In a small village in South Derbyshire, Amy Cawson lives with her husband, Will, and their two sons, Stanley, 10, and Woody, 2. As the founder of Florrie and Bill, a reupholstery business that releases limited collections of restored vintage chairs, Amy has a knack for seeking out historical design in need of a contemporary reboot.
Her home – a red brick house built around 1750 – was originally two small cottages extended in the 1900s for the local mining industry before being converted into a residential property in 1980. But as the couple soon found out in 2016, making this house a home didn’t come without its challenges.
“This house threw a spanner in the works,” says Amy. “It was the complete opposite of what we were looking for as our next project. We liked clean lines, square rooms and high ceilings. Our previous houses were a 1930’s semi and a 1950’s detached house, which at the time suited our vintage and mid-century modern tastes.”
“As soon as we viewed it, we fell in love with all the character and charm even though it was damp throughout and needed a full renovation. It just needed to be loved again and given a new lease of life. We’ve had to take most of the house back to brick and start again.”
Nearly seven years in, the couple’s renovations are still ongoing. The first jobs were more practical than stylistic, spanning damp proofing, levelling floors and installing windows to completely replumbing, rewiring and replastering. Next, they painted the building’s exposed beams white, stripped and restored the original brick fireplaces, and placed internal windows in the living room and hallway as a nod to the past. The next big project is getting their house re-pointed in lime mortar.
“I love seeing the old working alongside the new,” says Amy. “The fireplaces hold a lot of history within our home. We invested time and effort into sympathetically restoring them using a local craftsman, and we reused bricks from the old pigsty in our garden to recreate the hearths. We sourced and added some Fireline minimal design log burning stoves from Charlton and Jenrick. The brick fireplaces are far from perfect and still need a little TLC, but as with everything in our house, nothing is perfect, but you come to love it for what it is.”
Amy’s home has a sleek monochromatic colour palette with an all-white backdrop, a design decision that’s helped elevate each room’s dimensions. “Our interior is mainly white because we like the calm and sense of space it creates,” she says. “Painting everywhere an off-white has its benefits as it’s helped brighten up our rooms, and although we have lots of windows, they are quite small and low down. When we moved into the property, all the beams were dark brown and felt very oppressive. Now they appear unobtrusive, and the ceilings feel a lot higher than they actually are.”
Such a structured and cohesive colour scheme lends itself well to keeping their interiors as minimal as possible, where the building’s quirks have room to stand out as focal points. An approach, Amy says, that began with having a blank canvas they could build upon.
“We love the contrast of some black items of furniture against the white walls and think it works well with the oak colour wood of our bespoke dining table, which I sourced from a maker on eBay. We’re still working out the space for our living room and plan to add some bespoke cabinetry to house the TV and books.” For Amy, living in an old property is an ever-unfolding journey in learning how best to work with what they have by knowing their limitations as much as their opportunities.
“I think moving into this house pushed us into an interior style that we had never considered before,” she says. “There are always things we want to do, but sometimes with an old house, it is just not possible, and we live with a lot of plan Bs. We have much to learn about how to best furnish an old property with character. We’re still growing and evolving our style, and we feel very blessed to have this opportunity to put our personality into our home this way.”
Follow Amy on Instagram at @amycawson