In the rolling Northumbrian countryside lives Stephanie Gowland, her husband, Graeme, and their two children, Olivia and Goldie, in a beautiful 500-year-old cottage. The narrow lane leading to their front door is lined with autumn’s bounty of blackberries and rosehips and in earshot of a nearby trickling stream. Everything about the family’s home is quintessentially rural and charmingly pared back to its rustic roots.
The family have lived here in Allendale, in the Northern Pennines, for nearly five years. Born in Northumberland, Steph’s family moved to a large farm in Scotland when she was two years old. They then emigrated to Australia eight years later – a drastic change from Scotland’s hilltop countryside, but it was a formative transition for Steph’s eye for interior design.
“I love that in my childhood, I got to experience the best of both worlds, quiet country living and then the vibrant life of Perth,” says Steph. “A lot of Australian houses are fairly slick, modern and open plan, which influenced my initial minimal style that I have slowly shifted away from. It doesn’t suit life here in the English countryside as I’m all about creating a feeling of cosy now, not just a look.”
The spin of life’s dice brought Graeme and Steph together when she was visiting the UK, but after Graeme was in a career-ending motorbike accident, Steph relocated to England, where she worked at her grandmother’s antique shop in the same village where Graeme began working at his family’s business.
“We started looking at properties around the area dreaming of our future lives,” says Steph. “Trawling Rightmove, we found a little cottage on a hilltop with a lovely garden, but it was a real ugly duckling. Then as we walked around, we realised how good the bones were. It had incredible hand-hewn pegged beams, three floors of high ceilings which seemed rare for a cottage and some feature stone walls, which has been pointed with cement rather than lime.”
Once the couple bought the property, the repair work began. They repointed, replastered, rewired, and replumbed in reconstructions that took nearly five years to complete. “We moved in nine months after getting the keys as, during the big renovation work, I found out I was pregnant, and there was suddenly a deadline to get it liveable,” says Steph. “We did most of the work ourselves with the help of family members to keep costs down, but also because we really wanted to learn.”
They added wooden floorboards in the kitchen diner and exposed existing pine floors and the barn’s sandstone flags. The interior style that followed was inspired by the building’s traditional features, and the nearby fell land, where the landscape is raw and rugged and the winters harsh.
“The unique natural wood and stone in our home has influenced my style, and it inspired me to choose a neutral historic palette of Farrow & Ball colours like ‘Old White’, ‘Light Gray’ and ‘Mouses Back’ to let these materials shine,” says Steph. “I’m hugely inspired by my mother and grandmother, who are such elegant women. They truly have a timeless style, and I think that’s what I will always strive for in making sure I keep things classic and timeless. Their homes are so welcoming, and I find myself wanting to replicate what I grew up with.”
‘English rustic’ is how Steph describes her interior style: it’s earthy, simplified and honed by simple English design, such as shaker-style cupboards and butt-and-bead panelling. The couple has taken inspiration from the outdoors, using muted, timeless colours spanning textiles, fixtures and wall paint.
The key interior features are the fireplaces, exposed stone walls and large beams that the couple worked to reveal. There are reclaimed brass sink taps and doors knobs sourced second-hand and antique homeware, such as stoneware pots and vases, dough bowls and a pair of olive-green fireside chairs.
“I love the new pieces I’ve bought, like the DeVol pendant above our dining table, lamps by Original BTC, and light switches by Corston. I know these products are all going to last a lifetime. I also love our traditional Burlington bath, washstand and toilet in our recently decorated bathroom, and again, I chose these items to look like they could have always been here.”
“The colours don’t compete with the features and instead allow them to shine. I’ve steered away from bright colours, adding them in with accessories like cushions and table cloths when I fancy a seasonal mix-up,” says Steph. “Timelessness is key to me, and also comfort. I love homes that feel layered and collected, as though they’ve evolved over time. Homes need soul and character, and I’m looking forward to further layering our home with the treasured finds and antiques we’ll collect over time.”
Follow Steph on Instagram: @stephgowla