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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
‘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.’
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.’
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.
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.
‘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!’