House-hunting is never simple, and when Louise Lingwood was looking for a period home in the countryside, her property search seemed destined to end in disappointment. However, the place she now calls home is a former Victorian worker’s cottage in Bushey, Hertfordshire, which Louise, who owns a vintage and antiques shop, has filled with curiosities and beautiful finds gathered on her travels around the world.

‘I’d spent quite a while driving around roads in the village and noticed a “for sale” sign outside this house,’ Louise explains, ‘but when I spoke to the local estate agent, they told me it was no longer available, so I put it to the back of my mind and resigned myself to looking at other properties.’

As luck would have it, Louise received a phone call a few weeks later to say the cottage was back on the market. ‘I was thrilled, and as soon as I walked in through the door I could see that it ticked all the boxes,’ she adds. ‘The cottage was in good condition, with original Victorian features, including sash windows and four fireplaces.

Project notes

Owner: Louise Lingwood, owner of vintage and antiques shop Love & Lilac, and Hertfordshire Craft Collective (01923 858330)
Property: A two-bedroom 1890s Victorian cottage in Bushey, Hertfordshire
Essential repairs: The kitchen and bathroom have been updated, the downstairs flooring and the front bay sash windows have been replaced, and Louise has also transformed the garden
Layout: Two bedrooms and two reception rooms

Lilac Cottage

Lilac Cottage is named after a lilac tree in the garden, and this is also the inspiration behind the name of Louise’s shop, Love & Lilac

Moving in

‘I’ve called it “Lilac Cottage” after a lilac tree in the garden that didn’t flower until the third spring that I was here,’ she explains. ‘When it’s in bloom, the scent is so heady and amazing that people stop to admire it as they’re passing. Inside, though, these cottages are tiny, and you have to use your imagination to make the most of them.’

Louise moved in during spring 1999 and didn’t hesitate in putting her stamp on the cottage. Her first task was to replace the worn carpet with wooden flooring in the downstairs rooms and she upcycled the existing dark brown kitchen units by painting them in a cream shade.

Dining room with a botanical, outdoor feel

The dining room has an outdoor feel, with wicker chairs from Country Life Interiors and both real and pictorial bouquets bringing the outside in

Decorating with thrifty accessories

To create cosy spaces full of interest, Louise has filled the rooms of her much-loved home with eclectic treasures and interesting antiques found in fleamarkets, car boot sales and on Ebay. ‘Everything I sell through my vintage business is handmade or lovingly sourced, and these are the type of pieces I like to have in my home, too,’ she explains.

Louise also likes to source home accessories during trips to the east and west coasts of the United States. ‘I love American vintage and I’m lucky enough to be able to stay with friends in Los Angeles, which is a rich source of unusual objects for interiors,’ she says. ‘I’ve also just come back from a trip to Lisbon in Portugal, where I picked up several beautiful finds, and I love to visit the French town of St-Rémy-de-Provence.’

Closer to home, Louise likes nothing better than getting up early on a Sunday morning to visit local secondhand fairs, rummaging through boxes to find hidden treasures for her home and garden. ‘I’ve always been fond of the romantic lines of the Art Deco period and I adore green Depression-era glassware and American vintage,’ she says. ‘I’m particularly drawn to any practical pieces that were originally made to be used in the kitchen rather than simply for show or display.’

Dining table

Vintage crocker and glassware are perfect for setting the table in the relaxed dining area. An armoire from Laura Ashley is used to store books and vintage fabrics

Replacing the kitchen

With a house full of interesting features and fascinating finds, Louise eventually decided it was time to replace her kitchen. After considering several other retailers, she discovered a kitchen design that caught her eye at a shop on her local high street. ‘I’m passionate about supporting our local high street, tradespeople and businesses,’ she says. ‘I wanted a country-inspired kitchen with lots of cupboards and traditional features including a butler’s sink and painted units. I was keen to find a classic timeless design, the sort of kitchen you might find in an old Georgian house, and these cabinets were perfect.

