Christmas house: a restored Georgian stone cottage in Cornwall

Salvaged, vintage, upcycled and handmade: every piece in Kerry Knight’s Cornish cottage tells a story – especially at Christmas

(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

With fairy lights twinkling, wreaths on the doors and the table decorated with fir cones, candles and mismatched vintage plates, Kerry and Matt Knight’s Cornish cottage is all set for Christmas.

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Project notes

Owners: Kerry Knight, an interior designer, lives here with husband Matt, a restaurant manager, and their six-year-old twin daughters, Sydney and Saffron  

Property: A semi-detached late-Georgian cottage in St Erth, Cornwall, with four bedrooms and a 100ft garden  

What they did: Kerry and Matt renovated all the windows, replaced the boiler, stripped off the wallpaper and painted the walls, doors, upstairs floorboards and kitchen cupboards  

Its festive welcome, rustic and relaxed, is interesting but unpretentious – just like the 200-year-old cottage, which has an instantly appealing, natural charm.  

Three years ago, Kerry and Matt had been looking for a house with a garden and space for a home office, and saw the cottage online. ‘I was intrigued because I couldn’t find it on Google Earth, so I knew it had to be down a tiny lane,’ says Kerry. ‘We loved the area, but this place had everything: peace and quiet, a garden for the kids and an open fire, which we’d been hankering after for years.’ 

The house had been loved but not well maintained, and one of the couple’s first tasks was to hack back the ivy that obscured the walls and windows. ‘After we had cleared it, I got a carpenter to take out the rotten wood and fill the frames so they would last a few more years,’ says Kerry.

The granite-and-slate cottage was once two homes, and the alley between them is now the front door  

The couple lived with the interior of the house for a year, until Kerry took two months off work to do it up, stripping off the 30-year-old Laura Ashley wallpaper and, with the help of Matt’s father, painting everything in neutral shades. 

Kerry, Saffron and Sydney enjoy a walk with their border collie, Keiko  

The floor tiles were fine downstairs, but upstairs Kerry rubbed down the floorboards by hand before painting them with Annie Sloan’s Country Grey paint, then varnishing them.

Into this calm setting Kerry and Matt added the furniture and accessories that they have collected over the years, some of them from the vintage shop they used to own, others bought at auction or car boot sales. 

Like most rooms in the cottage, the living room is full of upcycled pieces – Kerry’s leather sofa was an Ebay find, its back and seat cushions reupholstered with ticking from a local haberdashery. The fabric sofa, also reupholstered, was bought at auction. Full of Christmas goodies, the coffee table was cut down from a dining table bought at a vintage market

‘I prefer to surround myself with things that have a story,’ says Kerry, who rarely buys anything brand new for her home. ‘I’m a bit of an old soul, and I like things to talk to me.’

Kerry made the rustic table decorations with fir cones she collected in the New Forest with her mother. Candles, vintage plates and napkins complete the scene  

Kerry likes to keep her Christmas decorations simple. ‘I like a natural, relaxed style,’ she says. ‘Early every December I visit my mum in the New Forest and we go foraging – that’s where the pine cones on the dining table came from – and I add evergreen branches cut from the garden.’ 

Kerry and Matt found the white Georgian-style vase in the garden of their last house  

Night lights and candles complete the look, while the tree is hung with an assortment of baubles, some made by Matt and twins Saffron and Sydney.  

A copper clock from The Range and Metro tiles from Topps Tiles give a modern twist to this farmhouse kitchen, along with a new colour for the units – Benjamin Moore’s Oil Cloth is a similar paint shade

‘On Christmas Eve we put Santa sacks out for the girls, and in the morning we open presents and eat chocolate for breakfast,’ laughs Kerry. ‘On Boxing Day we join in a group sea swim from Porthminster Beach in St Ives and come back to a roaring fire. Bliss!’  

With a tiled floor and beamed ceiling, the kitchen-diner is full of character. Matt bought the second-hand dining table from a friend and found the corner chair years ago in a sale. The couple brought the pendant light shade back from a visit to Matt’s father in South Africa. The dresser and shelves are auction buys – two separate pieces that happen to fit together perfectly

The chaise in the playroom was bought at local auction house David Lay. The cupboard is from a vintage shop that Kerry and Matt used to run in St Ives

(Image credit: Polly Eltes)

Linen upholstery from Red Rose Textiles gives an old bed a new look. The cushions (from left) are from Homebase, Nkuku and Ikea

Kerry repainted the tongue-and-groove wall to co-ordinate with the tiles. The basket is from H&M, the blue chair came from South Africa, and the star is from The Range

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