Rural inspiration for South Yorkshire property

An almost derelict cottage in the corner of a 17th century South Yorkshire farm is transformed into a welcoming home

For generations the crumbling old stone cottage on the corner of Tony Cooke’s family farm had been a familiar, if not particularly attractive, landmark. It had withstood the ravages of time and bleak South Yorkshire winters since the 1600s, providing a modest home for those who managed the business.

Tony met and married Emma and it made practical and financial sense for them to move into the cottage with the aim of doing it up to create a family home. ‘The last farm manager had lived in it for 25 years and it hadn’t changed much in that time,’ said Emma. ‘We knew we would renovate it one day, so we managed as best we could for 10 years before we could afford to do anything with it.’

The cottage had charm and plenty of potential and Emma made it as homely as she could with a fresh coat of paint and pretty furniture, trying to ignore the cold draughts and rising damp. ‘We had to move out three times and stay with Tony’s parents when the damp became unbearable,’ said Emma. ‘The worst point was when our son, Cameron, was just a baby and we came home after a weekend away to find a newly laid reclaimed oak floor under water.’

It was the arrival of their twins Genevieve and Fraser that forced the couple to bite the bullet and extend the three bedroom cottage.Tony, a food industry consultant, was originally a farmer and part-time landscape gardener. He spent hours using his design skills working on ideas for the house. But when they applied for planning permission to extend the property to almost twice its size, the couple faced an unexpected turn of events. The local council asked them to do up a former dairy and stable block next to the house, to demonstrate the quality of their work, before a decision could be made on the main property.‘It wasn’t the way we’d planned it and it was going to use a large slice of money we’d allocated for the house,’ said Emma. ‘At the same time we were struggling to cope in the cottage, so we decided the best thing we could do was buy a small, brand new house in the village and live in it for a year until the outbuildings were modernised. We would then live in the outbuildings while we renovated the main house.’Luckily for Emma and Tony, the planners liked their sympathetic restoration and eventually allowed them to rebuild and extend the old farmhouse. ‘We were originally going to just extend it, but the house was in such a poor state that the builder advised us to demolish it, lay new foundations and rebuild it to the same footprint, which probably worked out cheaper in the long run,’ said Emma.When they finally moved into their new home in 2006 they had been used to living in the tiny, two-bedroom outbuilding for a year. The main house now seemed huge. ‘When it was just a cottage we felt quite hemmed in. Tony and I are both tall and we had to duck everywhere because the ceilings were so low,’ Emma said. ‘The rooms seemed quite dark and claustrophobic. The windows were low, too. I remember sitting in the bath one day and waving to the local riding school as they went past.’Emma was already used to sourcing materials for the project but finally being able to look for furniture, wall colours and accessories to create their new home was a great pleasure. ‘I loved the whole process,’ she said. ‘The most difficult aspect was trying to find things which were a little bit different. Fortunately my friend runs her own interiors business, The Moorhouse Trading Company, and she helped me whenever I needed inspiration.’Rather than scale down, Emma had to ‘scale up’ to find furniture, mirrors, lamps and pictures which worked with the proportions of the bigger house.‘Small items can look lost unless they’re grouped together, so I tend to think big,’ said Emma. ‘I always look for bargains and will often find pieces of furniture at antique sales and paint them to work with the look of a particular room.’This eclectic, unfitted look continues into the kitchen where a combination of hand painted and natural wood units, free standing cupboards and comfortable seating make the large room homely and inviting.‘When I look back and think how the house used to be and the way it is now, it’s difficult to believe the transformation,’ said Emma. ‘It’s been a long journey, but I think that’s made us appreciate what we have even more. Hopefully we’ve taken a corner of the family farm which could have been lost forever, and given it a new future.’

ContactsThe Moorhouse Trading Company: 01977 641983, Style Ltd: 0207 731 1882.Porcelanosa Ltd: 01302 304713.Fired Earth: 020 8549 6655.Bylaws: 01989 562356.Holloways of Ludlow: 01584 876207.Lapicida: 01423 400100.Graham and Green: 020 7352 1919.Oka: 01799 523954.Chesney’s Fireplaces: 020 7561 8280.Overmantels: 020 7223 8151.Multiyork Furniture Ltd: 01904 674050.Jeremy Wood Designed Kitchens: 01423 565950.Clayton Munroe Ltd: 01803 865700.Warmsworth Stone Ltd: 01302 858617.

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