Real home transformation: a charming country cottage with colourful vintage finds

From dressers laden with vintage china to bedrooms with quirky gallery walls, every surface of this cottage is packed with personality

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Are you a vintage lover looking to put your stamp on a period home? Discover how Ben and Mark Hamilton Anderson made the most of their small and find plenty of ideas on how to incorporate upcycled furniture, kitsch collectables and floral fabrics. Love this? See all our real home transformations.

Flint cottage front door

Ethel the labradoodle is ready to welcome visitors to Dynamite Cottage. The exterior of the brick and flint Grade II-listed cottage has been preserved, and the timber windows were restored and painted 

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

Even before setting foot inside, Mark and Ben Hamilton Anderson knew they would buy Dynamite Cottage. Standing in half an acre of overgrown gardens, the listed building was in a poor state of repair but offered exactly the kind of country lifestyle the couple hoped for. ‘We had been living in an apartment in Southampton with no garden,’ explains Mark.  

THE STORY

Owners Ben and Mark Hamilton Anderson live here with labradoodle Ethel and a menagerie of chickens, geese and ducks. Ben is a landscape gardener with his own company (wisterialandscapes.uk.com) and Mark is a nursery manager and stylist 

Property A three-bedroom, semi-detached Grade II-listed brick and flint cottage in a Dorchester village, built in the 1860s

What they did The couple restored the cottage on a DIY basis using upcycled finds, and landscaped the garden

‘A village home with a large garden where we could keep chickens was our dream, even though moving to Dorset meant finding new jobs and a complete lifestyle change. It was all a bit of a whirlwind.’ Dynamite Cottage is in one of Dorset’s most attractive villages, featured heavily in Thomas Hardy’s novels.  

The house was given its unusual name some years before when a child discovered a stick labelled TNT in one of the outbuildings. Nearby homes were evacuated and the police were sent in, only to discover that the ‘dynamite’ was in fact a theatre prop left behind by previous owners who were into amateur dramatics.

Flint cottage sitting room

An existing fireplace and a multi-fuel burner have been retained in the living room, with gas central heating installed throughout the cottage. At almost £2,500, the vintage armchair was the couple’s most expensive antiques shop purchase. The Iranian rug is from the Dorchester Curiosity Centre, and the footstool and standard lamp are from Country Attic at Robin’s Nest Emporium

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

Originally built as a laundry cottage it was one of 12 similar properties, four of which were demolished around 15 years ago after they fell into complete disrepair. Ben and Mark were determined to bring their brick and flint cottage and garden back to life with some quirky personal touches.

Flint cottage sitting room with dog

Ethel makes herself at home in the living room, which adjoins the dining area

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

‘We moved in during November 2014 and immediately began drying out the damp, cold rooms,’ Ben recalls. ‘With a tight budget we knew that we’d need to do everything ourselves, and had a few mishaps along the way, such as screwing into a water pipe in the wall one Sunday when replacing a skirting board.

’The semi-detached cottage had previously been used as a holiday let and has three bedrooms, with a bathroom and living/dining room on the ground floor and a tiny kitchen area under the stairs.  

Colourful cottage dining room

Mark and Ben painted the chairs in vibrant colours to contrast with the restored original flagstone floor in the dining area. A mint green pine pew from Toad Hall Country Vintage offers additional seating, and the couple’s china and glassware are displayed on pine dressers

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

Cake on dresser

Homemade sponge cake and vintage china on standby for afternoon tea 

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

‘Extending or changing the layout wasn’t really an option, so we needed to make the most of the space that was already here – although the interiors are far from minimal,’ says Ben of the couple’s various collections. ‘One solution was to spill out into the garden buildings, storing fridges and freezers in the outhouse and turning the summerhouse into a home office.’

Staircase with upcycled furniture

Every corner of the small kitchen-diner is put to good use. ‘We have a fridge and washing machine tucked under the stairs and use an ex-army trunk to store things like baking trays,’ says Mark

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

vintage collectables on shelf

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

After months of running dehumidifiers, the cottage finally dried out. ‘The walls are two-foot thick and were built using lime mortar, and living close to a river meant that they had soaked up a lot of moisture while the place was empty and unheated,’ Ben explains. ‘Luckily, we inherited a wood-burning stove and, as I’m a gardener, we always have a ready supply of timber to burn.’

Colourful vintage cottage bedroom

The guest room is furnished with a white Ikea bedstead; one of the few new items Ben and Mark own. The bedlinen is from Cath Kidston. The couple sanded and painted the original floorboards

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

Keen to preserve the cottage’s existing features, Ben and Mark set about repairing and painting windows. They carefully stripped and sealed the impressive original flagstone floor downstairs and painted the bedroom floorboards black for dramatic impact. ‘The flagstones are porous so we read up on the best way to preserve them, and it’s such a practical and beautiful floor,’ Ben explains. 

vintage cottage bedroom

The Guest bedroom is known as the cowboy room. The blue 1950s kitchen dresser came from a house clearance, and the green Victorian bedstead was discovered in one of the sheds when the couple moved into Dynamite Cottage

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

Walls were painted cream and white to create a blank canvas for the couple’s colourful furniture, some of which came with the cottage; other bits salvaged from skips, or found in charity shops.

Vintage bedroom patchwork quilt

The hand-woven silk rug in the master bedroom was an online find. ‘The bedside cabinet belonged to my mum and dad – I painted it yellow,’ says Ben

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

‘Colour brings so much life and joy into a home and we have paint pots in every shade, mainly inexpensive brands such as Valspar’

Ben Hamilton Anderson

cottage garden bench

Ben redesigned the large cottage garden, adding more than 160 varieties of roses and a number of seating areas so the cottage and its garden can be admired from every angle 

(Image: © Stuart Cox)

‘Mark has a great eye for styling rooms and we both love kitsch and colourful vintage pieces,’ says Ben. 

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‘The trade-off is that whenever Mark buys something new for the house I tend to treat myself to another plant for the garden, so we’re constantly adding to our collections.’

‘Moving to a country cottage and embracing the lifestyle has been fantastic, and we have wonderful neighbours and enjoy living in a friendly village,’ says Mark.

‘After years of hard work the renovation is now more or less complete, although we’re always finding more jobs to do. Our philosophy is that if you see something you love then buy it, as you will always find somewhere for it to go!’

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