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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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 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.
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.
‘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 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.’
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.
‘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!’