Home makeover: a cottage in Helmsley

The bedroom with Farrow and Ball's Hague Blue on the wall behind the bed.
The bedroom with Farrow and Ball's Hague Blue on the wall behind the bed.
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Jackie Cahoon has made the perfect escape to the country in this cottage. Heather Dixon reports. Pictures by Dave Burton

Jackie Cahoon always looked forward to escaping the pace of London living and heading to her sister’s house in North Yorkshire.

The abstract painting is by Jackie and matches the colour scheme

The abstract painting is by Jackie and matches the colour scheme

“I love the outdoors and would head for the hills at every opportunity,” she says. “I hadn’t considered making it more permanent until my sister, who runs the

holiday company Gorgeous Cottages, told me about this one which had come up for sale in Helmsley. She said it would be perfect for me.”

Jackie loved the stone-built house the moment she saw the pretty, flower filled garden at the front and the private, sunny courtyard at the back.

It was the perfect size, with a second bedroom for her young daughter and visiting friends and family and a light, open plan ground floor stretching front to back.

The new kitchen with shelves instead of wall cupboards.

The new kitchen with shelves instead of wall cupboards.

“I spent a whole weekend looking around 20 houses and this was the first one I came to see and the smallest of them all, but I liked it the most,” says Jackie. “It had been empty for two years and seemed very dark and bland, with the walls and carpet all looking the same, but I saw that as a blank canvas. I could put my own stamp on it and fill it with colour.”

Jackie was keen to give her new home some character, but first she wanted to redesign the west-facing garden. “I thought I could do that first and give the

plants time to mature while I worked on the house,” she says.

Doing a lot of the work herself, Jackie turned the small patch of dark gravel and flower borders into a practical patio, laying outdoor tiles and gravel and creating painted breezeblock raised beds for easy planting. She painted the existing fence panels and added horizontal boarding to raise the height and make the area as private as possible.

Jackie has transformed the courtyard garden.

Jackie has transformed the courtyard garden.

Jackie completed the look with ornamental pots and a seat where she spends hours reading in the sunshine.

“I wanted it to be very low maintenance,” she says “I also added a table and chairs – it’s the perfect spot for al fresco meals.”

With the courtyard done Jackie turned her attention to the house. Her first job was to remove a small cloakroom at the back of the property and incorporate the

space into the main living area.

Coco cottage in Helmsley

Coco cottage in Helmsley

A local builder removed a wall and installed a lintel to open up the space. The house was fitted with old ugly storage heaters so Jackie had underfloor electric heating installed and laid floorboards on top.

The kitchen was next on her list. “I liked the U-shape because it’s so practical, but I replaced the dated units and a bar area with new cupboards, widening the

kitchen by a foot to create a bit more working space.”

Jackie chose open shelves instead of wall units so the kitchen area didn’t feel closed in.

“The cottage itself is a modern house so I felt the interior needed to be bright and modern to match the essence of the building,” she says.

Unsure where to start, but knowing she wanted to introduce plenty of bold colours, Jackie turned to a local interior designer, Natalie Davies, for help.

Natalie redesigned the bathroom, stripping out the dated fittings and replacing a standard old fashioned bath with a modern walk-in shower.

She also helped Jackie to choose modern furniture to fit the scale and proportions of the house.

“I didn’t want the furniture to look so big that it dominated every room,” says Jackie. “Neither did I want it to look sparse, or cluttered with too many small

pieces of furniture. It was quite a hard balance to achieve.”

Installing a wood burning stove helped to bring some focus in the sitting area and Jackie hung a large abstract canvas over the sofa to pull the colours of the

room together.

“These few basic items brought balance and focus to the ground floor and then I just carried the use of colour upstairs says Jackie, who now runs the house as a

holiday let between using it herself for “escape” weekends.

“The Farrow & Ball Hague Blue wall in the main bedroom is one of my favourite colours – it’s a large room and the bed gives it a modern, stylish edge.

Sher picked up the rich Hague Blue shade in the bedding and drawers to create a stylish, cosy bedroom. The bed is from Blue Suntree and mdrawers from Made.com. Jackie found the black and white print on Etsy.com and introduced splashes of yellow in the cushions. The blind mwasade by Natalie Davies Interior Design with Shangri-la fabric by Designers Guild.

The second bedroom is small so Jackie thought vertically and bought bunk beds from Aspace to make best use of the limited square footage. She added a colourful chest of drawers from Maisons du Monde and a rug from The Range. The blind is made from Flamingo Park fabric by Designers Guild b

“Once Natalie showed me the way with the overall scheme, I found it a lot easier to buy accessories and introduce soft furnishings to complete the look of the house. It’s transformed the whole place and I love being here. It’s definitely small but perfectly formed.”

Useful Contacts

Jackie’s cottage, Coco in Helmsley, is available as a holiday let from www.gorgeouscottages.com; Natalie Davies interior design 01423 324179 www.nataliedaviesinteriors.co.uk; Homesense www.homesense.com; We Love Cushions www.welovecushions.co.uk; Ulster Weavers ulsterweavers.com; Wireworks wireworks.co.uk; Maisons du Monde www.maisonsdumonde.com; Lighting Styles www.lightingstyles.co.uk Charnwood www.charnwood.com; Blue Suntree www.bluesuntree.co.uk; Aspace aspace.co.uk; www.stonebutterfly.co.uk