At Home With Helen @cottagewithabluefrontdoor
This week I'm at home with Helen the lovely lady behind the home instagram account @cottagewithabluedoor where she shares wonderful images of her beautiful Grade 2 listed stone cottage. Read on to learn more about Helen, her home, lifestyle, and top tips for home styling.
Tell us about you
I’m Helen, and I’m a country girl at heart. I have a husband who is forever acquiescing to my decorating and DIY whims, two young children, and two Labradors. We live in a 18th Century stone cottage in a hamlet in Northamptonshire, surrounded by beautiful countryside.
Tell us about your home
Our home is a lovely little 18th Century stone cottage with a thatch roof. Inside there is a small kitchen, and then a dining room and lounge. We have a lot of character features that are beautiful but have needed some tender loving care to get them up to scratch. The house is Grade 2 Listed which can make some aspects of maintenance a little tricky. It feels such a privilege to be custodian of this house, but the responsibility sometimes can be overwhelming. We have a small garden that is well used by all of us. My father is a keen gardener and anything I have learned about gardening is from him. It is very much a work in progress.
How would you describe your home?
I have found decorating our cottage tricky at times. We want to respect and preserve the amazing character features, but we also want the house to function as a home for modern life. I would say we probably fit in the “modern country” category.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
This changes almost on a daily basis. The dining room has the most traditional features in it, a massive fireplace with a huge oak beam across it. It is absolutely beautiful, and very cosy. I love it in winter when we get the fire going.
The lounge feels a little lighter and perhaps more modern, and is the room that we all relax in, so it has many functions – a playroom, tv room, reading room, and doggy bedroom. It is probably the least photogenic as a result, but I love it nevertheless.
I love our hallway since we gave it a little face lift during lockdown, with some beautiful blue paint, panelling and some little decorative pieces. Our little cloakroom was very bland when we moved in. But I think we have made it so much more interesting and exciting after painting, panelling and putting up some artwork.
How does your home reflect any passions or interests?
We both grew up in coastal areas, so inevitably miss that living in the landlocked Midlands! We have tried to bring some coastal vibes to the cottage, but we obviously can’t go overboard as it would seem out of place given the surroundings. We also have tried to use some artwork and photos that reflect the rural surroundings. We all enjoy being out of doors, so we’ve tried to bring that love into the house.
What are your favourite items in the home?
The kettle and mugs, I can’t live without a good cup of tea. Furniture wise, it would be our bed, we spent a lot more than we usually would on a Loaf bed, and it was money well spent. One day I’d love a prettier sofa, but that will have to wait until the children stop using it as a trampoline. My new favourite thing is the floor, which we had laid in the dining room and lounge this year. It’s fabulous, and has brightened the downstairs up.
When you moved into your house was it the finished article or was it a project?
Luckily it didn’t need too much doing structurally (well, apart from repointing), but we needed to sort out the kitchen and bathrooms. They were functional, but quite a few corners were cut. We sorted the main bathroom within a year, and then the kitchen a couple of years later. Decorating is ongoing. If I’m honest, it has taken us a while to work out what suits the house, and us.
What renovation and decorating have you done?
We painted the whole place white when we moved in. All the walls and ceilings were a dark cream and it made it feel very dark and dingy. The doors and skirting boards were all stained a deep orangey-brown, and there was some poorly installed laminate floor downstairs. We do our own decorating, and painting. We have learned to tile, install new showers, sand, fill holes, caulk and a few other basic DIY skills. But we do leave more complex jobs to professionals.
Have you had any DIY or styling disasters?
I fell into the Instagram trap of painting a lot of woodwork in Downpipe – it was too dark, and definitely not my style. I now know that whites, blues and neutrals suit my tastes better.
What is your top home styling tip?
Don’t get seduced by Instagram fads, just stick to what you actually like. We took ages to work out the vibe for the house, I think we needed to live in it for a while to get the feel of the place.
Is there anything in your home that you couldn’t live without?
Kettle, teabags, and mugs.
They say that every home tells visitors a story about who lives there. What do you think your home says about you?
Oh gosh, it’s usually in a state of organised chaos. It probably reflects that we are a young family, with children and dogs and kicking madly beneath the surface to keep afloat!
The Home Edit
Lived-in or showhome?
I’d love it to be a little tidier, there’s always stuff that needs putting away. I think a lived-in look is more welcoming.
If you could only paint your walls one colour, which one would it be?
You cannot beat white, it doesn’t have to feel cold, or impersonal, some white shades are very warm and welcoming, and in a cottage with small windows and low ceilings, it works wonders.
What is your pet hate when it comes to your own or other’s homes?
I love my dogs, but I cannot stand the place smelling of them. I work pretty hard to hoover up all the hair and dander, and keep the sofas clean, and let lots of fresh air in. If all else fails I light scented candles!
Favourite front door colour?
Blue, of course.
Carpet or Floorboards?
Floorboards are great for downstairs, but carpets are nice in bedrooms.
Kitchen table dining or formal dining room?
We use our dining room for every meal as our kitchen doesn’t have a table in it. But it isn’t formal at all. It’s like an extension of the kitchen really.
High gloss or rustic?
Rustic. I’m not a very glossy shiny person.
Wallpaper or Brick Walls?
Probably brick or stone walls. But I do keep flirting with the idea of wallpaper.
If you enjoyed being at home with Helen, 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 view more of these "at home with" articles here
Catch up with Helen's instagram account here. It's well worth a look!