Interiors: An ugly duckling no longer...

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What was dubbed the ugliest house in the village is now the prettiest thanks to a stunning renovation. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.

Running a bespoke travel company may not seem like a good grounding for property renovation but the skills Lynn de Bruyn learned in the holiday business were perfectly transferable

Foxglove Cottage

Foxglove Cottage

Her organisational abilities, cool head in a crisis and her people skills helped enormously when she restored her own cottage in the beautiful village of Hutton Buscel, near Scarborough.

They also proved invaluable when she turned her attention to next door; a property that was dubbed “the ugliest house in the village”.

Lynn bought her home in 2002 after moving from Sussex. She had a colourful career that ranged from a spell with the Hong Kong police to working all over the world in the travel industry and was keen to put down roots.

“I wanted a cottage with a garden and this was it. It had been rented and was habitable but I did an awful lot of work to it, which I project managed,” she says.

Foxglove Cottage

Foxglove Cottage

She injected character and warmth into the cottage and went on to add a garden room, and to convert a shed into a sensational studio with platform bed and shower room. It is linked to the main house via a glazed extension.

When the property next door came on the market, she could see the potential to carry out an even more ambitious transformation. Her late fiancé Steve and daughter Hannah were equally excited by the idea.“I asked the opinion of an estate agent who said ‘it’s charmless,’ and someone else described it as ‘the ugliest house in the village’. I think we partly went for it because we felt sorry for it,” says Lynn.

It proved to be a big challenge, even though she had a great team of builders. Her first hurdle was planning permission to replace the modern rear extension with something more sympathetic. The property sits in the North York Moors National Park, where rules are more stringent.

“Although one side of the cottage and the front is stone-built, the rear was more of a lean-to, and built using reconstituted stone, so I applied to re-build that in local stone with lime mortar. I also wanted to realign and change the windows at the front,” she says.

Foxglove Cottage

Foxglove Cottage

When approval was given and work began, more issues were uncovered.

“We ended up gutting the whole building. It probably would have been quicker and cheaper to knock it down and rebuild it,” says Lynn. “Very little timber was salvageable and it was a surprise the roof hadn’t collapsed in on us. The timbers were so rotten, they were probably only held together by cobwebs.”

But as work progressed, a pretty cottage began to emerge .The old stone was revealed and repaired, the front windows were changed and the entrance treated to a porch, which is paved with original terracotta tiles, found when the ground floor was excavated.

The investment in handmade, double-glazed wooden windows, traditional roof tiles, reclaimed beams, and exterior woodwork painted in a Farrow and Ball National Trust colour, paid off.

Foxglove Cottage

Foxglove Cottage

“I knew how I wanted it to look and we didn’t scrimp at all” says Lynn, a keen gardener who also transformed the outside space.

The interior is stunning and the attention to detail remarkable. No expense was spared as Steve and Lynn’s initial plan was use it for themselves. However, since Steve passed away, she and Hannah decided to make it a luxury holiday let.

The décor reveals Lynn’s love of colour and texture, along with her passion for travel. The walls are painted in Farrow and Ball and Fired Earth, there are rugs from Crete, paintings from Scotland, art from Brazil and South Africa, Buddhas from Cambodia and a log basket from Sweden.

The kitchen cabinets are by John Lewis of Hungerford and there’s a Falcon range cooker.

The dining room has a tartan theme and boasts an antique table with vintage French chairs. Upstairs, the three bedrooms feature a combination of old and new furniture with beds from And So to Bed and James Brindley. The soft furnishings are exquisite and include throws from Graham and Green.

The project took 18 months to complete, largely due to planning delays.

“I remember one evening, after the builders had gone home, thinking ‘what have I done? How will I ever put it together again?’ Though I have to say that now I am really proud of what we’ve created.

“I found the renovation fun and not at all stressful. In the travel business you are used to reacting to situations quickly and finding solutions and, of course, dealing with people. This wasn’t that dissimilar,” says Lynn, who is now using her experience to project manage for others and to stage their holiday cottages.

“A lot of holiday cottages look quite bland and sterile but they don’t have to be that way. They look and let a lot better with character and colour,” she says.

“A high point for me was when one guest said she had never enjoyed going on holiday but this was the first place she had stayed where she didn’t want to go home.”

Foxglove Cottage is available to let through Yorkshire-based Gorgeous Cottages, For details on Lynn’s renovation and staging business,