellow doors that we used to pass in Kent – there must have been something about the yellow color!’
Until 2016 the couple had been living in London, but with André starting a new company in Kent, they decided that the time was right to move to a more rural location. ‘We agreed that we would move to be closer to André’s business and start a family in the country eventually,’ says Lisanne.
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They moved from the capital to a two-bed terraced cottage, but the home with a country garden remained a dream. ‘We knew we needed a bigger place when our daughter Ophelia was born. We had always wanted to give our children a beautiful childhood in the countryside, where there is plenty of space to run around.’
Meanwhile, when browsing online, they spotted the perfect cottage. ‘We viewed it in 2016 but weren’t in a position to purchase it,’ says Lisanne. ‘We often used to go online just to look at it as we knew it was the one for us.’
As luck would have it, when they came to put their terrace on the market in 2018, they found the cottage still for sale. Knowing that it was out of their price range, they decided to take a leap of faith and get in touch with the owners, who agreed on a house swap.
‘It is even better than our dreams,’ says Lisanne. ‘We never thought we would live in a detached cottage with a thatched roof surrounded by nature. The garden is so wonderful with its mature willow and birch trees, as well as several fruit trees.
There’s a stream, too, which adds to the magic.’
The pair were passionate about the prospect of caring for a period property and since the move have enjoyed researching its history, making a fascinating discovery about its roof. ‘We have an image of the cottage in the 1920s with roof tiles rather than a thatch,’ says Lisanne.
‘We also have a copy of a planning application from the 1980s that shows the design for replacing the tiles with the thatch, as well as other alterations, like moving the front door and stairs from the living room to the current kitchen, along with other extensions like the annexe, and the porch. We plan to frame it.’
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Lisanne and André have exciting plans for updating the cottage to suit their young family, but don’t want to rush into it. ‘We know it is our forever home so we are taking our time to make the improvements and are saving money to update the conservatory, kitchen and bathrooms.’
Luckily the property had been well cared for by the previous owners. ‘They raised the floor in the living room and replaced a part of wall with stone due to damp problems. They also renewed the thatch a few years ago,’ says André. ‘Outside they added a pond as that area of the garden was waterlogged.’
In the meantime the pair have created a warm and welcoming space by making essential updates, including replacing the range cooker with an Esse model, boiler and adding a wood-burner to the living room. They have also redecorated, filling the house with cherished pieces from their travels and reclaimed finds.
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Whether it’s swimming in a hidden lake in the nearby ancient woodlands, or gathering foliage to make wreaths with Ophelia, the Hedger family love being immersed in nature, so tackling the garden was first on the agenda.
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‘The garden was a mess when we first moved in and André has done a vast amount of work including removing an old shed, redigging the stream as it was blocked, as well as constructing new chestnut fences, a pergola and deck,’ says Lisanne.
‘He’s also created a chicken run and removed 10 skips worth of waste left from old building works. Now we’re all enjoying his hard work and are doing fun things like planting bulbs with little Ophelia.’ This year the couple are looking forward to creating a vegetable patch and getting their new hens. No doubt they can’t wait for those summer days to return.
This feature was created by H&G's sister brand, Period Living magazine
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Period Living is the UK's best-selling period homes magazine, and is also available in the US. A subscription provides you with all you need to know about caring for and improving a traditional house and garden in a classic English style.View Deal
Lover of all things vintage, floral and country, Pippa has been working in interiors media for 10 years. A graduate of Art History, and Style Editor for Period Living magazine, she is a nostalgic soul who is passionate about historic architecture and traditional craftsmanship. When she's writing about homes and gardens you'll find her pottering on her Gloucestershire allotment, Pippa's Plot, where she grows flowers for styling her own home and interiors shoots.
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