Real home: a stone-built Georgian cottage is transformed into the perfect family home

An idyllic country home on Edinburgh’s doorstep has been transformed to accommodate Kerry Bell and her family, and her craft workshops

kitchen with wooden table, pantry and white cabinetry
(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

Looking at their stone-built Georgian cottage in a quiet village, you might think Kerry and Thomas Bell had struck it exceptionally lucky when they found their pretty home, not far from Edinburgh. The reality, however, is that it has taken the pair quite some time and effort to get it looking this good. 

Read on to find out how they transformed it into the perfect family house, giving it a fresh new look, then browse the rest of our real home transformations. Read our guide on renovating a house, too, for more guidance.

hallway with stairs leading upstairs and door through to kitchen

 Exposed brick in the hallway adds another texture to the plentiful original features in this characterful cottage

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

Owners Kerry and Thomas Bell live here with daughters, Pippa, 11, Tessa, eight, and Eliza, five. Kerry is a designer and runs candlemaking and fragrance workshops from her home ( Thomas works for a marquee business.
Property A C-listed semi-detached cottage, built just outside Edinburgh in 1752, with a kitchen extension added in 1850. There are four bedrooms.
What they did They knocked down walls in the living room  and kitchen to enlarge the reception spaces, updated the bathroom, replaced floors and decorated throughout.

When the couple first saw the cottage it was in poor condition. ‘It had been a council property for many years, and hadn’t been updated in the meantime,’ says Kerry.

‘Inside, it was a garish mixture of blue and yellow, and the living room  and kitchen were tiny. But we loved the village, and we knew that with a little work, we could transform it into a lovely family home.’ 

They were newly married with a baby when they first moved in, so decided to live with it as it was for several years, initially just redecorating. 

‘We wanted to focus on our young family and give the renovations some thought before we launched in with any big changes,’ says Kerry. ‘The house was perfectly habitable, the heating and plumbing were all in good working order, and it was really just the décor we wanted to tackle initially.’

wooden kitchen with pantry and wooden table

The table is from Drum Farm Antiques and the chairs are from Holyrood Architectural Salvage Yard. The collectable Stephen Pearce crockery was a wedding present

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

Eventually they were ready to take on more significant improvements. ‘The living room was tiny,’ Kerry recalls. ‘As was typical in the Georgian period, the formal public rooms were upstairs. The room that is now our bedroom has a beautiful fireplace with elegant windows on either side, overlooking the garden. This was obviously the original drawing room. The rooms downstairs were the kitchen and servants’ quarters.’

kitchen with wooden table, pantry and white cabinetry

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

The kitchen has been doubled in size since the couple knocked down the wall to the dining room. Kerry lined the walls with tongue-and-groove panelling and designed the open shelving, adding wrought-iron hooks from Screwfix. Simple cream kitchen cabinets from Howdens are teamed with two inherited wooden dressers for additional storage.  

hallway with sofa and boot storage

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

Kerry trained as an interior designer, so once   the renovations were complete, she was happy to make the décor decisions. ‘Happily, Thomas and I have very similar tastes,’ she says. ‘I’ve opted for natural textures such as wood, linen and exposed stone, and I’ve chosen a palette of muted greys, olives and taupes.’ 

living room with two sofas and art work on wall

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

She and Thomas share a ‘less is more’ ethos and the result is rustic and peaceful. The couple enlarged the front room downstairs by removing a cupboard, and added a wood-burning stove. ‘It is still quite small for a living room, but we do have a playroom as well,’ adds Kerry. 

wood burning stove in wooden fireplace

The chimneybreast wall in the living room has been exposed to reveal the stone. A wood-burning stove by Morsø is flanked by an antique sewing machine table and, of course, several homemade candles. 

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

They doubled the size of the kitchen by knocking down the wall between it and the dining room, and then lined the kitchen with tongue-and-groove panelling. The kitchen now serves   as another entertaining space and is the setting for Kerry’s candlemaking workshops - the big farmhouse table provides workspace for up to 10 participants at a time. 

wooden writing desk with chairs in living room

 The elegant bureau includes useful storage for paperwork as well as a fold-down writing desk 

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

The tranquillity of the village setting, hidden in a leafy dip in the countryside, is something else they both really appreciate. Being just on the edge of Edinburgh is an added bonus. ‘We really do have the best of both worlds,’ Kerry says.

bedroom with blue bedlinen and dressed window

The master bedroom features an upholstered headboard in a fabric from James Brindley. Dark wood bedside tables are topped with lamps from Jeffreys Interiors. The painting is by Alison Auldjo, the taupe throw is from John Lewis

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

 ‘The city centre is less than an hour away, yet driving home through the wooded landscape is so therapeutic – the sense of peace and privacy out here is all pervading.’ 

child's bedroom with four poster bed

Daughter Pippa’s bedroom has an eclectic look, with a Gothic-style headboard and Birdcage wallpaper from Graham & Brown. The dressing table was upcycled by a friend, who painted it in Parma Gray by Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

garden with architectural plant display in bath

 A cast-iron bath makes a quirky raised planter in the courtyard garden

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)

Period Living October 2019 cover

(Image credit: Period Living)

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The pretty home’s simple style is ideal for family life, and for Kerry’s work, too. Her business is growing as her children grow up and she has more time to devote to it. ‘I am introducing a new course on making reed diffusers,’ she says.  ‘I am passionate about fragrance blending and it’s lovely to see other people learning and enjoying the craft.’

As for the décor, Kerry isn’t planning any   further changes for now. ‘We are all so busy with our different interests. I designed this house to be lived in; it is not a show home. So I am delaying phase three, complete with extravagant designer details for a few years yet.

exterior of stone cottage in scotland

The cottage was built in 1752 in a quiet village not far from Edinburgh. The main reception rooms would have been upstairs in Georgian times, and the kitchen and servants’ quarters downstairs

(Image credit: Douglas Gibb)


Feature writer and stylist Alison lives with her husband Douglas near Edinburgh. He is a photographer, so the couple work as a team finding Scotland's most beautiful home stories to share.