INTERIOR designer Hannah Llewellyn-Jones's most recent project was something of a family affair, as she joined forces with her mother, Nicole Thomas, on the total renovation of a stunning black-and-white cottage in Kenchester.

"Mum is very heavily into property renovation so she's been doing it for years, and now we get to work together and create something really fantastic because our ideas bounce off each other so well," says Hannah.

"Bridge House came on the market and we bought it last summer," she says, explaining the timeline of the project.

"I think I went to view it on my own initially and instantly fell in love with it, so I told Mum she should go and look at it as it was had so much potential.

"We also then learned that it was Grade II listed," something that might put some off. "You do automatically think that it could be hiding a can of worms, but Mum, who's very experienced, said 'let's bite the bullet and do it'. 

"It was in a funny old state and very unlived in," Hannah reports, something that's hard to believe when you see the transformation she and her mother effected in the charming black-and-white cottage.

Ledbury Reporter: Contemporary comfort is key in the renovated cottageContemporary comfort is key in the renovated cottage
"The brief for the project," Hannah explains, "was to meld a modern blend of rustic contemporary style with traditional influences, whilst retaining the original 18th century features.

"We created a timeless interior but functional home.

"It had to have unusual elements but also an overall finish that exudes comfort and luxury.

"Added to this was the necessary integration of many original/antique art and furniture pieces.

"There were a number of issues given that the building is part of a grade II listed house, and it could only be restored and improved using the original materials, but the result serves to illustrate how older properties can become effective, contemporary living spaces albeit within a protected traditional shell.

"You could tell that a family had lived in it, and it needed the love put back into it."
Once they had had their offer for the property accepted, they began to plan.

"The sale went through quite quickly and we then got an architect over because there was a lot of configuring that needed doing.

"The house didn't flow as it was and needed some en suite bedrooms and modernising, so we sacrificed one of the bedrooms to install an en suite, which was a very good decision because it has created a beautiful master suite and that's something that people want now.

"Because the property was Grade II listed we needed to work collaboratively with the conservation team, and get agreement and sign off at each stage of the project.

"We needed to take particular care that the new kitchen to the side extension was in keeping with the building, but created the contemporary style and comfort today's buyer is looking for.

"Once we had got the layout right and signed off, the exciting part started. We began stripping the house and found some lovely features along the way.

"In the kitchen we stripped the previous external wall which was covered with rotten ply and was where the old extension to the kitchen was and behind there was beautiful red brick and exposed timbers.

"The house was full of character anyway with many existing features that hadn't been hidden, but just needed enhancing.

"We restored neglected but beautiful heritage features, such as the 300-year-old inglenook fireplaces, historic joinery and lime rendered walls.

"We even revealed the original timber frame, which has become an exposed feature in the dining room."

As in a farmhouse conversion and renovation last year, work on the cottage revealed a lot of wattle and daub, "but it wasn't in the same condition as the previous house, and we weren't able to keep it exposed as a feature as we did then.

"I think what's really nice about the cottage is that it's a piece of Herefordshire's historic past and absolutely chocolate box pretty, and it's lovely to have the resources to bring that back to life.

"It's Mum's passion and to be able to repair a property that's in such disrepair, and to be able to pass that on to another family or couple who really want a period property, but wouldn't have been able even to get a mortgage on it in the state it was in, is fantastic.

Hannah reports that the cottage has been renovated to a very high standard and is 'much nicer than a new build'.

Having given the property a new, more workable structure for life today, the time came to move onto the decoration and furnishing.

"The majority of everything in the house was sourced locally from antique shops in Leominster," says Hannah, adding that other pieces were already in the family - her grandparents were antique dealers, and she is very sensitive to the level of character they bring to a cottage that is, in so many other respects, entirely contemporary.

"Mum had inherited lots of beautiful pieces that we were able to use to excite buyers with the potential of the house.

"They add so much interest," says Hannah, "and they always have a story behind them which makes the house feel like a home.

"We definitely take a sustainable approach to the furniture because we don't buy anything new, it will either be sourced in antique shops, at auction or be something we already have.

