CREATIVITY AND COUNTRY LIVING COME TOGETHER BEAUTIFULLY IN THIS SMALL SUSSEX STUDIO, WHERE PASSION AND PURPOSE ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF THE INDUSTRIAL DESIGN.
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Mary greets me at her West Sussex home with a large ball of black and white fluff cradled in her arms. ‘Cromarty, who’s that?’ she’s says to her cockerpoo, as if expecting him to respond with a grand sense of politeness at the recognition of the guest coming up the path. She shows me through the door of her small white cottage. Built in the 1820s as part of an industrial school, the cottage itself has a rich history to its design and renovations, transforming it from a schoolhouse to a tiny cottage and finally the warm and gorgeously designed home it is today.

As Mary takes me through her living room and into the kitchen, my eyes gaze from wall to wall, across each surface and into every nook. All are occupied by the most charming of trinkets and antiques and it is clear every piece has a story behind it.

Walking past unique country furniture upholstered in French linens and luxurious vintage cushions, and beyond the walls decorated in ancestral photographs, watercolour paintings and detailed prints, on this occasion I’m seeking out a different kind of space.

At the bottom of the walled garden a tiny wood-clad shed is nestled into the lush hedgerow and blossoming trees around it. Mirroring the character and style of the 1820s cottage, the tiny house fits perfectly with its surroundings, and I’m instantly drawn to its miniscule proportions, wide-open French doors and a small stained glass window facing the lawn.

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‘I ALWAYS DREAMED OF HAVING A SMALL STUDIO SPACE FOR ALL MY CRAFTING’

‘I always dreamed of having a small studio space for all my crafting,’ Mary tells me, stepping into the warmly lit room. Once inside, the tiny studio is an emporium of all things crafty with a strong industrial feel to the space that makes it not only stunning and beautifully put together, but practical and comfortable as well.

 

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‘IT HAD TO BE A WELCOMING SPACE WITH EVERYTHING TO HAND SO THAT I COULD USE IT FOR MY WORK AS WELL AS A LITTLE OASIS YEAR ROUND’

‘It had to be a welcoming space with everything to hand so that i could use it for my work as well as a little oasis year round,’ she explains, and the ‘shed’ is certainly that. Even with its tiny square footage, there is room for bookshelves on either side of a small sofa, a wood burning stove for chilly winter evenings, and a trestle table workspace with shelves above filled with all manner of crafty goodness, inspirational pictures and tactile materials.

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‘Having a sewing machine permanently set up was a huge factor in how the space needed to be configured,’ she says, rearranging a pile of deeply textured vintage fabrics stacked against a rustic wire crate. Wooden spools of thread line the shelves next to several pairs of vintage scissors and colour swatches, and tucked behind pots of pens and pencils and old rulers are vibrant pin boards with photographs and prints pinned for inspiration. It’s no wonder Mary retreats to this space to become engrossed in her projects.

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The materials lining many of the shelves in the studio have been sourced from various fairs and markets around Sussex to create the vast collection the small studio contains. With an eye for quality and style, Mary teams these luxurious materials with vintage flags, creating stunning cushions.

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studio image 8Not only does she give old materials a new lease of life, the studio also contains shelves full of Annie Sloane paint and brushes of all shapes and sizes that she uses to restore furniture. Discovering quality vintage furniture at fairs and markets across the southeast, Mary gives each piece the TLC it deserves, bringing new life to signature furnishings and making them better suited to modern country interiors. These statement pieces, along with her cushions and other artistic works are available in The Toll House Store & Cafe, a shop she co-owns in Lindfield, and describes as ‘possibly the smallest department store in Sussex.’

IMG_1419With the French doors opening onto a carpet of thick grass, shelves and shelves of inspirational magazines, books and colour swatches spilling onto the trestle table ready to be poured over and a cockerpoo snuggled up on the sofa in the sunlight, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect studio, despite its diminutive scale. ‘It may be small, but it’s proven to be a great space for reimagining old furniture and scraps of material,’ Mary enthuses, ‘I’m looking forward to spending more time here in the summer when I can spread my “office” into the sunshine and onto the grass!’

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