Quirky Charm in a 300 Year Old Cottage

Henny Tate was brought up in the countryside by a mother who loves nature. Following in her footsteps she now lives in a country cottage in a small village in Wiltshire where she works as an interior designer. She discusses the inspiration behind her work and setting up a family home.

Interior Designer Henny Tate lives in a stunning grade II listed house with her three young children and husband Rupert. They fell in love with the country cottage six years ago and decided to follow their hearts and buy the property, “We had no reason to move here whatsoever!” she laughs, “but we just loved the house”.

The house has evidently evolved throughout its lifetime and if walls could talk, it could certainly tell some stories. It is 350 years old in parts and occupies what would originally have been two and a half cottages. In its time it has posed as a hardware shop, hairdressers, a bakery and even an armoury during the war. “There’s a little door in our bedroom that’s bricked up - I think it’s from when it was a bakery, but I’m not sure what would have been brought up through that window” Henny says with interest. “That’s what I like - houses like this that grow organically. Some of the doors aren’t square - they just lean!”

Henny has maintained the character of the house beautifully when renovating and asserted her own style with quirky, and thrifty furnishings. Dotted around the home you can spot old church pews, re-upholstered chairs, a bargain sofa bought from her local auction house and, her favourite piece, a work top cleverly re-crafted from an old billiard table top - need I say more!

From looking at the combination of cleverly put together crafts and objects it is clear that Henny has an inherent talent. Very few could inject touches of ethnic art and colourful textiles into a quintessential English country cottage quite so effortlessly. A quick delve into her background reveals where she gets her creative flare from. Her mother, Celia Lewis, is an artist and author whose published books, ‘The Illustrated Guide to Keeping Chickens’ and ‘The Illustrated Guide to Keeping Pigs’, are proudly placed on the coffee table.

“We were brought up in a house down a two mile bumpy track into the middle of nowhere; Mum and Dad were always quite self-sufficient, they had chickens, sheep, pigs and a huge vegetable garden” Henny says warmly. “Mum’s on her fourth book now which is an ‘Illustrated Guide to Nature’- she’s nature mad!”

Celia’s illustrations can be seen on various cushions or table mats throughout the house and although she is not as big on nature as her Mother, it’s evident that the country theme is very close to Henny’s heart.

“I find bits from everywhere!” she smiles“I love things that friends and family have made, a lot of items in this house have come from them. I like blending things together and prefer it to a curated look - particularly in cottages and family homes, as I think it’s nice to have everything thrown together”. Alongside all the mix-matching even the most eclectic designers such as Henny have their staple pieces. After a memorable trip to France one year she discovered French linen and hasn’t looked back. “There are linen curtains here, there and everywhere - it’s the one thing I still use all the time!”

Henny’s earthy background and love of all things wholesome have undoubtedly influenced her attitude to life and design. She places great emphasis on homemaking, and her penchant for cultural pieces, natural fabrics and up-cycling has proved the perfect recipe for creating a beautifully nurtured family home.

Photographs: Emma Lewis

Words: Liggy Griffiths

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of Heart Home mag.