We never planned to look at the little cottage we ended up buying, but instead were considering the craftsman home across the street. We toured it one evening in early summer, but for some reason after walking through the house, I went out on the front porch by myself and just got super anxious. The place just didn’t fit. It wasn’t right. And I just had an uneasy feeling about it. Not to mention it was quite a bit over our budget. I stood on the porch and looked out across the street, and for the first time in three years of living in the area, really saw our cottage for the first time. I knew the owner was wanting to sell it, but I hadn’t ever really even thought about it before. It didn’t fit the mold of my typical “farmhouse,” it was in pretty bad shape and looked awfully small from the outside. But standing there that night, something changed. After walking through a huge old house that would be an unbelievable amount of work, something about a sweet little cottage sounded mighty appealing.
I mentioned it to Taylor later that night as we recapped our thoughts on the house we had looked at, and we ended up calling the owner to inquire about the cottage the very next morning. And, well, the rest is history! As soon as the wheels were in motion, I dug deep into researching cottage-style homes and just fell in love with the cozy style. I knew that with my Dad’s help, a LOT of hard work, and a little vision, we could really bring this cute little place back to life.
So, here are a few of my design ideas, room by room. Now that the house is mostly put back together, it’s a bit easier to imagine some of these things playing out eventually. There was a time, as I waded through piles of plaster and yanked 55,000 nails out of the studs, that I thought this destruction faze might never end. But here we are! Moved in and on to the decor phase. Let’s dive in!
When we first walked in to the cottage, through the back door, I immediately knew my first move would be to convert the existing hallway + bathroom into a mudroom. Despite the aesthetic beauty of the farmhouse we lived in for the last three years, one of it’s greatest flaws has been the fact that the laundry is in the basement. Let me just tell you that doing laundry for a farmer (aka MUD), a tiny human and myself, TWO FULL STORIES from where the clothes belong is no joke. Not to mention that basement was dark, dirty, smelly, filled with water half of the year and played host to several species of creatures. Now that I have a functioning laundry room RIGHT off the main living area, I keep telling Taylor that I’ll never ever take doing laundry for granted again. Mark my words. It has CHANGED MY LIFE.
Though the mudroom will probably stay in “phase one” for a while (washer + dryer, a space for a utility sink and a freezer outlet), eventually I’d love to put in a butcher block countertop over the washer and dryer, a large farmhouse utility sink, stand-up freezer and some built-in pantry space. I’d also love to build some lockers with hooks and space for muddy farmer boots as well. My dad had an extra door that we were able to return and swap out for a different one with a big window, so in addition to replacing the existing aluminum window, we were able to add a bunch of light to the little room. I’d love to paint the door at some point and maybe replace the inexpensive vinyl floors we put in, but for now, I could not be happier. I keep telling everyone it’s my favorite room in the house.
Of all the rooms in the house, I think the kitchen was the first place where I felt really inspired by cottage-style design. In fact, I feel like the idea of doing a kitchen with British cottage elements is really what opened my eyes to the possibility of this house in the first place. That and the ability to have a big English cottage-style garden. So dreamy.
Anyway, the main elements of a good British cottage that I really wanted to capture are: farmhouse sink, butcher block counters, good light, painted cabinets, cup pulls, warm wood floors and an overall cozy feeling. I knew I wouldn’t be working with a huge space, but I wanted it to feel really functional and usable. I love spending time in the kitchen after all, and I do a lot of it, so I wanted to make sure it was a space I really loved. We don’t have the funds for a major overhaul at this point, so while I’d love to rip out the soffit above our cabinets and put in open shelving, for now we just gave the cabinets a nice fresh coat of white paint, replaced the countertops, sink and added a new dishwasher and fridge. The range is old and rusty, but we’ve got a shiny new model picked out, we just need to save up for it.
I’m wasn’t courageous enough to paint my cabinets the sage-y green I admire online so much, but I think white was the best choice for blending in with that soffit. The kitchen doesn’t have the best light, so I feel like bright white will be a better option for making things as airy as possible. I scored a big, beautiful 30″ apron sink on Craigslist for over 50% off retail and let me tell you, I am LOVING it. We purchased a new faucet and our butcher block from IKEA and both are really, really lovely.
The cottage’s dining room and living room became one with the removal of the two walls, and it has made the space feel so much bigger and better! My Dad had the idea to remove all of the rounded ceiling corners and an extra layer of plaster, and overall we have gained almost two inches of height. I’m not always into open-concept living spaces, but it really works well in this little house. The addition of the french doors has made a HUGE difference in the visual appeal of the room as well, and I am so looking forward to living our lives in this space.
We still have two faux beams that need to be finished and mounted on the ceiling to cover the areas where we took out walls, but that ended up low on the pre-move-in priority list.
My basic requirement for this living area was BRIGHT and spacious. I’m a person who needs good light for their mental health, so opening things up, painting everything with a fresh coat of warm white, and accenting the large window was my main priority. We ended up just painting the fireplace white for now, as we weren’t sure (and didn’t have the budget) to figure out what we’d like to do with it long term, and it’s a marked improvement on the dingy old brick. I missed having a working fireplace so much in our last place, so even though I probably wouldn’t have picked a wood stove, it’s been really nice to have.
There are technically three bedrooms, but we’ll be using one as a den/guest room with a sleeper sofa, so really it’s mostly the master and Emmett’s room to consider. I didn’t have too lofty of a vision for bedrooms- your basic white walls and trim, hardwood floors and schoolhouse light fixtures. Obviously the master and Emmett’s room will have different vibes, and will take a while to develop, and I’m excited to see where we end up!
We didn’t end up getting to the downstairs bathroom remodel, being that we ran out of time, and since there was a functioning (albeit, UGLY) bathroom there, we decided to postpone the reno til spring. I definitely feel bummed, but I’m hoping that waiting a little bit means I can add a few design elements I wouldn’t have had time to do before- like more tile and a refinished antique clawfoot tub. Here’s hoping!
Before we remodeled, the upstairs was a dark, dingy, glorified attic space that had low popcorn ceilings and was only utilizing about 40% of the space. We took out the walls and ceilings, and went up into the vault of the roof, out to the very edges of the walls and put in all new beams and sister joists. We also turned two tiny bedrooms into one large kids bedroom, a small full bath and a lofted playroom area. The upstairs is probably the most dramatic transformation in the house, and most likely, the most valuable. Having an entire upstairs level dedicated to kiddos is going to be huge for us in this phase of life. Emmett is already loving his new playroom, and can’t wait to get settled in his new bedroom once we get the stair railing installed.
As far as design elements go, I knew I wanted some warehouse style pendant lights, exposed beams, lots of natural light and eventually, some cottage-style painted wood paneling. We’ve got one of three pendants in so far, still need to sand down our exposed beams and Taylor plans to add the paneling later on, but as far as natural light goes we are set!
Well, that’s the gist of it for now. I’ll try and post the last half of our reno photos sometime this week, I got behind! And then eventually we’ll do an “after” post. Though I always feel like it’s never truly “after” until a few years down the road. Anyway, thanks for following along! It’s sure fun to dream.