Written by Natalie Osborn

Storybook appeal in a Cornish seaside cottage

Perched above Cadgwith Cove, it was love at first sight for Lisa and James Bligh when they found their dream Cornish holiday cottage renovation project…

At Land’s End, away from the seaside crowds, there is a rare delight: a model village of the ten prettiest houses in all of Cornwall. And although they didn’t know it at the time, Lisa and James were about to buy one of them in real life: Fisherman’s Knot.

‘It was one of those “wow moments” when we saw the cottage,’ Lisa smiles. ‘We were looking for a second home to enjoy family holidays; somewhere to leave city stresses behind and get back to nature with the kids.

It was so full of charm and just a stone’s throw away from Cadgwith Cove’s blue waters, as its name suggests. We were captivated within minutes.’

Cornish house Cornwall Exterior

Picture-postcard exteriors include a thatched roof and coastal blue paintwork on the cottage renovation. Photo credit: Colin Poole

Restoring the original layout

The stone-built, grade II-listed bolthole is a story of two halves. Dating back to the 1700s, it was first a two-up, two-down, but then an even smaller one-up, one-down was added as a honeymoon home for a past owner’s family.

As Lisa wanted to rent the place out while the family weren’t using it, this two-for-one layout was a happy discovery. ‘It was being used as a single cottage when we bought it, but by taking it back to its original configuration, we could host two lots of guests at the same time or open it all up when we stayed there with friends and family,’ she explains.

Work began by extending the little honeymoon home to include a small second kitchen and bathroom, then a soundproof, hidden door was added to link the two together.

pendant lamp, feature wall, wallpaper, coastal views, coastal bedroom

A minimal glass pendant lamp doesn’t detract from the bedroom’s scene stealing coastal views. Photo: Colin Poole

Lisa knew she had her work cut out with cottage renovation. ‘The same fishing family had owned the place for over 100 years and every room was chock-full of furniture and fishing paraphernalia, so a simple decorating facelift just wasn’t going to be enough,’ she remembers.

‘There was so many characterful details to preserve, too. It was like stepping back in time – we even found a tiny door upstairs that was used for quick getaways to avoid being forcibly enlisted into the navy. The whole place has a real storybook appeal.’

As well as updating the essentials, such as plumbing and electrics, the couple exposed the floorboards upstairs, fitted new ones on the ground floor, installed an open fire, re-thatched the roof and replaced the existing kitchen and bathroom, as well as creating a cottage garden to make the most of the spellbinding views.

open fire place, Cornwall, cosy cottage

The new open fire transforms the cottage into a cosy retreat for the winter months. Photo: Colin Poole

‘Retro seaside chic’

When it came to the decoration, Lisa wanted the interiors to feel inspired by their coastal setting, but not rely on an off-the-peg beachy theme. ‘I call it “retro seaside chic”’ she smiles. ‘It’s an update on the classic look but with a vintage flavour.’ Cleverly, her bright sunshine yellow and sea blue colour scheme means that whatever the British weather brings, memories of summer days are never too far away.

Mid-century furniture forms the backbone of each room, and with their long, tapered legs and airy designs, the rooms feel bigger and none of the furniture obstructs the light or the views.

‘We sourced one-off finds and scoured reclamation yards to create a lived-in and loved look that still feels eclectic and luxurious,’ she adds. ‘These were the things that make the cottage distinctive, and they weren’t expensive – they just took a little while to find.

armchair, cosy details, cushions

Bright colours in cosy nooks add a sunshine feel whatever the weather. Photo: Colin Poole

Emphasising the picture-perfect views

The chalky blue front door leads straight into the living room, where furniture nestles around the restored inglenook fireplace. In this small room, there are no fewer than four places to sit: on the beautiful velvet sofa, a recovered Eames rocking chair, a Fifties-style button-back armchair and a clever built-in alcove seat – and yet the room doesn’t feel cluttered.

‘It was tricky to find the best layouts in the rooms,’ she adds, ‘as some of them are fairly compact, so we had to be quite creative at times.’ The new oak floorboards seamlessly flow into the kitchen-diner, where a space-saving round table takes in a stunning sea view. ‘Each of the windows captures a picture-perfect slice of the cove – it made it so easy to fall in love with the place.’

Given Fisherman’s Knot’s heritage, it was important to Lisa and James that their renovations continued to celebrate Cornwall’s past as well as its present. ‘The new Shaker-style wooden kitchen was handmade by Rozen, who are based just five minutes away in Ruan Minor,’ Lisa says.

kitchen, Cornish kitchen, Rozen, local artisan, handmade

Keen to support the community, the new kitchen was handmade by local Cornish company Rozen Photo: Colin Poole.

‘A lot of the bespoke artwork we bought are from local crafters – though the kids and I did create the pressed seaweed prints ourselves! Plus, the whole renovation was overseen by a team who live at the top of the hill, so we felt confident they would do the place proud, especially as we weren’t there every day to check on progress.’

The cottage’s rural seaside location didn’t come without its problems – even with the neighbours as the builders. ‘We entirely gridlocked Cadgwith Cove when our sofa was being delivered, much to the delight of the locals,’

Lisa grimaces. ‘Oh, and removing 250 tonnes of earth down the coastal path when we excavated the extension and patio wasn’t the most straightforward of tasks, either!’

lobster pots, coastal chic, restored fireplace

Lobster pots filled with seaside finds are stacked within a restored fireplace. Photo: Colin Poole

Preserving part of Cornwall’s history

The whole cottage renovation took 12 months in total, but all the trials and tribulations seem like a distant memory to the family now. ‘Logistically, it was a tough one, and we’ve definitely learned that delivery drivers don’t like Cornish roads or windy footpaths,’ Lisa laughs. ‘But I’ll never forget excitedly making our way through the tiny village to see the cottage for the very first time.

We instantly knew we’d feel at home and relaxed here. It has such a welcoming atmosphere – even more so now, with all of our hand-picked accessories and the new colour scheme, which always makes the whole cottage seem so bright and cheery.

It’s wonderful to think that we’ve preserved a part of Cornwall’s history for many generations to come, and that they will enjoy the cottage in exactly the same way as we do – sitting in front of the open fire or out on the patio, watching the boats bobbing by and listening to the sound of the sea.’

beach walk, coastal cottage, Cornwall, Cornish coast

With the 12-month cottage renovation now complete, the family can now relax and enjoy the incredible location. Photo: Colin Poole

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