Women

Patchworked textures and rich, vibrant hues are combined with the smell of baking bread in this family home full of character and style

Description: Family home - Carola and David with children Efan and Laura

Family home - Carola and David with children Efan and Laura

When Carola van Dyke’s husband David James, 49, decided to quit his well-paid job as an accountant to become a village baker in Firle, East Sussex, it proved to be a completely life-changing move.

Description: Front of house - The three-bedroom cottage dates back to the 17th century

Front of house - The three-bedroom cottage dates back to the 17th century

‘It was nerve-racking, obviously, but we wanted a better lifestyle. Also David wanted to be able to take the children to school and bring them home,’ says Dutch-born Carola, 49, who trained as a fashion illustrator before setting up Tiny Tulips, a textile design business specialising in children’s clothes and cushions.

Description: Living room - Inspired by nearby Charleston House, Carola painted the fireplace and surrounding walls in rich colours for dramatic impact

Living room - Inspired by nearby Charleston House, Carola painted the fireplace and surrounding walls in rich colours for dramatic impact

Eleven years on and the couple, together with their two children, Laura, 14, and Efan, 11, have established themselves as an integral part of Firle’s close-knit community, where everybody knows, and helps, each other.

David gets up every morning at 3am to do the first bake and makes around loo loaves a day. He sells them to local shops and restaurants, as well as outside the cottage with an honesty box. Carola, meanwhile, works from her nearby converted cowshed studio, designing textiles. Business has been booming since last summer, when Mary Portas chose her patchwork cushion designs as part of a House of Fraser collection.

Description: Kitchen - The wonderfully bright room is made up of recycled materials: Carola rescued the floor tiles from a skip; the unite doors were made from an old barn door and the work surface are old scaffold boards

Kitchen

The wonderfully bright room is made up of recycled materials: Carola rescued the floor tiles from a skip; the unite doors were made from an old barn door and the work surface are old scaffold boards

Description: Dining room - A yellow wall lifts the room, giving a modern feel to the traditional cottage furniture

Dining room - A yellow wall lifts the room, giving a modern feel to the traditional cottage furniture

‘I’m working seven days a week to meet the demand. Last week we were all making cushions. Laura stitched the back panels, while David cut up the fabrics. He has time during the day, otherwise I wouldn’t have managed,’ she says.

Carola has also channelled her creative talents into turning their picturesque, redbrick three-bedroom cottage, which dates back to the 1 7th century, into a cosy family home. The couple, who rent it from the Firle Estate, renovated it from scratch when they first moved in. In exchange they get a slightly reduced rent. ‘Nothing had been done here for ages and,  as we didn’t have much money we did it all ourselves. It’s such an old house that I wanted to bring back something of its history.’

Description: Bathroom - Carola updated the room by painting the wall in a deliciously dark purple, which works well with the warm wood and terracotta tones

Bathroom - Carola updated the room by painting the wall in a deliciously dark purple, which works well with the warm wood and terracotta tones

Nearby Charleston House, which was the home of Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, has been a huge source of inspiration for Carola, especially when she came to paint the living room. ‘The room’s so small and dark that I thought, why not go over the top and make it warm and cosy by painting it in bright, rich hues? Colour has always been my strongest point. You have to trust yourself when you mix the shades.’

She also made patchwork covers for the chairs, sofa and pouffe, as well as a heavy door  blanket. ‘The space is so tight that we took the door off. But in winter it gets cold and the blanket is so thick it keeps out the draughts.’

Description: Master bedroom - Carola’s own cushions sit on the chaise longue and bed. The bedroom is a wonderful mix of vintage and homespun style

Master bedroom - Carola’s own cushions sit on the chaise longue and bed. The bedroom is a wonderful mix of vintage and homespun style

Description: Homemade style - The bathroom door got a fresh new look as Carola used it as a canvas for her artwork; one of the fabulous animal cushions chosen by Mary Portas for her range at House of Fraser; the white floorboards at the entrance to the master bedroom.

Homemade style

The bathroom door got a fresh new look as Carola used it as a canvas for her artwork; one of the fabulous animal cushions chosen by Mary Portas for her range at House of Fraser; the white floorboards at the entrance to the master bedroom.

Elsewhere in the house Carola has painted walls in striking shades that she mixed herself, including a deep khaki green in Efan‘s camouflage-style bedroom and a gorgeous muted lemon yellow in the dining room. She also painted the kitchen splashback with blue and white squares after she realised that the walls were so crooked, putting up tiles would have been impossible.

Everywhere you look in this characterful cottage there are charming homemade details, but none more so than the basket of freshly baked loaves for sale in the front garden. 

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