The renovation of this Georgian cottage uncovered features dating back 300 years

This 18th-century village home was full of secrets waiting to be revealed beneath layers of plaster and cement

kitchen with white tablecloth and white cabinets and walls and candle chandelier with big bouquet and cake and sink and part-glazed door in background
(Image credit: Brent Darby)

An old house shouldn't offer up all its secrets on first viewing. Instead, like a long-lasting friendship, it's better its owners get to know it gradually, learning a little more as they tend to the property's every need. The current custodians of this Georgian home certainly did that, and after their painstaking six-year renovation they now know their house inside and out. The results of all their hard work mean that this grade-II listed village home really is one of the world's best homes

The four-bedroom home was built in around 1715 in a historic village in the UK's South Downs National Park. Its owners Matt and Holly Clements started their renovations with the exterior of the cottage, removing a pebbledashed cement render and restoring the Georgian sash windows, before turning their attention to restoring the cottage interiors. 

Kitchen – unfitted with vintage accessories

kitchen with white cabinets and french windows with herb box

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Kitchen ideas worth stealing from this glamorous space include adding interest with unfitted elements – a look that perfectly suits an older property like this but that works just as well in a more contemporary setting.

The simple white kitchen cabinets were fitted by the home's previous owners, and the couple plan to replace them soon. For now, the couple have refreshed the walls and cabinets with the aptly named Quiet Grey paint from Atelier Ellis. 

Holly deals in antique and vintage furniture through her company Hambledon Home and often changes things around as new pieces pass through her hands. At the heart of the room, and definitely here to stay, are an heirloom farmhouse table and chairs from Holly's grandmother, while above is a vintage chandelier with candles and its original crystals to cast a romantic glow. 

kitchen with white cabinets and white range cooker with brass hanging rail and limestone flooring

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Some of the existing kitchen cabinets were updated with Devol handles and a brass hanging rail for utensils above the soft white Everhot range cooker.

Living room

living room with pair of vintage leather chairs dark wood vintage coffee table green plants georgian bay window

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Once the front outside walls had been stripped of their damaging pebbledashed cement render, Holly and Matt started to restore the cottage's living room. They were dismayed to find that the wall around the bay window had been cement rendered on the inside too. Cue more painstaking chiselling, more dust, and more lime plaster before they could turn it into the relaxing zone it is now. 

The living room has to work hard in this compact cottage, as it’s the only place, apart from the kitchen, where the family can gather. Living room ideas for this multifunction room include simple furnishings in neutral colors, some vintage finds and clever storage solutions. Keeping these goals in mind, Holly has created a calm space. The matching leather armchairs, from the 1950s, were found on Vinterior, while an Indian antique cot serves as a coffee table. The jute rug was a high-street buy. 

Bedroom

bedroom with beamed vaulted ceiling floral wallpaper dark wood bed and wooden floor with sheepskin rug

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

The whole renovation has been all consuming, throwing up horrors and delights in equal measure. This is particularly true of the main bedroom. Superficially, the room was in good condition, though a little unloved. However, as the couple started to look more closely they realised that the original beams had been boxed in under a false ceiling. Above it the beams were wrapped with layers of crumbling insulation. It wasn’t going to be a quick fix and the couple bided their time before tackling the messy job.

The beams weren’t the only hidden beauties. Once Holly and Matt got stuck in, they realised that several generations of owners had added layer after layer of plasterboard onto the walls. The couple removed five layers of plasterboard and when they finally peeled away the last one, they found the original brick walls were coated in cement. They wondered how on earth the walls had withstood all that extra weight. 

There was another far more exciting discovery: a Georgian fireplace was hidden behind the plasterboard and in need of just a little repair. The original wide plank floorboards were also still in place, though crudely carved up in some areas to fit pipes and electrics. The Clements gently cleaned the old boards, on their hands and knees with wire wool and white spirit. 

Anyone looking for traditional bedroom ideas will find plenty to inspire in this room, alongside its stunning original features. Furnishings and décor are kept simple to allow the period details to shine. Holly and Matt opted to leave the original brick exposed on the fireplace wall, a reminder of the cottage’s history; the other walls were lime rendered. 

The wall behind the bedhead was destined for something more decorative. Inspired by a fragment of the room’s original floral hand block-printed wallpaper, thought to date from the 1700s, Holly chose Garland by Flora Roberts for Hamilton Weston Wallpapers as the room's showstopper. The other walls are painted in Earthborn’s St John clay paint. The result is a stunning room that is of our time, yet respectful of its past, perfectly epitomizing the Clements’ approach to the house. 

Bathroom

bathroom with freestanding bath glass shower screen and beams and wooden floor

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

This characterful bathroom marries original features, such as the beam right across the room, with an on-trend marble-look finish and frameless surround for the walk-in shower. Contemporary touches and modern comforts are important to Holly who says she didn't want the house to be a pastiche of the past, but does want it to be sympathetically renovated and furnished. Guiding principles that serve well for anyone looking for bathroom ideas

The wooden floor came from a 400- year-old barn, and a plasterboard ceiling was removed to reveal the characterful original beams. Holly has added in her trademark vintage accessories to soften the space, including a Georgian tilt-top table, a French mid-century painting, and an antique Hungarian table and rustic ladder.

Child's room

childs room with vintage dolls house and peg rail with chair, hats and mirror hanging and hats

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

The children’s rooms are stylish, uncluttered and, just like the other rooms in the house, full of beautifully curated vintage treasures. 

There are some inspiring solutions here for anyone looking for kids' room ideas, particularly if you want a room scheme that can be adapted as the children grow. Holly believes the family's restoration journey has been great for the children too, as they’ve seen all the effort, time and care she and Matt have put in. The children have done their bit too, painting walls, cleaning up old floors and helping to arrange things in their rooms. 

In this room, an antique mirror and chair are hung on the peg rail to create
a quirky display. The walls and panelling are painted in Atelier Ellis’ Stony Ground

Outside – front of house

exterior of Georgian cottage with whitewashed brick walls and pale green front door with spring wreath and olive trees on either side and georgian bay window

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

The front of the house had suffered the indignity of a pebbledash cement render in the 1950s. This was removed and a breathable limewash applied by a specialist, colormatched to a fragment of the original paint found under the cement. The house is limewashed every year to slowly soften the scars in the brickwork that had been scored to hold the cement. 

Despite the added time and expense, Holly and Matt felt it was vital to go about this in the right way. By going back to the natural materials that would have been used when it was first built, the house can now breathe again. The Georgian sash windows were also removed and restored off site, and hand-blown glass added. 

Backyard makeover

backyard with table and chairs and pink throw with flint walls around and potted plants and a window-frame mirror

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

It’s hard to believe, but this secluded backyard seating space was excavated from a two-meter-square lump of cement and chalk that had been dumped in the garden. The family love to use the space for alfresco meals as it’s just outside the kitchen. The Hungarian trestle table and chopping boards are antiques and the window mirror came from an antiques fair. 

This sociable outdoor space is the perfect finishing touch to the pretty Georgian cottage's very careful renovation. 

kitchen table with white cloth and wooden chairs and french window open candle chandelier and bouquet of flowers and cake on table

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

Bouquet from The Real Flower Company 

Feature Karen Darlow | Styling Pippa Blenkinsop | Photographs Brent Darby

Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine, starting to write album reviews just as they switched from vinyl to CD releases. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.