Owner Lynn de Bruyn tells the story of how she transformed the ‘ugliest house in the village’ into a stunning luxury cottage.
We bought Foxglove Cottage in Hutton Buscel (close to the Yorkshire Coast) back in 2007, much against the advice of everyone in the village including my Estate Agent, which is a first. They said it was “charmless, the ugliest house in the village”! Quite the hard sell then… I can’t say we fell in love with it. We bought it more out of convenience, which when you stop to think about it is not the greatest rational for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds.
From day 1, I knew it was going to be a challenge to transform it into what we hoped would be a beautiful luxury cottage.
The building had probably been used as an animal shelter at the start of its life, although I doubt it was built along the same lines as barn; certainly it didn’t immediately feel like it had been one huge space anyway. At some point in 19xx it was converted into a home, with two bedrooms, moving on through various owners for many years.
I’d like to say it had been loved, but when we got hold of it the feeling was it was sorely in need of attention. Not because it was falling down; far from it.
Previous to us, there had been quite a major refurbishment in order to put it on the market. But, it had been a DIY project on a very limited budget and to our eyes, nothing was worth saving. Although one side of the cottage and the front is stone built, the rear was more of a lean-to, and built using reconstituted brick blocks. The windows were an eyesore, as well as being unaligned on the front elevation. Made you feel ever so slightly drunk looking at it face on!
Getting to work…
We first applied for planning permission in 2007 but it wasn’t granted until 2008, and mid-refurbishment we had to re-apply… but that’s another story and one I’m not prepared to relive just at present. The interior décor was, how do you say, “extremely dated”? So we gutted the whole building and began from scratch.
The further my builders took it apart, the more we could see how little we were left to work with – it probably would have been quicker, and cheaper to knock it down and rebuild it. Ah hindsight! 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 being held together by cobwebs!
The new plans…
The exterior stonework meant with a bit of tidying up there was a “princess” under the “urchin’s dirt” so to speak. As it was transformed into looking like a character luxury cottage, we did wonder if someone had whisked away the old building in the night and replaced it with a new “popup cottage”. We converted the front elevation bedroom windows into gables, and the entrance now has a lovely porch, which is paved with the original terracotta floor tiles, found whilst excavating the ground floor of the cottage. The exterior is made of stone, handmade double-glazed wooden windows, old fashioned roof tiles and galvanised steel guttering etc., with lead flashing. All the exterior wood has been painted in a mellow Farrow & Ball National Trust colour, and this blends in gently with the stonework.
Because we live within the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, we naturally had to abide by rather rigid building requirements. I think its important to be sympathetic to the bones of a character property, although by the time we salvaged what was worth saving, there was very little of the skeleton left to work with!
The local stone is quite similar to that of the Cotswolds, a lovely mellow honey colour, and I sourced that, the oak beams, and oak flooring from a fabulous reclamation yard on the Yorkshire Moors, with whom I’ve worked with in the past. I also sourced beautiful roof tiles from a fairly local family company who specialises in a tile, brick and stone matching service.
As far as the interior is concerned, I gave in to my passions for colour and texture! We love to travel and rarely, if ever, return without plundering the local markets and shops for design ideas and treasures! Inside there is lots of Farrow & Ball and Fired Earth walls and woodwork… We laid oak floor and old quarry tiles on the ground floor and a wool carpet on the stairs leading up to and including the bedrooms.
The bespoke kitchen is made by John Lewis of Hungerford. It has an oak work surface, which is set off by simple, Fired Earth handmade tiles, dotted with a handful of foundry iron inserts, to add a little interest – and to top it off, a Falcon Range cooker for those who love to cook!
Foxgloves took about 1.5 years to get to a finished state (there were delays due to planning) . I had never before completely gutted a building, and I remember one evening, after the builders had gone home, standing, alone, in this dark cavern, thinking ‘…oh what have I done?’ – and how will I ever put it together again! Though I have to say now I am really proud of what we’ve created, a truly unique luxury cottage near the Yorkshire Coast.
Find out more about Foxglove Cottage
Take a look at all of our Luxury Cottages on the Yorkshire Coast