A move from London to the countryside was little more than an idea at the back of Pauline Fox’s mind, until she visited a spot in rural Essex and just fell in love with it.
‘I’d always thought I’d move at some point, but it all happened really quickly,’ she says. ‘My own house wasn’t even on the market. I looked around the village and before I knew it, I’d made an offer on a property.’
The home that proved irresistible to Pauline was part of a large Victorian vicarage that had been converted into several residences. The one that caught her eye had its own small garden as well as access to spacious communal grounds.
‘There weren’t many options in my price range and this was such an unusual place,’ she says. ‘A period property was a must for me and here was a share of a beautiful old building in a lovely, quiet setting.’
Come on in…
We are Pauline Fox, 53, a retail manager and crafter (@betsyblairhome) and my grown-up children, Emily 26 and Tom, 23.
Our home is a three-bedroomed wing of a converted Victorian vicarage near Saffron Walden, Essex.
The interior was sound and had the space that Pauline and her two grown-up children, Tom and Emily, needed. But as much as she loved the cottage character of the bedrooms and the sitting room’s big windows, high ceiling and wooden floor, the house’s décor was far from ideal.
There were glossy black kitchen cabinets and old-fashioned striped wallpapers, while the purple and mauve colour schemes were a long way from Pauline’s taste.
‘I’m a massive fan of pretty pastels and the modern country look, and I love combining it with Scandi, French and handmade elements too,’ she says.
‘The rooms seemed dark, cold and unloved. It bothers me when my home doesn’t feel right and I knew I’d be redecorating right through the property.’
Pauline started to make changes as soon as she moved in. No structural work was required, but with the help of her son and daughter, she painted the walls throughout. She opted for shades of off-white and pale grey to maximise light while still keeping a feeling of warmth.
Upstairs, she used wallpaper sparingly to add subtle pattern and softness to each of the bedrooms. Downstairs, she created a focal point for the sitting room by swapping the unappealing electric fire for a more traditional stove, with a white stone surround.
The kitchen was Pauline’s biggest challenge. Although it was spacious and well-appointed, the dark floor, modern, high-shine cabinets and peach tiles jarred with Pauline’s love of soft, muted tones and textures.
‘I’d love to have replaced everything,’ she says. ‘My dream would be a neutral, painted wooden kitchen, pale limestone flooring and a traditional range-type cooker, but I just didn’t have the budget. I had to be resourceful.’
More about my home…
My favourite item Is my Smeg fridge, which came from our old home. It’s in keeping with the country look.
I’d love to change The modern internal doors for old, reclaimed ones. At some point I’ll put some glass into the front door too, to spread the sunlight around a bit.
I’ve learned that Light affects how colours look in different parts of a room so tester pots are really worth the money.
Although she couldn’t alter the floor, Pauline decided to paint the walls, tiles and cupboards in tranquil, creamy tones. ‘I primed the kitchen cupboards and tiles, painted everything and then crossed my fingers,’ she says. ‘Amazingly it’s all stood up really well and is such an improvement.’
With no opportunity to measure up before moving in, Pauline found that although most of her furniture fitted in well, some items just didn’t work in the new setting.
For example, the bedroom ceilings were too low for her existing wardrobes and only self-assembly furniture could squeeze up the narrow stairs. ‘This house is a bit smaller than my old one, so I needed different pieces,’ she says.
‘I’m always on the lookout for interesting bargains and I’ve picked up lots of things over the years from charity shops, eBay and house clearances.’ Pauline checked out local markets and other useful sources in the area. With her keen eye, she added to her existing furniture and built a modern rustic look without breaking the bank.
Her timeless, practical high street buys are mixed in with vintage finds and country-inspired one-offs. She has also refurbished various pieces herself, including the sitting room’s large decorative sideboard and the hall’s pretty, painted console table. ‘I’ve always enjoyed being creative and paint is definitely my friend,’ she says. ‘I’ve used it to update everything from small items, such as picture frames and chairs, all the way through to quite large pieces of furniture.’
Fabrics are the second key component of Pauline’s country look. She makes her own cushions, bunting and lampshades from faded florals and linens. Dainty printed cotton swatches have been framed to add colour on the walls and flower-filled jam-jars trimmed with scraps of ribbon and lace dot the surfaces.
‘It’s been quite tough bringing this property back to life,’ she says. ‘At times I wasn’t too sure how it was going to turn out, but it certainly feels like home now.’