“I have had a plan for many, many years to create a lovely place for people to go on holiday and escape from the noise of the world and a year and a half ago found the perfect place! It has taken a long time to renovate and finish but it’s just about ready for its first guests,” says entrepreneur and beauty guru Ruth Crilly, enthusing over her latest business venture. “It’s actually one of the oldest houses in the village and the original part just has one room downstairs and one room up! It’s a very characterful cottage down a magical little footpath to the sea.” Appearing in the pages of Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue, Ruth has used her 21-years-experience within the fashion industry to turn her hand at interior design, renovating a seaside holiday cottage along the charming Dorset coastline.
Embracing an organic, tactile interior scheme, Ruth’s use of soft buttery leathers, warm woods, and earthy cottons reflects her own fashion. “In both my fashion and home, I go for simple, comfortable, and not a lot in the way of embellishment but always heavily invested in the best materials and finishes I can stretch to,” says Ruth. Opting for our Satchel Vintage Leather and the textured green of our Mossymere Norfolk Cotton, Ruth’s material choice isn’t simply for its quality and finish, but a decision based on the personality of the very foundations of the house.
“Depending on the type of house, it can give a very elegant and expensive feel or it can end up (like in this cottage!) being cosy and tactile. I like working with the character of the house and the sorts of materials that are there naturally.
“I’ve lived in and renovated quite a few houses now and lean towards the mid-century modern, so lots of large expanses of glass and rich wood; this cottage with its thick stone walls and little windows was somewhat of a departure from the norm. But I went about it the same way – working out how each space made me feel and then using that as a starting point. This living room is like a warm cocoon with its wood fire and little cottage windows and so I went for quite earthy tones.
“I really loved the original stone and wooden beams when I first saw the cottage and worked hard to make sure that any materials, I added were thoughtfully sourced. The flooring, for example, took ages to find one that looked as though it had seen decades and decades of footfall and the carpet upstairs is wool with a textured, sisal-like finish. So, it was important to carry this tactile theme into the soft furnishings.
“I am a huge lover of velvet, but the Norfolk cotton seemed so much more fitting here, and the same with the leather – it feels very calming and relaxed and sturdy. As though everything there has stood the test of time, along with the cottage itself. It’s new, but it doesn’t have that feel – it feels lived-in.”
Giving us a glimpse inside the stunning seaside cottage for two, Ruth’s penchant for classic style with a casual and comforting feel can be seen in all aspects of her interior design. From the furnishings to accessories, each piece conveys a sense of cosiness and restfulness. “I loved the Saturday sofa because it’s a real country house classic sort of shape but with a more relaxed vibe. I want guests just to flop down and instantly feel at home and it has the sort of laid-back structure that makes you want to loll around, rather than very upright arms and back,” says Ruth. “I wanted a footstool rather than a coffee table – there’s not space for both – and it’s the Valentin in the ultimate multi-tasker in the room. In leather that can take a battering (and will only look better and better over time, I think!) it can serve as a place to rest a dinner tray as well as a place to rest weary feet. It looks so traditional, a real classic.”
When it comes to creating a haven, however, it’s all about lighting. “You will only realise you’ve been set free from the tyranny of the overhead light when you buy some table lamps, or a floor lamp, and ban yourself from using the ceiling lights for a week. See how much more gentle and flattering and wonderful the light is! Yes, you still need your ceiling lights there for practical reasons, but it’s not every day you lose a contact lens or the battery from the back of the remote. Lighting is key.”
Musing on the upcoming year in her favourite spot in this little seaside cottage, right in front of the fire and listening to the sounds of birds and the sea, Ruth predicts the next few months to involve a little bit of learning and lots more renovations. “I think that this first year will be a bit of a learning curve and I’ll need to be tweaking things and no doubt adding things (I’m a serial antiques shop trawler) but I’m always up for the next challenge and excited to host my guests. I’m also doing a big building project at home involving lots of knocking down of walls and lots of dust so it’s not going to be a quiet one…”