At Home With Abby @another_old_school_house
This week we are at home with Abby, the lovely lady from the US now based in Devon who is the owner of the behind the popular and very entertaining instagram account @another_old_school_house
Abby marries sustainability with interior design and posts lovely images of her beautiful home as well as pretty pictures of the Devon countryside, and not forgetting some potty mouthed rants to keep it interesting! You have been warned!!
Tell us a bit about you
I moved to Devon almost about 17 years ago from the US, (please don’t judge me, not all Americans are boobs). After living in Exeter for several years, we bought this house about 3 years ago. We fell in love with the house but also with the area. We’re in a rural village just minutes away from Totnes. The South Hams has the most beautiful countryside and there is just no other area I would rather live.
I have two grown daughters and a grandson whom I’ve recently decorated a bedroom for, after my youngest daughter moved out. I’m secretly hoping that he’ll decide to run away from home and come live with me forever! Although I must say now that the kids are gone it’s nice to be able to have my chocolate stash out in the open and finally be able to walk around in my pants all day, if I so choose.
Tell us about your home
Our home was built in 1890 by the local school board as a house for the school master. Various school master’s lived here until the 1950’s when it was no longer required as a home for the headteacher and became an annex to the school. It was finally sold off in 1996 as a private residence. When we bought the house, we were given a folder by the local historical society containing information about the house, all the school masters and their tenure. My favourite was Miss Gwendoline Hull, who was the headteacher from 1923 to 1949. She was remembered for having two terriers called Fife and Buzzy Banjo and keeping a pot of vegetable soup in the kitchen to warm the children who had to walk from a quarry miners’ village about 2 miles away. The children would come to the back door and the house keeper would let them into the kitchen to have their soup before walking over to the school. How nice is that?
How would you describe your home?
I’m not sure there is a specific style to it really. I love rustic, traditional, farmhouse and English country styles. My house is probably a bit of all of those. I prefer the elegantly knackered look.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
My favourite room in the house is the dining room. There’s just something about that room. It feels unchanged. It’s got “Mood”. It also has a very distinct woody smell of an old house. In a good way! Not the damp, mouldy, dead mice under the floorboards kind of way.
How does your home reflect any passions or interests that you have?
I’m passionate about sustainability and the environment and my house reflects that. I always choose natural organic materials like linen, organic cotton, sisal, jute, bamboo and wood. As a result, the house has a very organic feel to it.
Most things in my home are second hand. If I must buy something new, I try to consider the environmental impact and sustainable aspects of that product. Is it made from environmentally friendly and responsibly sourced materials? Is it ethically produced? Is it local? Is it supporting a small independent business?
What are your favourite items in the home?
My absolute favourite item is my bureau with the glass cabinet top. I found it on gumtree for £40. I originally sourced it for a friend who had it for 3 weeks and decided she didn’t like it. So, I bought it back from her. I painted it a pale sage green, distressed it and then antiqued it with a dark wax. Thank god for friends with bad taste and no imagination, I say! I have a long list of covetous buyers for that piece if I ever tire of it.
When you moved into your house was it the finished article or was it a project?
Oh it was a project. The least vulgar description would be to say that it was a hole of unpleasant, festering filth. Everything was falling apart. To put it mildly.
Have you done any renovation?
We replaced the roof, restored the original sash windows, replaced external doors, had the chimneys reopened and repaired, repaired the outbuildings, sanded floor boards, painted walls, re-plastered, renovated the bathroom and on and on and on.
Most of the cosmetic stuff we did ourselves, but renovation and repair works were done by professionals. I haven’t really gained any new skills, but I’ve learned that if I do a half-baked job, my husband will take over. I half-bake everything now.
Have you had any DIY or styling disasters?
Yes. The worst was after 3 days of sanding floorboards we applied a medium oak stain. I hated it. My husband said we had to live with it because he wasn’t re-sanding the floorboards. I cried. He re-sanded the floor boards.
What is your top home styling tip?
Let your home evolve. Don’t rush to furnish everything in one hit with a bunch of soulless generic items. Be patient. Take your time and find what you love and is right for your space. I once waited over 2 years to find the perfect wardrobe.
Is there anything in your home that you couldn’t live without?
My family. Everything else is just stuff.
They say that a every home tells visitors a story about who lives there. What do you think your home says about you?
That’s a subjective question. It may say that I’m a relaxed and casual person who loves candles and books.
Or it may say that I’m a cranky cow that uses scented candles to hide a flatulence problem and prefers reading to socialising. HAHAHA! I guess it depends on the interpretation of the person who enters it.
The Home Edit
The lived-in look or showhome?
Lived in, of course.
If you could only paint your walls one colour, which one would it be?
What is your pet hate when it comes to your own or other’s homes?
Rooms that look like they were plucked out of a Next catalogue.
Favourite front door colour
No idea. Totally dependent on the house, I think.
Carpet or Floorboards
Floorboards. Every time.
Kitchen table dining or formal dining room?
Both. Anyone that says they don’t want both is full of manure.
High gloss or rustic?
Wallpaper or Brick Walls?
Both! Can I have both? I don’t have any exposed brick walls in my house, but I do love the look.
If you enjoyed being at home with Abby, you might like to take a look inside other popular home styling accounts on instagram and find out more about the people behind them. You can see more of these "at home with" interviews here