Liz Howe transforms her Cotswold Cottage

PUBLISHED: 15:23 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 08:57 21 February 2013

dining room

dining room

Liz Howe's 17th-century cottage has been transformed into a beautiful and welcoming home

Soon after Liz Howe had moved from a Surrey suburb to a little country town in the Cotswolds she realised what such a move could entail. "I'd lit a log fire in the sitting room inglenook to welcome my sister down from London and to my horror smoke began to billow all over the room. I'd had the chimneys swept so couldn't understand it. Every window had to be flung open - in the middle of freezing weather too - and it was only when the sweep told me that I'd forgotten to open the smoke vent in the chimney that I realised my mistake."

Liz originally came to the town to buy some antique chairs and found the architecture so attractive she decided to move all the way there to start a new life. "As a property developer I was looking for a new project," she says.

"I heard a lovely old three-storey terraced house was coming on the market so popped a note through the door asking if I could see it. As a result I was invited round and as soon as I walked into the sitting room I loved it because of the huge inglenook and ancient beams everywhere."

The house is thought to be 17th century, probably two cottages once, and is built of Cotswold stone - "in a lovely quiet street," says Liz. "I had a full survey done which showed it was structurally in fairly good order then on Christmas Eve two years ago I had a phone call clinching the deal. I moved into it in March 2007 with my two labradors Mars and Skye."

An old lady had lived there for nearly 30 years so the improvements needed were, says Liz, "not for the faint-hearted. It was all rather dark and dingy and the kitchen was very old-fashioned with formica worktops." It was also grade 2 listed but luckily a previous owner had put in three bathrooms to cater for the four bedrooms so Liz avoided that particular hurdle.

However Liz did need listed building consent to turn a long narrow garage into a cloakroom and part of a breakfast room which involved levelling the floors and lime plastering the walls. She also needed it to shorten the lobby wall which blocked the light from a window into the sitting room as well as for replacing three 1960s galvanised iron windows in the kitchen. She even needed it for installing a flue for her remodelled Aga. As it was, she was without a cooker for five months while this came through - "so I had to live on salads rather a lot."

It took nine months in all for Liz to renovate and redecorate her new home. It meant insulating the roof, rewiring throughout, putting in a new kitchen and new bathroom suites and laying new floors. One was of wide oak planks throughout the sitting room and study to hide the ugly concrete screed and another was of Cotswold flagstones from the local quarry for the kitchen. The bathrooms too were given new oak floors.

"As for hands-on work I gave the main oak floor two coats of stain myself then polished it to give it an aged look," she says. "I also did some of the painting and decorating although Jo Gale of Tetbury did most of the house in Indian White by Dulux and luckily my nephew Harry Ball came to stay and helped by sand-blasting the black-painted beams on the top floor."

This top floor amounted to little more than storage space with a small bathroom and "an awful filthy old water tank," says Liz. It was opened right up to the roof but as this proved chilly Liz had a false ceiling put in although in such a way that all the old beams are still exposed.
"I also had to put an aerial on the roof for the tv," she smiles. "The old lady had a tv but I can't think she ever watched it as when mine was placed in the same spot it couldn't get any reception at all."

Many period features such as the window shutters had long since vanished so Liz had the clever idea of having shutter frames made by a local carpenter which then had linen stretched over them, sewn by a helpful neighbour.

However Liz's pride and joy is her Chalon kitchen which she was able to buy for only 6000 as it was an ex-display model from the Kings Road.

"It's my idea of a country kitchen with its units painted in "Linen" (a Chalon paint colour), ceramic knobs and honed black slate worktops," she says. "I also bought a reconditioned powered gas-flue Aga which stands in an alcove where a Victorian range used to be."

Some of the furniture Liz brought down from Surrey but she has bought a great deal from the wonderful antique shops and auction houses in the area, ranging from an old African drum to a very contemporary Italian Tyzio lamp..

"I like to blend the old with the new for a timeless effect," she says.

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