Christmas home: a 19th-century rural house is all dressed up for Christmas

This Grade II-listed former farm building has been renovated to create a welcoming country home, perfect for a family celebration


Getting the family together for Christmas is important to many people, but for those with blended families and grown-up children, it’s especially important to create a space where everybody feels at home – something Amanda Marshall knows first hand. With a family that comprises her two sons, as well as her partner James and his three daughters, the festive season is a busy time.

Project notes

Owners: Amanda Marshall, who owns The Goody Bag Company, lives here with partner James Garrett, director of The Interior Shutter Company, son William, Finn the black Labrador, and cats Biscuit and Tallis. Amanda’s son Tom and James’ daughters, Kitty, Beth and Alice, are all either at university or away travelling

Property: A late 19th-century Grade II-listed four-bedroom semi-detached house converted from the laundry within a model farm built for a local estate in Cranbrook, Kent

What they did: When Amanda first bought the house, she rewired and replaced the bathrooms. Over the years, she has opened up the entrance hall, redone the kitchen and decorated throughout

Before she met James, 13 years ago, it was a two-hour school run that prompted Amanda to rethink her location, but the need for a home office drove the choice of property.

Although Amanda says the house felt like home as soon as they moved in, it needed a lot of work. She had to replace all the electrics, recarpet throughout and replace both bathrooms immediately. 

Over the years the house has evolved with the changing needs of her expanding family and business. Her office moved off site, giving them two reception rooms, and removing a wall between the entrance hall and what the family refers to as ‘the yellow room’ – a cosy sitting space – created a welcoming entrance.

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

A light dusting of snow can be seen on the lawn that leads from the red brick listed section of the building. In its former life as the laundry for the local estate, the tall windows provided ventilation for the linen drying inside

Of all the work she’s had done over the years, Amanda found the kitchen most stressful. ‘It was a nightmare, and it seemed to take for ever,’ she says. The family relied on camping stoves in the utility room for three months – and a lot of takeaways. 

When Amanda came to decorate the house, she took an eclectic approach to sourcing furniture and accessories. 'I love the juxtaposition of old and new,' she says. 

Often one object sparked a scheme for the whole room, such as the Persian-style rug in the living room, which led to the inclusion of colourful cushions and blue-grey paint for the walls. ‘It looks blue during the day, and then at night it mellows into a wonderful grown-up grey.’

"I love having an idea and making it happen. I wish we had been able to afford to do the bigger jobs first, though, as we’ve had to undo things we’d already done, but you do what you can when you can"

Amanda Marshall

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)


Amanda and James enjoy walking their Labrador Finn in the beautiful Kent countryside

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

In the entrance hall, an antique French mirror, found at Ardingly Antiques Fair, hangs over a console that belonged to Amanda’s mother. Vanessa Arbuthnott curtains complement the walls, in Farrow & Ball’s Pussy Paw, as does the table lamp from India Jane. Hardwearing sisal flooring adds to the homely feel

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

In the ‘yellow room’, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pussy Paws, Amanda has created a warm and cosy focal point using a wood-burner from James’ previous home. Chairs, sourced at a local auction, have been reupholstered, and are topped off by tapestry cushions from craft fairs. A coastal painting from an unknown local artist hangs on the wall above the fireplace. Amanda used bespoke shelving to disguise alcoves of varying depths, while creating additional storage space. The coffee table, found on, was, in another life, a French dining table, having since been cut down to size

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

This room was Amanda’s office when she first bought the house, but has since been turned into a formal living space. The large Persian-style rug became the starting point for the eclectic scheme – for similar, try The Rug Seller. Re-caned antique chairs provide seating alongside ‘squidgy’ sofas (try Ikea’s Ektorp design for similar) topped with cushions made by Amanda’s neighbour. 

Family heirlooms feature throughout, including a chest inherited from James’ mother that has been painted white and now serves as a coffee table; a tapestry on the wall depicting Charles I having his last rites read to him; and a dark wood cabinet, flanked by French sconces. The curtains are made from John Lewis fabric, with the rail painted in Farrow & Ball’s Blue Grey to match the walls. The table lamps are from Oka

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

Neptune kitchen units, painted in Home Slate, stand out against walls in Chalk White, also by Neptune. A large Rangemaster oven is perfect for cooking family dinners. The tiles are from Headcorn Tiles, and the vintage corner cupboard and lamp are from Evernden Interiors

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

A painting of Hastings Old Town, by artist Anne-Catherine Phillips, hangs above the antique sideboard in the kitchen. The chair was sourced from a local pine shop

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

The dining table has been with Amanda since she left home, and bears all the hallmarks of regular use by the family, and their pets, over the years. The 1920s chairs were found by Amanda at an antiques shop in Liverpool

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

The master bedroom features a super-king-size Sienna bed and Loire nightstands from Feather & Black. Farrow & Ball’s Borrowed Light complements the warmth of the beams. The lamps are from India Jane

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

Tabby cat Tallis sits on an antique chair that has been in the family for a long time. Amanda had it re-covered in navy blue velvet

(Image: © Bruce Hemming)

Amanda has combined crisp bedlinen from The White Company and Colefax & Fowler curtains with family pieces that have been repurposed to create an inviting guest room. Mylands’ Chiswick is a similar paint colour