‘When it came to appliances, it was quite a challenge to fit everything in such a compact space,’ she adds. ‘I sourced everything myself on the internet, from the mini range cooker to the window ironmongery. The only hiccup was that when the American-style fridge-freezer arrived, the fridge door couldn’t open by more than around eight inches because the step down to the kitchen was in the way. Thankfully my builder, Stephen Innes, was easily able to remedy this for me by cutting back the step.’

bathroom sink

The tongue-and-groove panelling from B&Q is painted in Bone by Farrow & Ball

Introducing vintage textiles

Upstairs, Louise’s master bedroom has a pretty, feminine feel, with colour, interest and curiosities including vintage fabrics and her beloved pink Art Deco mirror above the original fireplace.‘At the time of the move I began noticing vintage fabrics popping up for sale everywhere,’ Louise recalls. ‘I used to love visiting Cath Kidston’s first tiny shop in Notting Hill, where she used to be every day with her dog, Stanley. To me, it was the perfect shop, full of treasures and vintage fabrics. I bought one of the first ever Cath Kidston floral wallpapers there and couldn’t wait to put it on my bedroom wall. I still love it today.’

Roll-top bath from Bath Empire, with fixtures and fittings from Victorian Plumbing

A roll-top bath from Bath Empire, and fixtures and fittings from Victorian Plumbing, give the bathroom an elegant look. The floor tiles from Topps Tiles have a wood-effect finish

Updating the bathroom

The most recent addition upstairs is the elegant bathroom Louise has put together with the help of her builder. ‘Having lived for years with a pink bathroom suite that screamed 1980s, it was very important to create a beautiful room that wouldn’t date,’ she admits. ‘I knew I wanted a roll-top bath and a large walk-in shower, and I love the look of tongue-and-groove panelling in bathrooms: classic, traditional features to create a timeless feel. Stephen also came up with the idea of using ceramic floor tiles that appear like timber flooring – they’re a practical, stylish compromise.’

Now, with her cottage exactly how she likes it – warm, comfortable and full of character – Louise is very happy when she stays at home, too.

Get the look

Capture the charming style of Louise’s interior with antique-look pieces and pretty accessories

Delvine chandelier from Chandelier & Mirror Company


Glass crystal droplets and gold-leaf detailing give the Delvine five-branch chandelier a timeless feel, £246 at The Chandelier & Mirror Company


Part of the Katie Alice Highland Fling Stag collection, this green spot floral china side plate is £6 at The English Table.

Katie Alice Highland Fling Stag collection plate from The English Table
Bulb and seeds box from Garden Trading


Ideal for any gardener, this bulb and seeds box, £20 at Garden Trading, is made from powder-coated steel and has a tight-fitting lid.


Want real wood in the kitchen but worried about treating the timber? The Natural Wood Floor Company’s engineered Oak Cognac pre-oiled boards, £76 per m2, can be walked on as soon as they’re laid.

The Natural Woof Floor Company's engineered Oak Cognac pre-oiled boards
Graham & Green distressed finish candelabrum


This stunning gilt design from Graham & Green has a distressed finish with white ceramic flowers and scalloped candle holders, priced £28.


Ian Mankin’s Avon Check in Sage is a versatile cotton fabric that is ideal for cushions, curtains and tablecloths, priced £24.50 per m.

Avon Check fabric in Sage from Ian Mankin
Tulsk bed from Original Bedstead Co


With sweeping antique brass top rails and gold highlights, the Tulsk is a classic design. From £499 for a double bedstead measuring H132xW140xL200.5cm at Original Bedstead Co.


Add impact with this screen-printed Union Jack cushion made from vintage canvas, £27.95 at Adventino

Union Jack cushion from Adventino
Heather ceramic tile from The Winchester Tile Company


With a lustrous gloss glaze, this Heather ceramic tile is ideal for a kitchen splashback. £1.36 per W13xL13cm tile at The Winchester Tile Company.