The property the Phil and Philippa Heath call home is a three-bedroom cottage that would have been two homes when it was built around 200 years ago.

Unfortunately when they moved in, it had suffered neglect so a huge amount of work was needed.

With savings all tied up in the property, the Heaths have spent the last two decades tackling the work.

‘We’ve done work in between having our four children, as and when we could raise the money for materials. Luckily, we’re both very practical so we haven’t had to pay for builders or decorators.’

Red traditional cooker in period kitchen
The red range sets the tone for the country kitchen. An old ladder is a useful placeto hang pretty aprons and utensils

Key facts

Location: Derbyshire
Period: Built in the 1800s as two cottages for the managers of the dye mill opposite; it was knocked into one house in the 1900s and an extension was added in 2000
Size: Three bedrooms
Owners: Phil Heath, a tree surgeon, and his wife Philippa, a holistic lecturer, specialising in baby and child massage; they have four children: Jack, Tom, Joe and Bess

Renovation work

Over the years, Phil has knocked out a wall between what was a small kitchen and sitting room, making one large open-plan space. Similarly, upstairs, two bedrooms were opened up to provide them with a generous master bedroom. And as their family grew bigger, in 2000 a new extension was added to create a dining area open to the kitchen and a spacious bedroom above for the children. The extension has been tackled with profound respect for the original cottage, as Philippa explains: ‘We found punched faced stone to match the existing structure. Phil built it with the help of just two specialists – an electrician and a plasterer. He also relocated the stairs to a more convenient spot and put in the windows and patio doors.’

Living room with wood-burning stove
A double sided wood-burning stove in the seating area of the kitchen is a treat for the family when they’ve been working outdoors

Working to budget

As part of their strategy to save money, Philippa and Phil have tried to make the most of what they already had within the house. So existing floorboards have been stripped wherever possible. Downstairs, however, the floors weren’t in good enough condition to polish, so Philippa painted the stairs. And in the reception rooms, they’ve laid flooring salvaged from a local school that was closing down.

Childrens room with seat
This room was Jack and Tom’s bedroom when they were younger

Interior design

Throughout this charming house are many eye-catching pieces of furniture picked up from all manner of places, including reclamation yards and house sales. The Heaths also gratefully accept hand-me-downs from friends and family, while some items were even rescued from skips. ‘I’m a real skip dipper,’ admits Philippa. ‘It’s incredibly easy to find things when I’m driving around in the Land Rover. If I see something that looks interesting poking out of a skip, I’ll usually just stop and put it in the back of the truck.’ Philippa’s trick to tie all these odd pieces together has been to paint each in a limited selection of Farrow & Ball colours. ‘I particularly like the Gustavian look of painted furniture,’ she says.

Phillippa’s money saving advice

‘Not everybody likes the look of painted furniture – many prefer a minimalist style. I might have gone that way, but I’ve just made use of what I’ve got and things people have given us, or inherited items. It makes a lot of sense to reuse and recycle furniture. But as well as saving us money, it’s nice to have pieces with history.

‘Most of our furniture hasn’t actually got past the undercoat stage yet, but I’m getting there; I get the undercoat on and think about colour later. Farrow & Ball has a lovely choice of colours; otherwise I’ll use whatever I can find.

‘We’re trying to be as environmentally friendly as we can, so although the heating runs on oil, we can use our own seasoned logs ( too, which helps keep fuel costs down.’