Devon's prettiest homes: Revived Bottor Cottage near Bovey Tracey
PUBLISHED: 10:35 30 April 2019
Modern ideas and materials, plus some patience and perseverance, have brought a crumbling Dartmoor house back to life, as CHRISSY HARRIS discovers
For a while, it was thought that the kindest thing to do to Bottor Cottage was to knock it down and start again. Neglected for years, the Georgian-fronted house in Hennock, near Bovey Tracey, was struggling to survive against the elements.
Ramshackle extensions at the back were starting to fall down and water was pouring through the roof.
“Oh, it was in a terrible state,” says Sally Carpanini, flicking through some pictures on her iPad. “You see here? That was the front of it but the back was ten times worse.”
Despite its rather rugged appearance, Sally, 65, and husband Philip, 66, bought Bottor Cottage in 2014, wowed by its location and convinced it could be saved.
Then the sheer scale of what they were up against started to sink in.
“We didn't know whether to just knock the whole thing down and start again because it would have been cheaper to do that,” says Sally, who has taken on renovation projects before but none quite like this. “We were dithering about it for a while.”
In the end, they reached a compromise. They would keep what they could and add the rest.
Bottor Cottage is now part Georgian, part 21st Century, connected by a lightweight glazed link corridor.
Old rooms have been restored and roof timbers exposed but the stately-looking original house now sits alongside a Siberian larch-clad extension with zinc roof and glass doors. They match perfectly - it is absolutely stunning.
“I feel very happy with it,” says Sally in her lovely, melodic Welsh accent (she's originally from Abergavenny).
“It isn't really finished properly, I mean, I should be buying things for the walls upstairs, there probably aren't enough pictures but I love it.
“I love the winter evenings when we can sit by the fire and it warms the whole, house. And in the summer, we've got all those glass doors open right back and you can just walk out and see the moors. And I just love the old Georgian stone wall in the hallway. You just can't do that very often in a house now, can you?”
Retired social worker Sally has been canny with her interiors, complementing her home's old-meets-new style.
Ercol chairs she picked up from a shop in Frome, Somerset, look striking in the stone and glass hallway.
The vast expanse of modern kitchen and dining area is broken up by an antique highchair and two wooden figures, sitting on wicker stools.
“I've had them 30 years,” she says. “I just thought they'd look nice, sitting there. I like simple things like that.”
Mirrors with antique frames look great in the downstairs bathroom and there's a fantastic mid-century sideboard (which I would very much like in my house) in the living room, in the original part of the house.
Sally says she just buys what she likes and none of it is that expensive.
“I never spend a lot, if I can help it,” she says. “It's different for flooring and tiles but the rest, well, I try not to, put it like that.”
Simple, stylish paper hanging decorations feature heavily here, cleverly filling blank spaces in the landing and bedroom.
A collection of green glass bottles discovered in the loft has become a focal point in the kitchen.
But otherwise, ornaments are kept to a bare minimum.
“I don't like clutter; I like a clear brain, I suppose,” says Sally, before revealing her style tips. “I'm into twos and threes, as you'll see, bit weird I know but I think it works well.”
No fuss means the lines and textures of the house take centre stage: the glass, the stonework – and then that view across Dartmoor.
“It's wonderful from our bedroom in the morning,” says Sally. “We've got these three big windows and you've got that silhouette of the tree as the sun rises. It's all orange and pink skies.”
Outside, you can see the makings of a showstopper garden, with plans to reflect the nature of the Dartmoor surroundings.
A dry-stone wall expert is out there in the drizzly rain, carefully measuring out and fitting together blocks like a jigsaw puzzle. Around the corner, a team of landscapers is busy creating new pathways and planting zones.
It will be the final stage in a process that has seen this once tired and overgrown plot completely revitalised.
“It's been hard at times and things always take longer and cost more money, bear that in mind,” says Sally, making yet another round of coffees for the workmen, something she's had to do fairly often over the past few years. “But we both know it'll be wonderful in the end.”
Architects van Ellen + Sheryn in Ashburton led the design. See vanellensheryn.com
Deer and badgers are a common sight in the garden at Bottor Cottage, as well as a whole host of birds. The wildlife gets inside, too. “We have a wren that keeps coming in,” says Sally.
“It was flying around the bathroom. We've also had a wasps nest here!”
A family home
Sally and Philip, a solicitor, have three children, Alice, 35, Josh, 33 and Harry, 31, plus grandson Arthur, two. All love coming to stay when they can.
Sally says: “When we first drove up the driveway here I said to Phil, our grandchildren would love it here. We hadn't got any then! “Arthur loves it here, though. The family come down quite a lot.”