House-hunting is never simple, and when Louise Lingwood was looking for a period home in the countryside, her property search seemed destined to end in disappointment.
Property: A two-bedroom 1890s Victorian cottage in Bushey, Hertfordshire
Layout: Two bedrooms and two reception rooms
However, the place she now calls home is a former Victorian worker’s cottage in Bushey, Hertfordshire, which Louise, who owns a vintage and antiques shop, has filled with curiosities and beautiful finds gathered on her travels around the world.
‘I’d spent quite a while driving around roads in the village and noticed a “for sale” sign outside this house,’ Louise explains, ‘but when I spoke to the local estate agent, they told me it was no longer available, so I put it to the back of my mind and resigned myself to looking at other properties.’
Lilac Cottage is named after a lilac tree in the garden, and this is also the inspiration behind the name of Louise’s shop, Love & Lilac
As luck would have it, Louise received a phone call a few weeks later to say the cottage was back on the market. ‘I was thrilled, and as soon as I walked in through the door I could see that it ticked all the boxes,’ she adds. ‘The cottage was in good condition, with original Victorian features, including sash windows and four fireplaces.
The dining room has an outdoor feel, with wicker chairs from Country Life Interiors and both real and pictorial bouquets bringing the outside in
‘I’ve called it “Lilac Cottage” after a lilac tree in the garden that didn’t flower until the third spring that I was here,’ she explains. ‘When it’s in bloom, the scent is so heady and amazing that people stop to admire it as they’re passing. Inside, though, these cottages are tiny, and you have to use your imagination to make the most of them.’
Louise moved in during spring 1999 and didn’t hesitate in putting her stamp on the cottage. Her first task was to replace the worn carpet with wooden flooring in the downstairs rooms and she upcycled the existing dark brown kitchen units by painting them in a cream shade.
Vintage crocker and glassware are perfect for setting the table in the relaxed dining area. An armoire from Laura Ashley is used to store books and vintage fabrics
To create cosy spaces full of interest, Louise has filled the rooms of her much-loved home with eclectic treasures and interesting antiques found in fleamarkets, car boot sales and on Ebay. ‘Everything I sell through my vintage business is handmade or lovingly sourced, and these are the type of pieces I like to have in my home, too,’ she explains.
Louise also likes to source home accessories during trips to the east and west coasts of the United States. ‘I love American vintage and I’m lucky enough to be able to stay with friends in Los Angeles, which is a rich source of unusual objects for interiors,’ she says. ‘I’ve also just come back from a trip to Lisbon in Portugal, where I picked up several beautiful finds, and I love to visit the French town of St-Rémy-de-Provence.’
Closer to home, Louise likes nothing better than getting up early on a Sunday morning to visit local secondhand fairs, rummaging through boxes to find hidden treasures for her home and garden.
‘I’ve always been fond of the romantic lines of the Art Deco period and I adore green Depression-era glassware and American vintage,’ she says. ‘I’m particularly drawn to any practical pieces that were originally made to be used in the kitchen rather than simply for show or display.’
Louise eventually decided it was time to replace her kitchen. ‘I wanted a country-inspired kitchen with lots of cupboards and traditional features including a butler’s sink and painted units. I was keen to find a classic timeless design, the sort of kitchen you might find in an old Georgian house, and these cabinets were perfect.
‘When it came to appliances, it was quite a challenge to fit everything in such a compact space,’ she adds. ‘I sourced everything myself on the internet, from the mini range cooker to the window ironmongery. The only hiccup was that when the American-style fridge-freezer arrived, the fridge door couldn’t open by more than around eight inches because the step down to the kitchen was in the way. Thankfully my builder, Stephen Innes, was easily able to remedy this for me by cutting back the step.’
Upstairs, Louise’s master bedroom has a pretty, feminine feel, with colour, interest and curiosities including vintage fabrics and her beloved pink Art Deco mirror above the original fireplace.
The most recent addition upstairs is the elegant bathroom Louise has put together with the help of her builder. ‘I knew I wanted a roll-top bath and a large walk-in shower, and I love the look of tongue-and-groove panelling in bathrooms: classic, traditional features to create a timeless feel.’
Now, with her cottage exactly how she likes it – warm, comfortable and full of character – Louise is very happy when she stays at home, too.