Episode 5: HOLIDAY COTTAGES • Interior Design Masters, BBC & Netflix
Adding love and magic to a bland two-bedroom lodge to create a luxury home-from-home country retreat.
In week five we headed to a beautiful wooded site in the Lincolnshire Wolds. The challenge was to transform brand new country lodges set around a fishing lake.
This task was all about adding heart, soul and a bit of magic into perfectly nice, but rather bland holiday cottages. They needed to feel welcoming, homely and comfortable yet luxurious. A home from home, but upgraded experience. In these uncertain times, I’ve noticed a trend in interiors for personal-feeling, intimate spaces with vintage, nostalgic and bespoke touches. It was also key that the lodge reflected and complemented the beautiful woodland setting. My aim? To create a calm, happy and relaxing space.
This brief focussed not just on interior decorating, but resourceful sourcing and great styling – adding love to every room. I was in my element. Previously we had only one room or space to design. This week we had a whole lodge to design and fill. But it was also going to be a challenge achieving the high end, luxury look on a super tight budget.
We had to work under pressure. Making decisions quickly. With a unified brief, design and team.
Budget £3500. Two days transformation. One week design, source and purchasing prep.
AFTER - My twin room (scroll down to see before)
The owners would like the designer to create something spectacular with country charm and touches of farmhouse style. A property that appeals to those seeking a tranquil break to enjoy the simple pleasures in life and reconnect with nature. A traditional and classic retreat design that evokes an atmospheric snug with luxury cabin feel.
Careful consideration to the area and the natural surroundings should be at the heart of the new scheme, with final designs respecting and reflecting the setting.
• Transformative, peaceful, quality home-away-from home with a luxe country feel.
• Sympathetic design that gives careful consideration to the setting
• Careful material choices that add interest and texture whilst balancing practicality and durability.
• A refined colour palette and traditional motifs and decorative patterns that allow for a calming sense of luxury with no bright dominating shades.
Additional challenge: the clients would like to see one bespoke memorable object or set-up in the design. That ‘Instagrammable’ distinctive piece that helps market the business via social media.
I was partnered with the lovely Ju. We were each allocated a bedroom to design. I had the twin bedroom. Ju, the master bedroom. We also had the kitchen, dining, and lounge area to transform, PLUS the outdoor space. It was a lot of work and our biggest challenge to date in terms of sheer scale and volume versus time.
This was the first time we had NOT been given the brief before being put into teams. This meant no prior individual prep or ideas at all. The good thing? It meant that we both started with fresh eyes on the design – together. The bad thing? With no prior prep there was very little time to design and source – especially for so many items for so many rooms.
A further twist. Each team was given a different target market. Our brief was for the more discerning older guest. The other team were commissioned to create a venue for 30-plus all-girl weekend escape and hen parties.
My style is not traditional ‘country’ but I do love mixing vintage and contemporary pieces. I am also experienced in styling and sourcing. This task was right up my street and I was really happy with the results.
HOW WE WORKED
We agreed we would not have a project leader. It was essential that we worked as a team and listened to each other to nail the design quickly. I am happy to say that is exactly what we did.
I am incredibly ambitious in what I want to achieve with my designs. The reality of a TV show is that time is super-tight. You simply do not have the time or budget to do what you would do in real life. I like to rethink spaces and push boundaries – so it was hard scaling that instinct back. One of the things I learnt from my fellow designers was to compromise on aspects of the design in order to finish on time. I think we became a good team on that basis. I pushed her to really go for it and made much more of the space than maybe she initially dared – and she made me wind it in. We met in the middle. I think we really appreciated each other for that.
For example, we had great plans to panel the chalet. I would have loved to have seen these battens on the ceilings as well as the walls to complete the authentic look. We also wanted to add panels to all the kitchen cupboard doors to give them the country Shaker look. However, half-way through the prep week we realised the sheer scale of the task. With only two days in which to do absolutely everything, we had to scale things back. The panelled ceilings and kitchen cupboards had to go. The battens on the walls stayed, however, and I am so pleased they did.
In the prep week, we worked around the clock. We were on video conference to each other from the moment we got up to the time we went to bed. We spent the whole time individually shopping, snapping photos and Face timing each other. It was seriously intense. But I loved it.
The first challenge was agreeing the style and tone of the design. We started off with some research. What were the expectations of 40plus clients when it came to a country retreat? What sort of space would they like to stay in? We asked family and friends for their must-haves and it soon became very clear that although the brief said traditional, that their target market did not want an old-fashioned look. Today, everyone is design-literate and expects a high-end, style-conscious finish. Our design would have to strike a balance between creating traditional country charm, yet also feel stylish in a way that suited the contemporary building we were working in.
We wanted our new-build lodge to feel rustic, authentic and full of character. When life is frantic, simple pleasures are a luxury. It needed to look eclectic yet expertly pulled-together. Mixing carefully chosen vintage pieces and chic accessories would give a freshness and charm.
CREATING A COHESIVE WHOLE
We worked on our bedrooms individually but the rest of the chalet as a whole. However, it was important that the whole lodge felt consistent. Ju and I conferred the whole time on our designs. We could not look at this as a competition. If we wanted to keep off the dreaded sofa hot seat, then all the rooms had to work together.
• Panelling walls to add character
My bedroom design included panelling battens on the walls to give the walls character and texture. We then adapted this idea to work through the rest of the chalet. Ju also choose to use this idea in her bedroom too. It was a great design decision as it started to give our chalet a cohesive feel.
• A calming colour palette
A key part of the brief was to create a tranquil and calm space – reflecting the setting. We chose to work with a palette of calming greens. We chose smokey green greys such as Green Smoke from @farrowandball and complemented it with the peaceful and soft light green-grey of Cromarty @farrowandball.
We used these colours throughout the chalet to help give the chalet a consistent look. From the two-tone kitchen, to the colour blocking in the lounge and through to the bedrooms.
• Wallpaper designs reflecting nature
Another aspect of the design brief was that the design had to reflect the lodges’ beautiful setting. We decided to work towards a vision of ‘bringing the outside in’. We both choose beautiful hand-illustrated wallpapers. Mine was a big woodland mural, Bellewood by Rebel Walls @rebelwalls. I papered the wall to the highest ceiling point to make the most of the full scale mural. I loved the way the magical woodland image on the wall then transformed into the real thing through the adjacent window in the real world as the eye scanned the room.
Scroll across for more AFTER / BEFORE'S of Ju's beautiful master bedroom
It is all in the details: We both changed the handles on cupboards and drawers to reflect the wildlife. I picked bees, Ju fish.
• Fabric, textures and furniture
We found a cosy yet elegant wool plaid sofa on Gumtree and comfortable chairs online. They formed the basis for a mix of patterns and textures. We used traditional ticking fabrics and gingham, and filled the chalet with layers of cosy sheepskins, rattan and weave for texture.
As the lodges were based around a fishing lake we wanted to include a subtle nod to its heritage through styling and accessories. We used accessories such as fishing baskets, rods and nets as well as some fishing hats. I printed pictures of fish I found via Google and framed them in frames I found in charity shops. We discovered other items in flea-markets, auction sites, a boot sale and local markets. We followed the same styling through to both of our bedrooms. We also included lots of faux flowers which are perfect in a holiday home as they don’t have to be replaced every week. Today’s faux blooms are a million miles away from old-fashioned fake flowers. I love @helloflora plants and flowers in my own home. Flowers and plants make such a difference in making a house feel like a home and we were keen for our chalet to have a real home-from-home feel – as in the brief.
Click to scroll across for more BEFORE pictures.