LOOK THROUGH THE KEYHOLE: THE PADSTOW COTTAGE
Dating back to 1825, The Padstow Cottage is a one-up one-down lesson in how small really is beautiful... The brief to create The Padstow Cottage was simple: owner Mark Hixon told the builders: produce the best cottage in Padstow’.
Cornwall boasts every kind of home - from monolithic modernist beach houses to re-imagined fishing cottages accessorised to celebrate their nautical history and snug mill house hide-aways. There are even bespoke abodes created from public toilets and pilchard presses. It’s no surprise that quirky buildings and homes of all shapes and sizes for enthusiastic doer-uppers are in increasingly short supply.
But The Padstow Cottage offers something unique – style in a tiny package just waiting to be unwrapped. Its owner spent more than a year – and more than £100,000 – creating the new-look cottage which sits next door to his boutique hotel, Coswarth Hotel.
The cottage sits within the overall footprint of the main hotel and was originally part of the same building so it seemed natural to bring it all together as part of the main hotel,’ Mark explains. We were looking for another project in Padstow and this was a project waiting to happen. We knew that we could create something very special.’
And they have. The building dates from 1825 and its thick stone walls are made from local stone with Delabole slate floors. It sits surrounded by wrought iron gates that encircle the cottage like a metal frilly doily, a heritage coloured barn door open to reveal this secret hideway in view of the Camel Estuary.
The look that we were trying to achieve was to retain as many of the original features as possible and to recreate those that had been removed,’ explains Mark. We then sought to provide a modern 21st Century twist.’
One stand-out original feature is the flagstone floor left virtually unadorned but for a throw rug by the sofa. A previous owner had removed half of the original slate floor and replaced it with six inches of concrete so we excavated the floor and sourced local slate to recreate it.’ This beautiful floor is now one of the stand-out original features.
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The history of the house is fascinating. We believe that the property was built as living quarters for staff who worked for the owners of the main house,’ Mark says. The main property was part of the Prideaux estate, built in 1592 by Sir Nicholas Prideaux (1550-1627) - a familiar name to Padstow, in particular.
Inside the light-filled bright interior, there are a pair of deep window sills which sit on either side of the barn doors and feature pretty window seats and cream painted shutters.
A deep fireplace also offers interest and matches the exposed wooden lintels above the door and windows. The living space is shared with a modern kitchen where a Rangemaster takes centrestage. The eye is drawn to the pair of industrial lights hanging from the ceiling over the bar that acts as a natural barrier to the kitchen/living area and provides a handy dining space. Both this lighting - and the pendant lights in the bedroom were sourced from Felix Lighting in Bath. Mixing the old with the new must surely be one of our most difficult interior challenges – and here it succeeds: the kitchen’s black electric Rangemaster has sleek induction hobs sits by a Belfast sink. Black granite style worktops sit beneath wooden cupboards painted in heritage green to match the barn doors that stands opposite. The ceiling is painted white with spot lights sitting between the original exposed beams that cross the downstairs area. We removed the low first floor ceilings that were made from fairly modern plaster board,’ Mark says. Having removed them and exposed the ceiling timbers we decided not to replace them and to make maximum use of the space.’
Despite the small proportions of the cottage, which is essentially a one-up one-down cottage, the owners have created a generous bathroom suited to more modern living, which features a walk-in shower and claw-footed bath. The modern design is offset by old fashioned tiles and the old style bath and taps. There was a very basic bathroom in the current space but we changed the configuration to provide a more romantic and practical environment,’ Mark says. We had numerous challenges with the pipework due to the limited space but Paul Blackmore (Padstow Plumbing) provided a lot of sweat and innovative ideas to enable us to create the finished product.’ In fact he tells me, the whole project was carried out by local tradesman – something Mark is particularly proud of.
Up the short flight of open oak wooden stairs - just 10 (I counted) is perhaps the real showpiece. The stairs now sit at one side of this tiny cottage but originally went through the centre to create two tiny bedrooms. Our research indicates that the staircase has been moved on a number of occasions,’ Mark tells me. The previous incarnation made it almost impossible for tall people to ascend. We removed the 1970s staircase and carefully recreated a hand built oak staircase.’ A glass and stainless steel balustrade finishes off the look.
The bedroom comes into view floor first where original wide planked floorboards have been sanded back and oiled with just enough imperfections to make them real. When Mark acquired the cottage the upstairs floor was constructed of 12-inch ship boards but several had to be sourced to replace those suffering from rot. A four-poster bed dominates the room and is covered in simple white linens and snugly fits under the exposed eaves of the impressive apex ceiling.
Areas of exposed stone walls breaks up the white plaster walls. This turned out to be a much more challenging job than we anticipated and resulted in us re-pointing almost every stone,’ Mark remembers.
The ceiling has been opened out to create a stunning feature of the original wooden beams which sit against perfect white plaster. There is even room for two Velux windows to view the night sky from the impressive bed. A tiny grate sits in the original fireplace on the outer wall, while a second one, filled with pinecones is picked out in the plaster above the stairs in what would have once been the second tiny bedroom. The bed sits opposite three shuttered windows. A telescope provides a centrepiece to one of the windows if you want a closer look at the boats that sail by when the tide is in along the wide expanse of the estuary visible from the bedroom. The telescope is an original Victorian model sourced from a Malvern Three Counties Showground antiques and collectables fair in 2015. Other vintage accessories include a high shelf of storm lanterns - the perfect ambient lighting for darker evenings. The room is further furnished by a pair of boudoir chairs sitting either side of a bespoke glass table which uses a brass tripod instead of legs.
The room is clean and uncluttered, allowing the original features to sing; complemented rather than strangled by accessories - my favourite is a large tripod theatre light dating back to the 1930s which points towards the showcase bed; the definite star of the room.
The Padstow Cottage is available to book through Cornish Horizons, with prices starting at £1,120 per week.
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