The Perfect Rural Retreat

Laura wanted to find the perfect home to provide an escape from her busy London life and whilst searching, she fell in love with an idyllic country retreat near the Dorset coast; it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why. It’s a Grade II listed stable block with an original cobbled courtyard, nestled in the grounds of a private estate. She and her fiancé, photographer Patrick Butler-Madden, moved in with their Maltese Terrier, Coco a year ago.

“We were looking for somewhere in the countryside near the Dorset Coast, but within walking distance of pubs and restaurants. I love period properties with character and Patrick wanted a light bright space. We were so lucky we found this house, it ticked all the boxes!”

Their luck continued; the property was in such good condition it didn’t require any structural work, allowing Laura to devote all her time to the interiors. Her thrifty ideas and eye for a bargain enabled her to complete the beach inspired décor on a modest budget. “We didn’t have much left over after buying the property “ she admits “but luckily there are some wonderful places around town to pick up some real bargains. I was also fortunate with pieces like the dresser in the kitchen, it was a family heirloom. I stripped and painted it myself, and now it fits really well with the coastal theme”.

Throwing themselves into the local way of life, the pair love nothing more than spending a Saturday morning at the Bridport antiques market (which sounds perfect for picking up those one off gems - £20 for a working 1920’s Singer sewing machine anyone?) Followed by a coastal walk, pub lunch, log fire, hearty dinner, with some home grown vegetables to boot.

The pair are great supporters of local businesses and employed some nearby hands to help with the painting and tiling. They also hired a local carpenter to complete the more unusual task of creating a dining table out of reclaimed scaffolding planks, and had the footstool upholstered in an old grain-sack. “It’s lovely and rustic” she smiles, “it also means we can mark it without worrying – it all adds to the character!”

Adding to her clever use of up cycling, it is apparent that Laura has a penchant for vintage. The floral fabrics, pastel shades and the romantic use of white are all evidence of this pretty theme. But before this courtyard cottage whimsically transports you back in time, sudden interjections of modern patterns and use of vibrant colour provide a contemporary twist ensuring that the old is brought back into the new.

“I like to work with a neutral palette and add splashes of bold colour with standout pieces. My favourite pieces include two brightly coloured rugs and a bright pink Nina Campbell armchair” she explains.

“Our favourite room is the kitchen/dining/sitting room; it’s such a light, brightspace and has a real wow factor; it’s not what you’d expect at all in a listed cottage; it really is the perfect escape from the city.”

Despite living deep in the country, Laura and Patrick are rarely without company; they love nothing more than hosting friends from London in their beautiful rural retreat. Perhaps they would consider extending this offer to the wider public - I’m sure they’d have plenty of takers!

To learn more about Laura and her style visit her blog

This article originally appeared in the winter 2012 issue of Heart Home magazine.

Photographs: Patrick Butler-Madden. Words: Liggy Griffiths.