"When we got to the point where all the plasterboard was on and most of the lime render - it had to be lime render because of the listing and the curves and texture it gives are so gorgeous - it was time to choose paint colours.

"I am a bit of a sucker for keeping with the same colour palette in period properties, and usually that means Farrow and Ball colours. I always try to keep a neutral palette.

"We are very loyal to local suppliers, so the flagstones throughout the ground floor are from White Hall Flagstones and create a beautiful canvas for a bespoke kitchen by Russell Alexander Kitchens in Leominster.

Ledbury Reporter: The bespoke kitchen created by Russell Alexander Kitchens of LeominsterThe bespoke kitchen created by Russell Alexander Kitchens of Leominster
"It was quite easy in this space, which is rectangular, to zone the kitchen into one end which then flowed nicely into the dining area, but with defined spaces away from each other to give each a unique identity.

"It's given it a lovely flow and the kind of modern kitchen diner that isn't often found in a cottage like this.

"The living room does all the talking for the house," says Hannah, "because it has a beautiful inglenook fireplace with the most gorgeous oak lintels, right in the heart of the house."

Ledbury Reporter: The original inglenook fireplace in the living roomThe original inglenook fireplace in the living room
In the first farmhouse project she completed last year, the lack of a listing meant that it was possible to have all the beams shot blasted to remove the layers of thick black gloss.

However in Bridge House, thanks to its being Grade II listed, the conservation officer was adamant that the black gloss in this property couldn't be removed, for fear of causing more damage to the timbers.

"We really wanted to strip them of the black gloss but instead we took the decision to paint over it, using the same colour as we used for the walls, which lightened everything and made the room feel elevated.

"You don't want to confuse anyone's eye when they walk in, you want the house to look like it's easy to live in."

Adding to that sense of comfort and welcome is the carefully chosen lighting. "There are new hand forged wall lights throughout," says Hannah.

"A lot of the existing wall lights were hideous, really old school and a bit gothic."

And, in the kitchen, a serendipitous find in a local antiques shop takes pride of place above the island - "It's a beautiful ceramic coolie which really helps to add character to the house. It makes the rest of the kitchen sing."

The one thing that didn't need changing, says Hannah, was the windows, "because they were beautiful wooden windows in very good condition. It's possible that they were the one thing that had to be done.

"We also installed cast iron radiators which are beautiful in their own right," says Hannah. "We also kept all the original floors and painted them, again in a neutral colour.

Upstairs there are four bedrooms - "the master is a very calming room, with dual aspect windows and absolutely stunning views", but Hannah has a definite favourite: "I love the twin bedroom.

"The two attic rooms are east and west facing and were fun rooms to design.

"We wanted to inject a little bit more personality, to make it feel designed and luxurious, so we've put tongue and groove panelling to picture rail height.

"We wanted to get a bit more punchy with the colours in these rooms - so I chose Farrow and Ball's Down Pipe on the woodwork.

"These two attic rooms were in a horrific state, and had been completely unlived in, nothing had been done to them (including no black gloss!), so were were able to leave the beams completely exposed.

Ledbury Reporter: Designer Hannah Llewllyn's favourite room in the house.Designer Hannah Llewllyn's favourite room in the house.
"This room just cried out to be a twin bedroom. I could just imagine two little children in there in their twin beds. It's definitely my favourite room in the house, and the colours work really well up there.

"The other room has been designed as a guest bedroom,  painted in Farrow and Ball's Treron, a lovely grey-green.

"And the bathroom on the second floor is really exciting, and was a lovely room to work with, a lovely shape. We put in half-height panelling and introduced wall lights and converted an antique console table into a vanity unit, which added instant character."

Ledbury Reporter: The repurposed antique console adds instant character to the bathroomThe repurposed antique console adds instant character to the bathroom
"With everything that's going on, it's very important to make your home feel peaceful and restful. You need your home to comfort you and welcome you home.

"We have renovated it to a beautiful standard," says Hannah with pride, "but managed to do it with minimal impact on the environment."

Photos by Laura French-Jones

HL Interiors
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