Real home: A Victorian cowman's cottage in the Cotswolds

An uplifting palette of neutrals and a fine collection of antique and vintage furniture make Bethan Lewis-Powell’s Cotswold cottage a comfortable, stylish retreat

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Are cosy Cotswold cottages brimming with antiques your thing? This Victorian cowman's cottage is guaranteed to inspire you to embark on your own project. Find out how it was transformed below, then browse more real home transformations...

THE STORY

Owner Bethan Lewis-Powell, a company director, bought the property 30 years ago. Her grown-up daughter, Cari, often visits

Property A double-fronted Victorian cowman’s cottage, with four bedrooms, in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds

Essential repairs The previous owner had carried out most of the renovations, but Bethan updated the interior, installed a modern bathroom, and redesigned the garden

Layout The house opens into an open-plan kitchen-diner, off which leads the separate living room. On the first floor are three bedrooms and the bathroom, while there is a fourth bedroom in the converted loft space

The simplicity of white, in many layers and tones, forms the backdrop to Bethan Lewis-Powell’s delightful Cotswold cottage, complemented by her collection of antique and vintage furniture. She bought the four-bedroom property more than 30 years ago. ‘I was living in London with my daughter Cari, who was then four years old,’ she recalls. ‘I wanted to find a better work/life balance, so made the decision to divide my time between London and the Cotswolds.’

At the start of Bethan’s search, she came across the details for a house in Gloucestershire, but before she even had chance to view it, another buyer had their offer accepted. So the estate agent suggested another property, this time in Oxfordshire. ‘I arranged a viewing on the spot, and drove through beautiful countryside and scenery to a hamlet in the west of the county,’ says Bethan. The house was originally a cowman’s cottage and was once part of the country estate of Ditchley. Positioned in a row of several small properties, the Victorian cottage was in need of an update. 

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 A line of box spheres creates a grand entrance to Bethan’s honey-coloured Cotswold-stone cottage, her home for the past 30 years 

The previous owners had tackled the major renovation work, including the electrics and plumbing, and converted the loft into a double bedroom. ‘I was relieved to see the house was in really good condition. It just needed decorating to my taste,’ Bethan explains. ‘The rooms were painted in strong 1970s-style colours, with varnished pine woodwork in a vibrant shade of orange. Luckily I could see beyond the décor.’

The front door opens straight into the kitchen-diner. Coir matting provides a textured base for Bethan’s antique and vintage furniture 

(Image: © Colin Poole)

Bethan’s offer was accepted and she moved in just one month later. She set about choosing new floorcoverings – coir and cork tiles downstairs, and carpet for a softer finish upstairs in the bedrooms – then decorating the house using understated, muted tones. 

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Painting the walls and cupboards white has increased the feeling of space in Bethan’s cosy kitchen. Cork tiles, from The Cork Flooring Company, are durable, easy to maintain and environmentally friendly 

A gentle white was used throughout the house as a calm base to enhance the feeling of light, and form the perfect foil for her collection of mid-century furniture, antiques and vintage pieces. ‘There are several good antiques shops nearby,’ says Bethan. ‘My friend Alison Stewart has been helpful finding various pieces for me from her shop in Stow-on-the-Wold, and I’ve found some lovely things at The Old Pill Factory in Witney.’ 

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 A trug from The Old Pill Factory adds a vintage touch 

Bethan’s relaxed style of mixing new and old is apparent in every room. The living room has a combination of a time-worn leather sofa and chair, and contemporary-style block-print cushions on chunky, knitted seat covers. ‘I saw someone making and selling knitted items at a craft fair and I asked her to knit some seat covers for me. Even though it wasn’t a typical request, she liked the idea of making something unusual,’ says Bethan. ‘I am thrilled with the results; I love the texture it brings to the room.’ 

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 Bethan bought the chestnut leather sofa and chair from London’s Portobello Road market and replaced the original seat covers with a knitted cable design, made by Elizabeth Tyers; ‘I saw someone making and selling knitted items at a craft fair and I asked her to knit some seat covers for me. Even though it wasn’t a typical request, she liked the idea of making something unusual,’ says Bethan. ‘I am thrilled with the results; I love the texture it brings to the room.’ 

A new bathroom introduces a modern touch upstairs. ‘Again, I have used a white palette to make the room feel larger,’ says Bethan. ‘I like using large-format tiles in a small room and  I find that experimenting with scale creates a more interesting scheme’. 

 Grey, off-white and cream combine for a calm, relaxing feel in the guest bedroom, complemented by antique furniture with a distressed paint finish 

(Image: © Colin Poole)

Outside Bethan has created an attractive, low-maintenance garden, with a selection of grasses and soft perennials, and a seating area perfect for entertaining during warmer months. Box spheres give structure and form all year. ‘I enjoy my garden and the views of my neighbours’ gardens,’ says Bethan. ‘It’s wonderful to be surrounded by such a lush and beautiful landscape.’ 

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 Bethan has an antique table cloth to suit every occasion, including French linen for summer dinner parties and German embroidered cloths for Christmas celebrations. For a more casual look, a piece of vintage mangle cloth, from The Old Pill Factory, makes a perfect table runner to suit the antique dining set 

With a keen eye for detail and the fervent desire to make her house a home, Bethan has evolved the cottage’s décor over the years to reflect her taste and changing lifestyle. 

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 Bethan’s antiques dealer friend Alison supplied the antique chair. The chest of drawers is partially made from fruit crates finished with a dark stain 

‘Cari has fond childhood memories of this house and has recently moved from the city to the country with her own young family. I am sure the happy times she spent here played their part in her move,’ says Bethan. ‘This house has been a constant in my life and I hope that will never change. Even after all these years, I still feel fortunate to have found my cottage in the country.’  

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 The understated charm of the guest bedroom is offset by a Georgian tapestry. Bethan painted the bed frame and chair in Annie Sloan’s Paris Grey. The throw is from Melin Tregwynt 

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 A brass bedstead in Bethan’s bedroom, left behind by the previous owners, is dressed with embroidered linens. The floral cushion is from Blue Dog & Sought, and the mid-century bedside tables, upcycled with a découpage design, are by Emma Boyne 

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 A new bathroom introduces a modern touch upstairs. ‘Again, I have used a white palette to make the room feel larger,’ says Bethan. ‘I like using large-format tiles in a small room and I find that experimenting with scale creates a more interesting scheme’ 

Author & Stylist: Ann Broad

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