Small is beautiful

PUBLISHED: 17:50 10 February 2014 | UPDATED: 17:51 10 February 2014




Little Cote at Old Newton, could be the perfect country retreat. Jayne Lindill meets its owners who have lovingly restored this simple Suffolk farm cottage

Steve Herbert and Cherry Sandford lived opposite Little Cote in Old Netwon near Stowmarket for eight years before they came to own the Grade II listed cottage.

It had been home to an elderly lady who had lived there in seclusion for many years, explained Cherry. When it became available they made ‘a cheeky offer’ and to their surprise and delight it was accepted.

The cottage, one of a number that once belonged to a local farm, was unimproved but not unloved.

“Structurally it was sound,” said Cherry. “It just needed bringing up to date and decorating to create the right feel, with the right colours, paint, floor coverings and lighting.”

Cherry’s being modest. The 16th century timber framed farm worker’s cottage is indeed well built – characteristically solid, simple and without adornment it has stood the test of time.

But the ‘before’ pictures clearly reveal the transformation that Cherry and Steve have worked. They’ve created a home that’s modern and comfortable yet still retains the original character of a modest country home, for it’s unlikely Little Cote would ever have been a wealthy man’s dwelling.

The couple spent over three years renovating the property and did much of the work themselves, relying on their own instincts for how the house should look and feel, how the various rooms and spaces could work and how it sits in its surroundings. They’ve left the basic layout of the house intact, but as they’re currently renting it as a holiday cottage they’ve made some modifications to keep the accommodation flexible.

The hub of the house is the cosy living room, with its huge inglenook fireplace in which Cherry and Steve have installed >>
>> a wood burning stove to supplement the underfloor heating they installed themselves. The fireplace has a truly massive bressumer beam and it’s on the ground floor that you can really appreciate the quality of the timbers used to build the house. They’re substantial to say the least, enormous horizontal and vertical beams some of which span more than one room and which Cherry and Steve scrubbed to reveal their mellow, aged beauty.

On the first floor are two bedrooms and a spacious Victorian style bathroom, but there is also a ‘snug’ downstairs, a room for reading and relaxing, which can double as a third bedroom when required. To complement this they’ve also installed a shower room.

The house is decorated in a subtle palette of country hues – muted greens, stone and fawn. “Steve knows the entire Farrow and Ball range of colours,” said Cherry. They’ve used coir floor coverings throughout, apart from wet areas and Vanessa Arbuthnot fabrics for blinds, including a delightful swift design upstairs to mark the fact that a pair of the birds made the roof space their summer home.

The house is furnished with a collection of vintage comfy chairs and sofas, occasional tables, bookcases, dressers and other assorted items, most of them bought at auction rooms and lovingly restored by Cherry and Steve.

“It’s a bit addictive, actually,” admits Cherry, “and we have to keep an eye on each other!”

The couple are heavily into their garden. Cherry is a garden designer, while Steve swapped a 20-year career with a bank to train in horticulture. The past 14 years has worked for The Place for Plants at East Bergholt.

As you’d expect, the cottage garden is a delight, but there’s the added bonus of an adjoining meadow, which Cherry and Steve have planted with hornbeam, pyrus chanticleer, oaks, sorbus and an orchard of greengage, apples and pears. It flowers with everything from cowslips and ox-eye daisies, to a spectacular display of pyramid orchids. “It’s a motorway of bees in the summer,” says Cherry. Hens run around the property and the views go for miles.

It’s a rural idyll – I could have moved in there and then.

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