Real home: a renovated seaside Arts and Crafts home

After years of renting holiday properties across the UK, Kathleen and Scott Simpson have finally found the perfect place to make an escape from the city

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Many potential buyers wouldn’t have given the house a second viewing, deterred by the substantial cost of updating it. Kathleen and Scott, however, saw beyond the obvious cosmetic and not-so-obvious structural challenges of the dated 1930s property. Instead they saw a sturdy and beguiling family home promising a casual, rural lifestyle – the antithesis of their London townhouse. 

Read on to find out the Simpsons went about creating their dream home with arts and crafts influences, then browse the rest of our real home transformations. Don't miss our guide on renovating a house, too, for more guidance.

exterior of coastal cottage with arts and crafts style

Simpsons’ Arts and Crafts home stands in extensive gardens. The roof tiles have been relaid, handmade wooden windows installed and paths reinstated

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Owners Scott and Kathleen Simpson, both lawyers, who have three grown-up children. They have two dogs, George, a Clumberpoo, and a cockapoo called Teddy.
Property A four-bedroom 1930s detached house,
set in 0.7 acres of garden, near Portsmouth.
What they did Underpinned a portion of the property before renovating throughout, taking the house back to a shell while retaining its original room layout and Arts and Crafts appeal. This included roof repairs, new windows and doors, new floors, renovating fireplaces and decorating throughout.

‘We had been renting second home properties throughout England for many years but we were always aware of the lack of permanence,’ says Kathleen. ‘We came to the conclusion that if we bought somewhere we could make it our own.’

This house appealed on many levels – but particularly because it was so close to the sea. Scott is a keen surfer, and the family spend as much time as possible on or near the water. They enjoy beach walks with their dogs, and the house is ideal for weekends and holidays away from the city.

The coastal location was undoubtedly one of the property’s greatest assets, but Kathleen and Scott were also drawn by its character and cosiness.

‘We did not want a modern, soulless home. We liked the Arts and Crafts elements; the combination of natural light and materials. It’s a very relaxed and comfortable environment,’ says Kathleen.  

If you also love arts and crafts style check out our 11 Arts & Crafts design ideas.


 Balance and symmetry are key to the simple elegance of the
living room, which includes items  of Asian furniture from
Louise  Jones Interiors, and Lawson Wood Alexander sofas covered in Penny Col 25 by Renegade Fabrics. The Chinese red crackle lacquer coffee table from Guinevere Antiques is  a particular favourite of Kathleen’s

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Kathleen and Scott moved in and lived with the imperfections for six months while they decided what they needed to do and what to tackle first. The most pressing problem was the rising damp and evidence of subsidence, but Kathleen was keen to replace the dated kitchen as soon as possible, and the plumbing and electrics also needed upgrading. 

chair arts and crafts panelled room

Bespoke panelling in the living room provides the perfect place  for Kathleen to display some of her favourite china plates, many picked up from fleamarkets nearby

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

The six-month delay gave them time to establish exactly what they wanted from the house. They were keen to avoid any planning issues, so kept the room layout as it was with just a few minor ‘tweaks’. Their focus was on restoring it to a good structural condition and modernising the interior without losing any of its character and comfort.

lamp on wooden unit with artwork

This elegant still life oil painting was bought at Christies in 1996 and hangs over an Asian sideboard. ‘I studied in China and Scott spent a lot of time there,’ says Kathleen. ‘We both loved this sideboard, which not only reminds us of Asia, but also fits with the popularity of Asian furniture in the 1930s.’ The plates, from various antique shops, decorate the panelling which was made as part of the house renovation.

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

To begin with they employed a local builder to renovate a detached annexe so they could live there while the main house was being done up. Facilities were basic and they relied on a barbecue for hot meals, but it gave them a comfortable base from which they could oversee the main project.

‘We gave ourselves a target of Scott’s 60th birthday in the following August,’ says Kathleen. ‘We achieved it – but only just.’

kitchen with blinds and island, white aga and green walls

A new look for the kitchen with Sylvarna Kitchen Design cabinets and Verde Italia granite from Gerald Culliford, who also supplied the travertine flooring. The lights over the island are from Hector Finch and the pendants over the sink are from Holloways of Ludlow. Verde tiles from Solar Antique Tiles are used for the Aga splashback

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

The restoration took more than 10 months, during which time the house was underpinned with 2m high underground concrete pylons and blocks, cleared of soil that was banked against the exterior walls causing rising damp, completely rewired and replumbed. 


