Notes from The Cow Barn
Lea Eccleston, interior stylist, has created serious interiors envy with her instagram account which features her beautiful home, The Cow Barn. In a new series of features for La Di Da, she lets us into her design secrets and how she created such a special place, room by room.
“I will make everything around me beautiful, that will be my life.’ Elsie De Woolfe
It wasn’t until I left the sprawling city of Athens and headed for the hills of Northumberland, when I finally hung up my heels as a shipping lawyer and switched to my beloved red Hunters, that my love of interior design really came into its own. It was The Cow Barn that did it for me. Standing all majestic and handsome in the midst of green open fields in a picturesque little hamlet. I knew I had to buy it before I even crossed the threshold. Waking up on my first morning in the barn, I threw on my wellies and set out across the paddock where the sun was rising in the distance, the blackberries glistening on the trees in the morning dew, and I knew I was home. It was then that I understood that home is a feeling rather than a place.
That first morning, I began creating the most beautiful, comforting, inspiring place to live, guided by the words of the infamous first Interior Designer Elsie De Woolfe. As the importance of a beautiful night’s sleep cannot be underestimated, I set to work on the bedrooms first.
The Master bedroom
The barn is located on the edge of the Northumberland Dark Sky Park and a clear night here is beyond breathtaking. I have been known to run outside in my pyjamas at 10pm and stand, stock still, for an hour, aghast at the thousands of twinkling lights above. I wanted to inject some romance into the bedroom, and what can be more romantic than a host of golden stars? I am a big believer that life is too short for boring walls and I am also a huge fan of Cole & Son wallpapers, so I was very excited to discover the Woods & Stars wallpaper, featuring tiny gold stars amongst the stunning Silver Birch trees. This became the foundation on which I created the rest of my bedroom scheme, and wallpapering behind my bed gave the bedroom immediate wow factor.
I decided to take a walk over to the dark side by painting the remaining walls in my current favourite Farrow & Ball hue, Downpipe. There is something really soothing about using a rich dark colour on the walls and it also makes the wallpaper completely pop.
For anyone out there (and there are many!) who are too afraid to indulge their fantasies for dark walls, I would say that the quickest way to shortcut any anxiety about going dark is to recognise it’s only paint, and paint can be painted over, pronto! Far from making large rooms look smaller or dark rooms darker, dark walls can actually breathe life and character into the smallest of spaces.
From there it was all about injecting tons of texture, which even extended to my bed. You should always invest in your sofa and your bed, being the two places we spend most of our time. Go as big and as luxurious and as sumptuous as you can. For me, only a winged button-back, super king woollen beauty would do. Layer it up with the most fabulous bedding you can afford. It was many moons ago that I fell in love with The White Company and I have yet to find anywhere that matches in terms of quality or design. I buy goose down duvets and pillows which make you feel like you are suspended in a fluffy cloud and always crisp, white Egyptian cotton bedding. My latest purchase is a giant woollen grey blanket which I fold across the bottom of my bed, perfect for those colder nights drawing in. Piling up the pillows and cushions and layering up the throws also recreates that beloved boutique hotel vibe.
I also think outside the box as much as I can when it comes to furniture solutions, so rather than option for boring bedside tables, I invested in a pair of rustic wooden butlers trays, which make the perfect spot for my oversized lamps, once again in a grey wool fabric to ramp up the texture. When it comes to accessories, I would always say big is best. Size up where you can as it’s very rare that flimsy furniture or delicate pieces are going to make a real statement. Armchairs in the bedroom bring a more indulgent feel and I sourced an egg yolk yellow beauty and paired it with some tonal artwork, for an eye catching colour pop against the dark walls.
Artwork is one of the easiest ways of injecting your personality into your home. I never take art too seriously and buy only pieces which make me smile or make me think! I think you can buy fabulous art whatever your budget, its a matter of knowing where to look for the more unique pieces which resonate with who you are. As a book lover, I particularly love the Penguin print referencing my big move to the country and the piece de resistance is my bespoke neon pink light up artwork which combines the lyrics of a favourite Coldplay track with more star references and a bit of positivity. Being a writer and founder of a group which aims to empower women, my love of typography and motivational quotes knows no bounds! There’s little wonder why I struggle to leave my bed in the morning.
