Tracey Gill’s characterful weatherboarded house, with its handmade clay tiled roof, porch and manicured lawns, is so in tune with its surroundings it is difficult to believe it is barely four years old.
‘Our focus when we were house hunting was to find the prettiest location regardless of the property’s looks,’ Tracey explains. ‘I knew I could change any house we bought, so the important factor was the land and location.’
Nestled deep in rural Sussex, in southern England, the location epitomizes much of what country living is about. ‘We are near a very lovely village, set in three acres with a field bound by a stream. The house is up a track which gives access to just two other properties. It’s pin-drop quiet!’ says Tracey.
The original house was seriously in need of renovation, however – a diminutive, dated cottage, worlds away from the stylish home that now stands on the same plot of land.
‘Dating back in parts to 1730, it was covered in cream pebble dash with concrete roof tiles, modern leaded light windows, Artexed walls, old carpets and an unimaginative addition,’ recalls Tracey.
How fortunate, then, that it fell into Tracey’s hands and became part of her long-held vision for cottage decorating ideas.
‘I actually designed the house I wanted before we moved in,’ she explains, referencing styles from the US as inspiration.
‘The brief I gave myself was to bring the New England coastal style back to Sussex via Texas and the Deep South.’
For Tracey it represents a homecoming for her favorite architectural style, first introduced to the US by the pilgrim settlers from 17th-century England. The success of this renovation relied on its exterior being sympathetic to the traditional Sussex vernacular, with the use of white weatherboard unifying the old cottage and the new extended section.
Inside, the old and the new offer character and space in equal measure, with the original house now a cozy snug-library, sitting room and office area. A kitchen-dining room leading to the back porch creates the expansive downstairs part of the new addition.
Upstairs, Tracey designed a galleried main bedroom that provides a dramatic and modern approach to space and light.
‘The aim was to bring it all in at a standard that I was happy with, at the best price I could achieve,’ Tracey explains. ‘I sourced all the materials myself, project-managed on site every day and didn’t employ a single painter.’
Instead, she signed up for a spray-painting course, rolled up her sleeves and got on with it. ‘I sprayed every room myself. I painted all the windows inside and out. I also decided to learn how to tile a wall and did a couple of showers, the mudroom and powder room floor. Such fun!’ she adds.
Tracey has adopted the ‘reuse, repurpose and recycle’ mantra in every aspect of the build. When an old exterior flat roof was removed, the boards were used to create a headboard for the main bedroom (below).
Old dressers have been transformed into sink units in the bathrooms (the main bathroom is below), and a galvanized metal bucket found in the garden has been upcycled into an eye-catching powder room washbasin with a set of pricey-looking brass taps ‘found at the local trash tip’.
One man’s junk is, most certainly, this woman’s treasure.
You can follow Tracey's journey on Instagram @ruralrefurb (opens in new tab).
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