VANESSA Beeson and her husband Matthew initially bonded over a love of “all things tatty” and their Borders farm cottage near Traquair is full of the kind of treasures both love.
The couple met and lived in London before moving to Hawick a decade ago, and then to the two-up, two-down cottage five years ago.
Vanessa is delighted that her nine-year-old son Walter’s favourite colour is green. “It’s mine too,” she says. But where once Vanessa kept a tight rein on her use of green – a collection of 1930s jugs being a case in point – recently she has let its bolder shades loose on a larger scale.
There is the bright green wall in the living room of the cottage for starters. “I used to stick to Farrow & Ball whites, maybe with a hint of green,” Vanessa says. “I’m not sure if it’s just getting older, or having a child at primary school, but I’m definitely much braver with colour now.”
And the colour and creativity that fill every corner of her home bears witness to that shift.
Having owned and run a shop that revelled in deliciously nostalgic treats for the home, Vanessa is now making forays into the world of interior design. But Matthew too has influenced the cottage interior’s vintage vibe. Over the years, he has presented Vanessa with treasures, such as the chest of little drawers that resides in the living room.
“We were away for Christmas and he gave me one of the drawers, wrapped,” says Vanessa. “I was thrilled with that alone, then he explained the rest were at home. The chest has been my haberdashery box ever since.”
In its drawers are fabrics, sewing tools and trimmings, put to work to create some of the other beautiful things in the cottage. In recent years, Vanessa has run a sewing class that she is about to re-establish, and the experience inspired her too.
“I’d watch my class making these lovely things and it made me want to get stuck in,” she says. From over-size floral print cushions to throws and window blinds, as well as a stool upholstered in patchwork, the fruits of her labour are all around.
When they moved to the cottage, the couple made additions to the half-acre of land to the side and back, including adding the tree house that Matthew, a distiller, built amongst woodland on the hillside. Replete with stained glass windows (sourced on eBay) and a deck-on-stilts that amply accommodates a few chairs, it’s a magical bolthole for adults as well as Walter and his friends. A little further down the hill, the couple made a campfire site with benches, while back at garden level there is a new chicken house. Two storage sheds, a workshop and a greenhouse add to the potential of the external space.
Matthew and Walter frequently take to the Quair Water that runs close by. Matthew even built a timber bridge across Newhall Burn that improves access to the river, for them and their neighbours.
“It started with stepping stones, but they got washed away,” says Vanessa.
The cottage interior enjoys a relationship with the great outdoors via the double patio doors in the kitchen, which open to a terrace. Floorboards throughout the cottage are exposed and washed with light paints. In the kitchen, predominantly freestanding pieces (the fitted units on the sink wall are the only remnant of the old space) afford the room informal warmth. Vanessa used blackboard paint to cover a large section of wall. “Walter uses the bottom half and I write lists on the top,” she says.
The stainless steel range cooker made the move from their previous house, teamed here with a red-painted cupboard that contrasts with the forest green walls.
Vanessa and Matthew picked up the cupboard during one of their many antique trawls. A short drive away in Innerleithen they discovered some great second hand and antique shops. “You’re just never quite sure when they will be open,” says Vanessa. The couple are also regular visitors to Denholm Meet, a café and antiques shop close to Hawick. Slightly further afield they also love ‘RE’, a haven for reconditioned, recycled and restored pieces in Corbridge, Northumberland.
If it’s not from one of their favourite haunts, chances are the furniture in Vanessa and Matthew’s home is a much-loved heirloom. The broad arms of the 1920s timber chairs in the living room are worn smooth with use, passed down from Granny Beeson. They flank a fireplace the couple uncovered, building a surround of stone and timber to frame the hearth. Above the fire is an ‘Allsopp’s Ale’ mirror, part of Matthew’s collection of ‘Brewania’, while a table alongside holds a flamboyant light. Vanessa hauled this ornate base and its matching partner back from a trip to Canada and dressed this one in a vivid pink skirt unearthed in a charity shop.
At the bottom of the open wooden staircase, which rises from the living room to the two bedrooms, is an original painting by Matthew’s uncle, Tim Mara, who was a lecturer at London’s Royal College of Art.
Vanessa painted the front of the stair treads, alternating red and green. She loves the little stained glass window which helps transfer light from the stairwell to the couple’s bedroom.
Created by a past owner within the roof space, the two bedrooms are atmospheric with sloping ceilings and quirky additions such as vintage packing cases that look good and provide storage. Vanessa made the patchwork cushions on the bed.
Downstairs in the bathroom - floored, like the entrance hall, in slate - the old bath was on its last legs. The couple replaced it with a luxuriously deep, double-ended tub that has been neatly panelled with tongue and groove.
Although she occasionally feels nostalgic for London, Vanessa couldn’t imagine moving back. Innerleithen has proven to be a revelation.
“It has to be one of the Borders’ best kept secrets,” she says. “The sense of community in the town is just incredible – everyone seems to be threaded through it.”
Vanessa and her family have undoubtedly added a colourful thread to the area’s tapestry, and wherever their next home may be, the colour is likely to stay.
3 Newhall Farm Cottages, Traquair, has a guide price of £225,000. Contact Remax, Peebles (01721 723 072, www.remax-scotland.com/Peebles)
For interior design enquiries contact Vanessa Beeson (07739 181 611)
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