From Seventies time-warp to bijou boutique cottage, Maxine Gordon reports on a makeover that’s bang up to date

It’s not every day that interior designers have a blank slate with which to work, but that was the challenge for Steve Whitt and Bronia Suszczenia when they were asked to transform a compact stone cottage in East Witton, Wensleydale, into a luxury, modern holiday home.

“The cottage was a 50-year-old time-warp,” says Steve. “It had a microscopic kitchen and did not comply with modern building regulations. Working closely with the owners, we put in new insulation and central heating as well as extended it to make a proper kitchen-diner.”

The rear extension also allowed the creation of a second bedroom upstairs. Removing the attic and raising the ceiling height increased the volume of the upstairs main bedroom and bathroom by 50 per cent – and is a design trick easy to copy, he advises.

The transformation began downstairs with the lounge. Steve and Bronia, who have run Fabric Gallery & Interiors for ten years, wanted to make the most of this sunny room with a south-facing aspect. They achieved this by painting the walls in an intense yellow (Little Greene’s Mr David No 47), complemented by grey soft furnishings and a floral print in muted tones on the curtains (Designers Guild Eglantine). A log burner, wooden floor and faux-fur throws help create the cosiness you expect from cottage living.

The two sofas and antique chairs were reupholstered to fit into the room design. Steve says this is a worthwhile investment for quality furniture, where the frame and springs are in good condition, and is part of the service offered by Fabric Gallery & Interiors, based in Dunnington, York.

The mood of the lounge is echoed elsewhere downstairs. The dining room has dark lilac curtains (Voyage, Harkin in damson) with a statement wallpaper (Voyage, Wall Art in Jumaniah, colour Lotus) and Little Greene’s Mr David No 47 yellow paint is used on the lintel above the door. Table and chairs are from Fabric Gallery & Interiors. Steve says it is important to consider the whole scheme when designing a room and not leave furniture and lighting as an afterthought.

“Clients will say they went out at the weekend and bought a new lamp or cushion, but are disappointed," he says. "That is because they have bought them as individual components rather than as part of a well-thought out scheme.”

Continuity carries through to the newly extended kitchen, where the walls are again painted in Little Greene’s Mr David No 47, while the units are in a contrasting off white: Little Greene’s Linen Wash. The kitchen is from Splinters Kitchens in Leeds.

Upstairs, the look is more boutique hotel than Dales cottage. The main bedroom packs the wow factor with a bed fit for Louis XIV himself. French antiques are the influence here, with handsome ornate furniture from Manor House Cottages. Decor is in muted shades to create a mood of relaxation – perfect for a place of rest. The second bedroom is full of soft shades and fabrics, inviting you to melt away stresses and strains.

A final hurrah is reserved for the bathroom, complete with showering area. The copper tub is a main focal point in what is fabulous room, complete with wood panelling and tiling in the shower enclosure. Like the main bedroom, the ceiling height has been raised by removing the attic, lending the room a more spacious and airy appearance. For the wall panelling, Steve and Bronia selected Little Greene Sree, with Little Greene’s Mid-Lead for the wall paint. The curtains are grey linen with a copper thread embellishment by Casadeco.

“We have hung a chandelier in the bathroom too,” says Steve. “There is lots of light and that could not have been achieved in the property before.”

Although Fabric Gallery & Interiors worked on the total revamp of the cottage, the business offers services to suit all needs and budgets. “We do a very broad spectrum of work, from a simple roller blind to the other extreme of a whole property renovation,” says Steve.

The business offers a wide range of designer fabrics, wallpapers and paints and represents more than 40 designer brands, from Abraham Moon through to Zoffany – all available at the Dunnington showroom.

Reflecting on the makeover of the East Witton cottage, Steve says: “We were trying to create a bijou feel that had a coherent style throughout.” From the photographic evidence, it is safe to say they have achieved their goals.

  • Fabric Gallery & Interiors, 13 York Street, Dunnington, York YO19 5PN. T: 01904-481101; W:

The cottage – named Boutique 39 – is available for rent through Gorgeous Cottages (