Peek inside this former pub turned cosy home in Bures

Traditional cottage dining room

The much-loved dining room - Credit: Jack Mansfield

Sophie Elvin and Jack Mansfield (@essex.cottage) tell Holly Louise Eells how they took a Grade II-listed former pub in Bures and transformed it into a cosy home that’s brimming with personality and fabulous secondhand finds 

Exterior of a former pub, now a house

The exterior of the former pub - Credit: Jack Mansfield

Tell us about the @essex.cottage project and its journey? 

When we moved into our first house in Maldon, I decided to make an Instagram account to document our improvements to the house. It’s a way for me to be creative by photographing the house and our country walks. I love looking back on our progress for motivation to carry on with the DIY, and it’s a great place to get inspiration for our new home in Bures.  

Would you say your dream vision is now complete? 

We’ve achieved so much in our first seven months in our new house, but we still have a lot to do. This includes the exterior of the house, two bathrooms, the garden, a fireplace, the utility room (where we’re hoping to have a dog shower) and we’d like to make better use of the driveway by adding a carport, if we can get permission. I’m sure by the time we’ve finished all that, we’ll have thought of other things we want to do! 

Cottage kitchen in blue

The kitchen blends modern and traditional styles - Credit: Jack Mansfield

Any highs and lows?  

The highs include completion day, when we were so thrilled that even moving all our stuff without the help of a removal company felt like fun. Also, getting the downstairs flooring finished so we could move in, and figuring out a solution for our awkward-shaped front room with a bay window. We decided on a window seat in the bay window to allow for extra seating, while the TV is on a swinging bracket so we can hide it around the corner when it’s not in use. 

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The lows seemed disastrous at the time, but you have to look back and laugh! For example, we pulled up the old carpet ready to have new flooring laid the next day to discover that the screed underneath had cracked in places. We had to cancel the new flooring at the last minute and delay our move for a few weeks. The main low for me was moving into a property that had been empty for 10 months – there were so many spiders! I very dramatically threatened to move out on multiple occasions. 

Traditional cottage dining room

The much-loved dining room - Credit: Jack Mansfield

Can you share any valuable lessons? 

We spent so much time striving for perfection, which was a mistake in a 500-year-old cottage. The timber frames move, you’ll never get a straight line whilst painting and most of the floors are wonky - it’s best to embrace the character! Also, always give yourself extra time; every single thing we’ve done has taken so much longer than expected.   

What is your favourite room in the house? 

I think it’s got to be the dining room. I absolutely love hosting; having my friends and family sitting around the dining table with the log burner on, wine in hand. We didn’t have a dining room in our old house, so it feels like a treat being able to have people over now.  

Two cockapoo dogs on a bed

Bonnie and Baloo enjoying the master bedroom - Credit: Jack Mansfield

I’ve noticed you’re a lover of secondhand items. What are your favourites?  

I adore every piece we’ve got, as we only buy things we really love. My favourites are my grandmother clock, which belonged to my grandparents, who now love coming to visit our new home. Also, my bedside tables in the master bedroom; I found them a few years ago when we lived in London and had zero space for them. I persuaded Jack to have them in the hallway of our tiny one-bedroom flat until we moved somewhere bigger. They’re very old and delicate, which makes them even more lovable!  

Can you recommend any good secondhand shops in Essex? 

Battlesbridge Antiques Centre in Wickford is great, but the place we usually have the most luck is the vintage and antique markets at the Museum of Power in Langford. The markets are organised by Haddon Events and they hold them at various locations. There are so many fantastic finds!  

Can you share any tips on how to source the best secondhand pieces? 

There are so many upsides to shopping secondhand. You often get things for much cheaper than buying new, it’s great for the environment and you find so much charm, character and uniqueness in used furniture. 

I mainly use Facebook and eBay, but we often go to local antique markets too. It’s easy to get carried away if shopping with no purpose. I’ve purchased things and then ended up selling them on because I didn’t need them. I try to keep a list of pieces we need and only buy from that. 

What does the word 'home' mean to you? 

Home to me is calm days, a cosy spot with the dogs and busy evenings cooking, laughing and loving with family and friends. 

How would you describe your taste?  

Country with a touch of modern. We tend to go for classic, traditional pieces of wooden furniture, such as our Welsh dresser and farmhouse dining table, but add modern touches through lighting, artwork and design. We wanted the kitchen to be a modern shaker style, but the tiles help add a rustic touch so it fits in with the rest of the house.  

Butler sink with blue cabinets

The couple have created their dream kitchen - Credit: Jack Mansfield

Would you renovate another property?

Absolutely. As much as I can’t wait to live in a finished house and have a break from DIY, I think I’ll definitely get the itch to do it all again! Jack, who does most of the DIY, would definitely say the opposite – he will need a little persuading to move to another run-down house! 

Follow @essex.cottage on Instagram