Table of Contents
When her family became a party of five, Singapore-based interior designer Elizabeth Hay of Elizabeth Hay Design knew she’d eventually need a home base when visiting relatives in her native UK. Her 6,000-square-foot, 16th-century thatched cottage in Devon, equipped with a guest annex and six bedrooms, was just the place—but she needed to reclaim it.
“We had been renting out the house for a while to full-time tenants, so I decided to redecorate the interiors of the cottage to make it more of a cozy home for the family,” says Hay. “Being a quintessential Devon cottage, it was already full of charm but quite neutral in terms of color.”
To embrace the “quirky” nature of the cottage, Hay introduced layers of warm color and lots of patterns (think soft fabrics from brands like Decors Barbares, Rosa Bernal, and Claremont). She mixed old and new with items sourced from across the globe to create what she describes as an eclectic, lived-in feeling.
“I am a big collector and am always on the lookout for interesting objects and furniture, which I snap up whenever I see them in auction in order to use in my projects and in my own home,” explains Hay. Take, for example, the bookshelves and cow painting in the sitting room, along with nearly all of the side tables and accent chairs throughout the cottage. All were picked up at a bargain (the bookshelves clocked in at about $65!) in auctions.
Painting existing woodwork in playful shades—as in the powder room—helped transform spaces simply, as did wallpaper in the bedrooms.
“Walking in for the first time with it all set up having designed it from afar was so surreal,” says Hay. “It was the strangest feeling, as I knew it all so well, and it felt like home, yet I hadn’t seen it before.”
Hay used a Pierre Frey chintz fabric on the sofa and paired it with pillows from Guy Goodfellow Collection. The dual-function ottoman/coffee table features Nicole Fabre Designs upholstery. Coziness abounds thanks to expert pattern play. The bookshelves are painted Edward Bulmer Aquatic.
A floral arrangement by Rambling Rose enhances the English cottage aesthetic. Hay used Little Greene’s White Lead paint on the walls, beams, and ceilings, and a rich Edward Bulmer Invisible Green hue in the kitchen.
“We used a lot of wallpapers in the bedrooms to make them feel cozy and add color and pattern without making any structural changes,” says Hay. Here, she installed Aleta Pise wallpaper. The bench is hand painted by Hay’s mother. Hay found the 18th-century chest of drawers at auction.
Hay designed the wicker headboards in this sweet guest bedroom. The bed linens are from Pushpanjali.
Hay’s mother hand stenciled the floor to add a standout design layer to this bathroom.
Yellow-painted bobbin four poster beds—designed by Hay—contrast perfectly with deep green Edward Bulmer walls and mustard bedding. The lamp is a vase Hay had wired for lighting.
An arrangement of plates inspired by designer Veere Grenney’s dining room in Tangier is artfully arranged in the annex bathroom.
Q & A
House Beautiful: What was the scope of the project?
Elizabeth Hay: Just paint, furnishings and some carpentry and making good. We overlaid the tiles in some of the bathrooms.
HB: What’s one of your favorite elements?
EH: In one of the bathrooms, my mother hand stenciled the existing wooden floor to add some interest, which totally transformed the space.
HB: Any challenges along the way?
EH: This project was done during the peak of Covid. I worked on it remotely from Singapore with my mother—who luckily lives 20 minutes down the road—project managing it for me. I couldn’t even be there for the installation or the photoshoot due to Covid travel restrictions and was constantly on video calls.
Follow House Beautiful on Instagram.