When Jenny and Matthew Palmer bought a period property with outbuildings in the quiet village of Laxton in East Yorkshire, they had originally planned to create holiday lets in the grounds. However, the arrival of their son, Henry, almost three years ago prompted a rethink and they focused instead on making the main house more family-friendly.
Jenny recalls: “We bought the house for the outbuildings and even went as far as getting planning permission, but when I had my little boy in January 2018, we reprioritised and decided it was something we could do in the future.”
The couple bought the double-fronted property, which is more than 300 years old, in February 2017. Jenny revealed that some of Laxton’s older residents have told her about its history: “I’ve met a couple of people who have lived here for a long time and they tell me that the house was derelict for a long time as they remember playing in it when they were children. We believe that it once had a lot more land.”
During the last four years, Jenny and Matthew have gradually worked their way around the four-bedroom house, decorating each room in turn. Jenny clearly has a flair for interior design and has created a luxe, contemporary country look on a relatively modest budget. When updating the master bedroom, she had the old chimney breast opened up and sourced a period fireplace cheaply from Facebook marketplace. She also bagged a very on-trend, pink scallop-shaped chair from Aldi for just £80.
Having settled on Farrow & Ball’s Sulking Room Pink for the walls, Jenny had the shade colour-matched and mixed by Valspar to save money. “I didn’t want to spend too much, so I ended up keeping the bed, chest of drawers and bedside tables. I just changed the knobs for some antique brass bees that I bought from eBay,” she adds.
The hallway, stairs and landing look much brighter after the tatty old brown, coir flooring was replaced with period-style floor tiles from online retailer Tile Mountain. Quirky shelving made from reclaimed scaffolding boards by Yesterhome and colourful, vintage-style travel posters from Little Blue Dog Designs complete the look; both companies sell their products online at Etsy.
Although Jenny acknowledges that the stained-glass windows at either side of the front door make the hallway darker, they add a pop of colour so she deliberately kept the walls light to compensate.
She describes her style as a “mix”, adding: “I like to make spaces cosy and inviting, and I’m getting braver with colour. I love Instagram and Pinterest – seeing other spaces makes you feel more confident about colours working.”
Jenny is also a huge fan of houseplants and buys them from a company called Hortology that she discovered on Instagram.The sofa and chairs in the living room have a timeless look and were a wise investment buy from Marks & Spencer. Jenny likes to freshen rooms up by swapping cushions and other accessories. “I try to reuse as much as possible, so I would always consider whether I could repaint or reupholster a piece of furniture or simply add new cushions.
“There’s a company in the village called the Shabby Shack that painted and reupholstered a little French-style chair for me – they’re so reasonably priced.”
The country-style kitchen, which had been fitted with attractive sage green units from Howdens not long before the Palmers bought the house, needed very little work initially but has become their main focus as they embark on their biggest project to date. A leaky conservatory and an extension added in the 1990s were recently demolished to make way for a larger dining kitchen and a new utility room.
“The kitchen had no window to the outside because it looked into the extension and the conservatory was either too hot or too cold. We’re taking down two walls and adding bi-fold doors across the back of the house. Where the conservatory stood will become a utility room with a more solid roof,” adds Jenny.
Although she is still drawing up plans for the reconfiguration of the kitchen, it will have plenty of space for a dining table and she plans to add to the existing units. As both Jenny and Matthew have been working from home since March, the dining room will be repurposed as an office.
When Jenny began charting the renovation of her home on her “Jen at the villa” Instagram profile, she rapidly gained a following – over 3,800 at the last count – but insists she has no plans to turn her passion for interiors into a career.
“It’s easy to feel pressured to have the newest, best and most on-trend, so I have stepped back from Instagram a little. I set up my page so I could look back at the work we’ve done in chronological order, but it just grew and grew. I enjoy using Instagram for inspiration and it has given me so many ideas – you just have to keep it balanced.”
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