The table and chairs were specially made to fit this cosy kitchen alcove. The cupboards were handmade by Sylvarna Kitchen Design and the light fitting is a 1930s antique. Walls are painted in Farrow & Ball Lichen. For a similar gas stove, try Gazco’s Stockton 5

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

The roof was retiled after the Simpsons discovered the original nails had corroded, exterior walls were pointed and internal walls plastered. 

diningroom with wooden floor and a lit fireplace

A purpose-built brick fire surround was added to the dining room. Engineered oak floors create flow and continuity through the ground floor. The Marlowe table from Antiques by Design and Montpelier chairs from The Dining Chair Company – covered in Robert Kime’s Mughal Flower fabric – sit beneath a chandelier from Stuart Interiors

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

The old floor covers were taken up and replaced with engineered wood on the ground floor and solid oak upstairs. All the PVCu windows were replaced with handmade bespoke wooden ones, as were the internal doors. This was followed by a new kitchen and bathrooms, before Kathleen turned to London-based interior designer Louise Jones for help with the décor and furnishings.


The panelled walls were specially made for the living room and hall to bring the house back to its original character. The seat cover is made with Nomad stonewashed linen from Westbury Textiles

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

‘Louise had helped us with our home in London and we trusted her completely to do the same here,’ says Kathleen. ‘We had some key pieces of furniture that we wanted to keep – pieces handed down through the family or favourite items we have had for years – but we also asked Louise to find things that suited the house and our lifestyle.’


Even the smallest rooms have been given a stylish makeover, with William Morris Golden Lily wallpaper from Sanderson, SC239 boarding paint from Papers & Paints and Original Style floor tiles

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

Kathleen wanted the overall look to be relaxed and comfortable, a place where family, friends and work colleagues could enjoy time out. As a result, oak panelling, richly patterned wallpapers, plush fabrics and beautiful antiques sit side-by-side with modern sofas and timeless accessories. Discover how to use decorative wall panelling to add character, texture and interest to every room with our 10 wall panelling design ideas.

conservatory wooden furnishings flooring sofa sunroom

The garden room maximises countryside views and creates a light, airy living space furnished with Stratford Sofas from Louise Jones Interiors. The paint colour on the woodwork is Paper and Paints Sung Grey. Pretty Patola French Blue Romo fabric curtains complete the light, sunny look of this part of the house.

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

One of Kathleen’s favourite features is the collection of 1930s light fittings and hardware which is sympathetic to the house. 

‘The success is in the detail,’ says Kathleen. ‘Louise is excellent at sourcing the slightly unusual and bespoke. It’s the kind of house that lends itself to a more eclectic interiors style.’


Instead of wallpapering the sloping ceiling, Louise painted the wall in Bisque TC45 by Papers and Paints and created a fabric canopy over the twin beds using ‘Algiers’ on linen by Robert Kime and had the bespoke stools covered in Etro fabric. An antique light fitting, from Brownrigg Antiques, reflects the period of the property.

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

While the Simpsons have invested in some beautiful antique furnishings and artwork, Kathleen still enjoys a bargain. The ceramic plates displayed in the living room cost her just a few pounds a time from fairs and antiques shops, and she has also updated family pieces, such as armchairs, which she has had re-covered, and a rosewood bed that her parents bought by accident in an auction and now fits perfectly in one of the guest bedrooms.  

Discover how to re-cover your own footstool and give tired looking furniture a new lease of life.


The entire room is fitted out with Coutances Positi Vert 2 fabric by Pierre Frey to create a cosy guest bedroom. The bedroom drawers, by Dragons, was in their youngest daughter’s bedroom when she was small and were among the key pieces of furniture she didn’t want to part with

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

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They have also made good use of any extra furniture in the boathouse guest annexe – the only place with a television, and a favourite chill-out area for younger members of the family. 

blue arts crafts style bathroom

The unit and mirror frame have been painted in Papers and Paint HC90 and the colour highlighted in the Turnell & Gigon ‘Chutney’ blind fabric. Basco floor tiles from Bert and May reflect the period style of the house

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

‘We spend as much time as we can here,’ says Kathleen. 'We love our home in London but this is the place we escape to for weekends and holidays. What we truly love about this place is the sense of permanence after so many years of renting. There may come a point when we buy a smaller place in London and make this our main home, but for now we are just enjoying the best of both worlds.’ 

wooden bed in bedroom with arts and crafts style wallpaper

 The rosewood bed in the guest room has finally come into its own – it was bought accidentally by Kathleen’s parents at auction. ‘They were buying another piece of furniture, not realising that the bed came with it,’ she says. An old armchair has been re-covered in Zoffany fabric, and Lloyd Loom Barton bedside cabinets complete the look. The wallpaper is William Morris Jasmine from Sanderson

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

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