Putting down roots as a military family can prove difficult when you are frequently on the move.
This was the dilemma Jo and John Dickson found themselves in when they decided to purchase their first property.
Cosy in the winter and cool in the summer, the Scandi colour scheme combines beautifully with the plain grey and tweed woollen sofas, softened with layers of cushions and throws. Jo bought the grey one from Sofa.com and the footstool from Made.com. See the framed photography on Jo’s Instagram @mycotswoldhome
‘It can sometimes be hard to make a conscious decision to settle down and buy a property,’ says Jo. ‘John and I have been so lucky to have been posted to some fantastic locations during his career, including Scotland, Lincolnshire, Germany, Oxfordshire and London to name a few, and we have made the absolute most of each and every one, but there came a time when we had to settle in one place for the sake of our daughters’ education.’
When the couple moved from Germany to Oxfordshire, the girls were enrolled into a local school. ‘Having a school with a good reputation nearby helped us decide to buy in the area,’ says Jo. In 2004 the couple bought their first house, a four-bedroom detached new-build. ‘It was when the girls went off to university that we decided to leave Oxfordshire, and in 2015 we bought this cottage in the neighbouring county of Gloucestershire,’ recalls Jo.
Think about everyday items that could be repurposed as decorative pieces, like these bottles. ‘When my room diffusers are empty, I reuse them as single flower vases,’ says Jo. ‘They are such lovely shapes.’
We are Jo, an assistant in the English department of a local prep school, and John Dickson, a senior officer in the RAF. They have two daughters Abigail, 24, and Olivia, 22, and a one-year-old Springador dog called Skye.
Our home is A three-bedroom Cotswold cottage built in 1862. We bought the property in 2015. It was originally one of two cottages for the neighbouring farm.
I love shopping at The Burford Garden Company. Even when I don’t need anything, I will go to browse and have coffee in the café with friends. We have some interesting shops to choose from in the surrounding towns, too. Biggie Best in Cirencester and The Old Pill Factory and Soame Interiors in Witney are great for something a little different.
Jo was working in Oxford and John in Bristol, so it made sense to choose a location somewhere between the two cities. ‘Actually, this wasn’t our first, second or third choice. We had made offers on several properties, but for various reasons had lost each house until this one. We had almost decided to stay put,’ explains Jo. ‘Whilst we all loved the house when we initially viewed it, I wasn’t convinced I wanted to live in such a small village.’
Combining different textile textures and soft, muted tones has worked well in the sitting room, creating a comfortable, inviting feel. The Harris Tweed sofa is from John Lewis and the vintage floral cushions are from The Old Pill Factory, while the coordinating plain cushions are from the Cotswold Woollen Weavers. Jo bought the topiary on the windowsill from one of her favourite shops, The Burford Garden Company
The couple ideally wanted a renovation project – something they could influence with their own interior style. ‘Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. This cottage had already been renovated and most of the work had been completed,’ says Jo. ‘However, the owners had renewed the kitchen in a style and configuration I would have chosen myself which is why it appealed so much to me.’
Open shelves give a modern country feel in Jo’s kitchen. The Dove Grey painted cabinets and granite worktop are by Neptune. Jo bought the wreath from Relics of Witney and added the dried hydrangeas picked from her garden. The framed sunset photograph was taken by Jo’s daughter Abigail
With her passion for interiors and scouring the vintage shops, Jo has created a stylish combination of new and old throughout her home. ‘We haven’t made any major changes to the inside of the house, just decoration,’ she says. ‘As a military family we used to have to move house every two or three years. I can’t tell you how therapeutic it is to have a clear-out six months before you move on. When you restart in your new home it’s so refreshing not to bring too much with you and wonder where on earth you are going to put it all.’
Steal Jo’s style
Using her skill of making the most of existing space and natural light, Jo has given careful consideration to the scale of furniture and colour scheme she has chosen for each room. ‘I wanted to create different areas in the open-plan kitchen without overcrowding the space, including a dining area and a quiet spot to sit and read, which we call the sun room. It has a perfect view of the garden,’ says Jo.
