Photo credit: All photos belong to Amanda and are used with permission via her Instagram profile @theoldforgecottage
This is part 2 of Amanda's interview about renovating her very old property. If you missed part 1, find it here first...
So Amanda, where does your home & interiors inspiration come from?
I love getting monthly magazines like Country Homes and Interiors, Ideal Home and 25 Beautiful Homes. I’ve got years’ worth and hate to add up at the amount I’ve spent on these; maybe cover the cost of the kitchen! But I love sitting down with a cuppa and a new glossy mag! I tear out the pages and keep my favourite pages! Pinterest and Instagram are also what I spend a huge amount of my time on.
Where have you been looking when you're making interior design choices for your homes? Are there any Instagram accounts I should be following, for example?
Some beautiful accounts are Reena @hygge_for_home and Rebecca @malmo_and_moss for their modern rustic and scandi inspired homes @carrie_thecottage and @petal_and_primrose for their absolutely stunning, calming cottages and then a curveball for me but someone who makes me want to go over to the dark side Sharon from @hornsby_style whose home is incredible. Also, Charlotte @thehomadethatmademe and Emma @littlewoodlife were the first accounts I started following last year. They are very inspiring ladies and such pros. I have watched their accounts grow and grow and it's so well deserved. They have beautiful homes and beautiful families. I could go on all day!
Did you find yourself gravitating towards any colours/ furnishings/ accessories that are totally unusual for you? How did you know you were choosing the 'right' things?
I am a total grey addict! I find it so calming. I have used dark greys, blues and light greys in previous homes but feel the cottage is best suited to pale, neutral colours as I want to maximise the original features such as the beams and doors and floors. Having said that I may go rogue in the study and make it dark, cosy and inviting. I want the cottage interior to look modern on the inside but remain sympathetic to the age of it. I love the Modern Country look but try and incorporate a scandi element. I love chalk paint and it’s a quick cheap way to upcycle old furniture. I’m not really terribly brave with my choices and don’t deviate too far out of my comfort zone!
How did you learn to compromise with your partner to have the things you both wanted in this renovation? Was it always easy?
I guess when you’ve been with someone for 25 years you know each other really well. Niall is happy for me to go with the interiors and trust me. You both make compromises and talk about things. If we still ‘agree to disagree’ we will leave it and go back to it. The sofa was the most recent one, I wanted a massive low corner sofa and he liked a more modern take on a classic Chesterfield one. We spent hours in DFS and had several visits to the shop as we couldn’t agree. I was so scared of making the wrong choice and spending all that money to be disappointed with it. In the end, we went for his choice as it made more sense and had more seating capacity and allowed for a more spacious look. In hindsight, the corner sofa would have completely taken over and looked a bit silly. Turns out he was right on this occasion, but shhh, don’t tell him!
Did your children show any interest or desire to influence your renovation at all? Have they had any input into final decisions?
My boys are not really bothered although we haven’t got round to doing their bedrooms yet where I’m sure they will be quite vocal! We have just done our daughter’s bedroom and she did play a big part in that. She chose the colours…(grey and white I’ve taught her well!) and she had great fun choosing her accessories. What’s funny is she talks about us doing her own renovation when she eventually leaves home so all these moves must not have upset her too much.
Did you find it easy to communicate your ideas and requirements to the professionals you were working with?
Well, that’s difficult as we haven’t really had anyone in, other than our trusted specialist plumber and electrician. So basically, it’s me communicating with Niall. He usually put his ideas forward as well, then we go with my plan (that’s a joke by the way!)
What advice would you give to someone who perhaps lacks the confidence to be assertive when they're renovating a property and working with various people?
Be brave, follow your gut, have confidence in yourself; and listen and learn from others.
Did you live in the house while it was being renovated? And if you did, what was challenging or good about it?
Yes, and it’s not easy! The eternal mess and dust! Packing up a room and storing it in other rooms that you are using, especially the ones you have finished! But in for a penny, in for a pound! But, living in it makes the whole process more ‘organic’; I have learnt it is okay to change your mind and make changes to the original plan. These are houses you want to live in and enjoy.
Tell me a bit about its listed status - was that difficult or expensive to plan/work with? Did you have to do much research?
Your local (listed) planning team are an important team that you have to get on with and work with. Their advice can be invaluable, and they clearly have a love for these important and unique properties. There are extra hurdles but that just becomes a part of the process. I wouldn’t let Listed Status put me off doing a project that I wanted to do. They are amazing buildings, and the history is just fascinating. Also, you can’t just do the cheapest option, you have to put these houses back how they were and that can sometimes be difficult when dealing with wattle and daub!
Was it fun to renovate a listed building too, though? Did it inspire any interior design choices?
We are fortunate that this is the oldest house in the village, so the (older?) neighbours are forever telling us tales of the building or the people who have lived there. This all adds to the narrative of the house, its fabric and does inspire you as we restore it to its former glory. Yes, it did inspire our interior design choices. We have favoured a neutral pallet as there are so many original features, we didn’t want our changes to detract from. Even in its current state, the cottage is beautiful.
How's life in your home right now? Do you still enjoy the rooms you've renovated?
Life is chaotic, there are not enough hours in the day! We love the rooms we have done and I feel it’s very important to look back at before and after photos, as you can often forget how much you have achieved. We get a great deal of satisfaction walking into a room that’s finished knowing how much you have transformed it and the amount of work that has gone into it.
What work is still to be done?
There is still a huge amount to be done. We are beginning to get the kitchen prepped for October when our new one is being delivered which means sorting out a damp wall, digging the floor up to finish off the last bit of the water pipe and moving radiators, pipes and electrics. Good job Niall is such a handy Andy, it saves us a huge amount of money and keeps the costs low. Having said that he works long hours in academia, very far removed from what he is doing here! After the kitchen, I think we will take our foot off the gas! Rest and save some more pennies!
Are you glad you took the house on? And how do you feel about the remaining work you need to do?
Yes, most definitely. We count our blessing on a daily basis. How blessed are we to own a house like this and be part of its history! We are still excited about renovating the rest of the house and feel quite calm about doing this slowly, room by room. I don’t think we'll ever really be finished. I’m learning that in a house as old as this the upkeep is constant, there will always be something to do, so in that sense, I don’t think we will ever be able to sit back and relax entirely!
What advice would you give someone embarking on a renovation?
When we first started out in the renovation game, we would do lots of jobs in different rooms as money and time permitted. This led to me becoming overwhelmed as every room was a mess. Now we find it much easier to pick one room and concentrate solely on that. We don’t move onto the next room until we are completely finished. As a result, I feel much calmer and more in control. Also, if you are a family living in a property whilst you are renovating it is much easier to live in with only the one room affected.
And what advice would you give someone who's midway through a renovation wondering what on earth they've done?
Don’t panic! It’s completely normal to get overwhelmed by things. There are ups and downs. It’s important to know when to step away and give yourself some space. We used to go full-steam ahead and not come up for air but life is short, it’s not a race, it will still be there next week. Go out for a walk and watch a movie! It’s amazing what having a week off from renovating can do. New ideas for the project often come about from giving yourself some time out!
Thank you so much, Amanda. Follow Amanda here on Instagram if you want to see more Old Forge Cottage updates. Subscribe for new blog posts, interviews, updates and more, too.