A great find for you this week. We are always discussing the blending of old and new on these pages and how to pull it off to best advantage, and this week I have found you a 17th century cottage with a modern interior that, like last week, is not in London – not even close – but up in Cheshire, in the north west. So if you live with low ceilings and wonky floors and crave modern design while despairing that everything is very London-focused then Walk This Way (name that tune – it’s here if you want to but Jane it’s quite loud so be warned).
It’s on with The Modern House for £1.7m and that brings me to the next point – no it’s not cheap and that’s because in the eternal triangle of interior design where the points are Good, Cheap, Fast, you can have two but you can’t have three. You can have cheap and fast but it might not be the quality you want. You can have good and fast but you will have to pay for it. And if you want good and cheap? Well let the rest of us know where you find it.
It is lived in by the architect owner and set in a pretty cottage garden with views of fields and woodlands. For the international audience, it’s about 30 minutes by train from Manchester and under two hours from London. This award-winning renovation has been done by Annabelle Tugby Architects, who specialise in modern living arrangements in period homes.
Shall we start in the kitchen (a very good place to start – and another, quieter tune for you this time). This kitchen is just over 15ft wide (4.74m) which is about as wide as my entire terrace house but also gives you an idea of the space you might have if you do live in a terrace and want to fill in the side return to create. full width kitchen.
And immediately you can see the mix of period and modern with the wooden beams in the ceiling and exposed metal ceiling joists and the black metal doors framing the view. The heavy curtains soften that metal while the AGA contrasts with the sleek modernity of the units.
This is all about natural textures and a natural colour palette – when you have this many different materials – birch ply and old wood, brick and steel, glass and metal you don’t want to bring in too many colours of you will end up with, in modern terms – a hot mess. If you don’t have an award-winning architect or designer on hand you need to keep it simple to make it work – choose texture or colour but, unless you are very confident of what you are doing don’t have both. I’m absolutely not saying you can’t have both I’m saying you need to take it slowly and build it up.
There are so many different materials in this house that if you added a mass of floral curtains – even if it was a country-style William Morris, the eye wouldn’t know where to go and the design wouldn’t appear to hang together as there would be too much going on.
Come with me into the sitting room for a minute and you will see what I mean. Here the colour palette is still small but there are fewer textures vying for your attention – the beams have been painted the match the ceiling which, in turn matches the plaster wall and the flooring is a plain neutral. This is a shell in which you could add floral curtains and more colour if you wished. Do you see the difference between all the materials in the kitchen and in here.
It’s possible that the owner kept the colours simple, not just for personal taste reasons, but also not to distract from the view outside the windows – and that is another thing to bear in mind. If the view from your best room is over a car park or a busy road then you might want to amp up the decor inside to distract from what is going on outside. It’s a balance but here the furniture recedes into the background allowing you to notice the pictures on the wall and the house plants which, in turn, take your eye to the view beyond.
And talking of the view, we need to go outside to get to the home office so let’s step outside. And this, this is what I want. I have spoken before about how, if I were building a side return I might create a fabulous pantry rather than widening the kitchen and if I wasn’t building or extending at all then I would definitely love a glass house like this over my urban side return. This would be my home office of dreams and, in fact, you could even create similar without the glass – wooden beams with vines trailing over might not be rainproof but it would be lovely and shady on a hot day.
And then you could wander over here for lunch. You know how people say there’s always one element that sold them a house. This, for me, would be the selling point of this one. Although let’s have a look at that home office.
Once again it’s all about the texture. The outside is perfectly in keeping with the rural surroundings while inside, once again, there is a mix of modern ply cupboards and a smooth concrete or resin floor with the rusty looking beams and pitted butchers block table in the centre.
Below you can even see a row of super modern office chairs around a new table. It might not be to your personal taste but it’s a great example of how to mix old and new and that is what makes for the most successful interiors. Whether it’s a vintage stool in a sleek fitted bathroom or an antique chair next to a modern sofa the best interiors are those which blend both to create character. Sometimes it’s called tension – the paradox being that good decorative tension makes for more interesting and relaxing spaces.
I’ll leave you with this rather lovely bathroom – you can see the rest of the bedrooms and other spaces here at the link. What do you think? Helpful to see a mix of old and new? Fancy trying it yourself?