The light and spacious kitchen clinched the sale for Jo when she first viewed her Cotswold cottage. ‘I loved the style and colour scheme instantly; I didn’t need to change a thing.’ The Neptune cabinets are painted in Dove Grey from their own paint range. Jo chose the dining table, chairs and dresser from the Padstow range by Marks & Spencer, and the pendant light over the table is from The French House
The mirrored wall at one end of the kitchen reflects light beautifully around the kitchen, complemented by the pale tones Jo has chosen for walls and furnishing. It all helps to create a greater feeling of space. ‘I like to ring the changes, so over the years I have swapped cushions and curtains around to give a different feel,’ says Jo.
‘I love scouring local vintage shops for that special find’ says Jo
Adorning the walls are simple black frames containing photographs for a stylish, graphic look. ‘I often take down the framed prints and move them around the house. Most of the photography is mine and I tend to frame it in black or white, so it’s easy to place them anywhere. I regularly update the photography, although some of the photos hold some dear memories,’ smiles Jo.
Upstairs, Jo and John’s bedroom has a subtle mix of natural tones – think soft white and shades of grey, creating a fresh, Scandinavian feel. ‘Our bed was bought in Newark 25 years ago when we were at RAF Cranwell,’ she recalls. ‘I painted the bed frame in Manor House Gray by Farrow & Ball for an updated look.’
A coat of paint can transform an existing piece of furniture. Jo painted her bed frame in Manor House Gray from Farrow & Ball, giving it a new lease of life. The bedside cupboards were an eBay find, but were originally from Laura Ashley, and the ladder and striped pillowcases are both from Biggie Best. The checked Avoca bed throw is from The Burford Garden Company
The window seat provides useful storage in Jo and John’s bedroom. ‘The trunk is packed with both my daughter’s baby items, scrapbooks or gifts they made for me over the years and it’s full to bursting with baby clothes and memories. It obviously doubles up as a window seat, where John likes to sit and play guitar and I like to watch all the gorgeous birds that we are lucky enough to see daily here.’ The grey cushions are from The White Company and the blanket is from La Redoute. John painted the white framed watercolour, continuing the soft tones of the room
Olivia chose to keep the original soft pink chosen by the previous owners for her bedroom, as it creates the perfect backdrop for her own artwork, displayed in simple white frames. ‘The loft is Abigail’s bedroom and John uses it to store his guitars when she’s not here, as she has just bought her own property,’ explains Jo.
Olivia’s bedroom is in soft pink tones with white, creating a fresh feel. Olivia chose to keep the original soft pink picked out by the previous owners for her bedroom, which creates the perfect backdrop for her own artwork displayed in simple white frames. Olivia’s art work can be seen on Instagram @oodlesofmydoodles
‘My design concept throughout was to work with a small colour palette and try to use at least one of those colours in every room for continuity and flow and I am pleased with the results.’
The largest project for the couple to undertake was in the garden. ‘There were two huge Russian vines,’ explains Jo. ‘One at the back of the garden, which had taken over the two very mature pine trees, and one growing over the gate by our bi-fold doors. They required expert removal and John spent months removing the dead vine from the trees so that they could breathe again.
The largest project for the couple to undertake was in the garden
Thankfully, they are recovering beautifully.’ The couple enjoy entertaining, and on a warm summer’s evening extend their living space, with guests spilling from the dining area into the pretty cottage garden.
Brightly coloured bunting from The White Company adds a summery, festival feel to the garden. The tablecloth and lavender container are both from The Burford Garden Company
‘This is our small but perfect part of the Cotswolds. It’s without pubs, shops and street lights and, whilst that takes a little getting used to, there is nothing more perfect than gazing out at the stars on a clear night and listening to the silence. It’s so peaceful,’ smiles Jo.
This is a digital version of a feature that originally appeared in Your Home magazine. For more inspirational home ideas, why not subscribe today?