I have an incredibly energetic and amazing seven year old, so when it came to designing her bedroom, I knew I had to create something which matched her vibrancy and which fired her imagination, but which could also grow with her. Drawing on references to the World outside her petite juliette balcony, I sourced the perfect wallpaper from Borastapeter, a Swedish brand, featuring a menagerie of birds, butterflies and cherry trees. I positioned two bird boxes over those printed on the wallpaper to bring it to life. Often its these little details which really make the design.
The magical bed, complete with doors and windows, which my little girl insists on having closed at night, has a canopy of fairylights over the open roof to up the fairytale factor. I then added a gallery wall designed to inspire a growing mind, including my favourite prints which read ‘she may be little but she is fierce’ and ‘let her sleep for when she wakes she will move mountains’. My hope is that she will absorb these messages over the years as she drifts off to sleep!
A colourful wigwam completes the vibrant look and doubles up as a handy hideaway for the many stray teddies which also live in this room! I picked up a colourful reclaimed chair, in the perfect shade of turquoise. It is a happy little chair with chippy paint and personality.
Never be afraid of mixing things up. Sticking entirely to well known High Street giants almost always produces a lacklustre look. Hunt down your local independent interiors stores selling unique, cool homeware or head to the auctions to find pieces with history or that can be upcycled. Ebay or Etsy are stuffed full of pieces with personality.
There is nothing more lovely that filling your home with special one off pieces with their own story, and a mixture of bespoke, high street, vintage, reclaimed, antique and upcycled can create a really inspiring feel. The bottom line, when it comes to creating your home, is that if you love it, it will work. So making sure you buy pieces which make your heart sing is the best step in creating a stunning place to live.
Lea Eccleston is a lawyer turned interior stylist, writer and founder of Instasistas, an organisation empowering women across the North East. Lea lives in an old Cow Barn in the Northumberland countryside. Follow her journey on Instagram @thecowbarn and @instasistas. Lea has curated a collection of fabulous interior and gift items at The Cow Shed, which is opening this month at Wheelbirks Parlour, near Corbridge, Northumberland.
For more information check out wheelbirks.co.uk.
Photocredit. Sean Elliott
GET THE LOOK!
Cole and Son’s Woods and Stars wallpaper costs £78 per roll.
Paint Farrow & Ball Downpipe in Estate Emulsion which produces a matt chalky finish and is suitable for all interior walls costs £43.50 for 2.5 litres or £74.50 for 5 litres.
The winged, upholstered, Wiltshire bed is from North East furniture company, Barker & Storehouse, priced at £1765 for a 6ft Super king size. You can locate similar at Made.com or Loaf.
Bedside tables The rustic wooden butlers trays are from Garden Trading, priced at £85 each. They have a range of options in spruce, oak and steel. You can find similar in The White Company, Habitat and OKA.
The yolk yellow retro armchair is from Made.com, priced at £275. Graham and Green and Habitat have a selection of armchairs in yellow.
The bespoke neon artwork is from Light Up North, a company based in Saltburn by the Sea who you can commission to create your favourite words in neon wire. This piece cost £270 .
You can source a variety of Penguin prints from King & McGaw, priced at £66 with frame. The gold ‘e’ print is from The Poster Club and priced at £48 unframed. The large wooden ‘E’ was bought from Posh Graffiti at a cost of £12.75.
Wallpaper The Lilleby wallpaper from Swedish brand BorasTapeter is £57 per roll and can be sourced from Rockett St George.
Bed The white Jools bed with doors and windows is £550 from Barker & Stonehouse. Similar imaginative designs such as the white Wigwam bed by Woood can be found at Cuckooland at a cost of £345.
RE found objects, based in Corbridge have a selection of letters including the cardboard letters featured. Priced at £2.50 per letter. The prints are from Not on The High Street at £8 each. Ikea have a selection of suitable frames.
The reclaimed chair is from interior store Cotswold Grey who have an online store, and priced at £60.
The wigwam is from The Great Little Trading Company at £89.00.
Corbridge Garden Room stock a range of hand painted bird boxes in various colours, costing £15 each.