A barn fit for Mrs T: A lofty extension and time-worn layers set against a chalky white backdrop have re-energised this Sussex home – and its equally impressive four-wheeled counterpart.
Well known for enjoying a weekend trawl of local antique markets and favourite independent shops, Natalie Woods can often be seen piling new finds into her 53-year-old Morris Minor Mrs T, named after the car’s first lady owner of 50 years. Pale grey, perfectly restored and with an inherent ability to catch the eye, Mrs T has the same qualities as Natalie’s home, which in turn is attracting a growing audience via her Instagram feed Laid Back Farmhouse, which originated as a way of Natalie documenting her home’s renovation.
‘Bizarrely, the name for my Instagram feed is actually the opposite of what I am as an individual,’ laughs Natalie. ‘I’m a marketing consultant, so life is pretty hectic, and our former end-of-terrace home didn’t allow us the peace and quiet that we craved. My husband and I both grew up in the countryside so we wanted to re-create that relaxed, peaceful ambience.’
The barn-style extension was added two years ago. The wood burner is from Woodwarm (woodwarm.co.uk); the hanging chair is from Design Vintage (designvintage.co.uk); the urns are from I Gigi (igigigeneralstore.com). For a similar wooden coffee table try Anthropologie (anthropologie.com)
THE FAMILY: Marketing consultant and Instagram influencer Natalie Woods, 36, shares her Grade II-listed Edwardian barn in West Sussex with husband Dug and their cat Saff
Mrs T the Morris Minor takes pride of place in front of the house, which has been given an elegant overhaul, clad in oak painted in Down Pipe by Farrow & Ball (farrow-ball.com)
Wooden chopping boards, vintage cutlery (all from No 1 Lewes, no1lewes.co.uk) and an old French confit pot add decorative appeal in the light-filled kitchen
A cosy sitting room adjacent to the dining area creates a relaxed space for entertaining. The Mora clock, console table and footstool are all from Haus, haus-interiors.co.uk. The rug and sofas are from Ikea (ikea.com) and the French herb prints on the wall are from Hill & Co Home, hillandcohome.co.uk
An antique glass-fronted cabinet from Hill & Co Home (hillandcohome.co.uk), crammed with kitchen and dining finds, takes centre stage in the open-plan living/dining area. ‘I am not precious – but anything that comes into our home has to be both useful and aesthetically pleasing,’ says Natalie. The antique French table, bench, blue sign and mirror are all from Haus (haus-interiors.co.uk); the reproduction Tolix-style chairs are from Cult Furniture (cultfurniture.com)
An Indian carving from I Gigi (igigigeneralstore.com) serves as an unusual display shelf for vintage cricket scoreboard numbers. The light, from Urban Cottage Industries (urbancottageindustries.com), adds an industrial edge to the scheme
In the country-style kitchen, a champagne sign above the Aga adds a touch of French chic. The sign and wall cupboard are from Hill & Co Home (hillandcohome.co.uk). The Aga is by Aga Living (agaliving.com); the chopping boards are from No 1 Lewes (no1lewes.co.uk)
After a year of searching, the couple moved to the barn in July 2011. ‘It was originally part of a working estate, so we knew the property had the potential to become our dream home,’ says Natalie. ‘Converted 30 years ago, the space felt dated – a tired kitchen connected the main living areas via a 70s-style serving hatch, and green carpets and bright orange lino dominated throughout. Working on a budget, we sketched ideas and worked with an architect and talented local tradesmen to inject more character into the box-like interior.’
The two bedrooms and bathroom have been updated, a study area created, reclaimed floors laid throughout and the kitchen knocked through to create a stylish open-plan ground floor. Whitewashed and simple, the fresh aesthetic is combined with battered surfaces, aged wood and an abundance of vintage treasures that add interest and intrigue. ‘Every piece has a story to tell,’ says Natalie. ‘I am obsessed with brocantes, flea markets and specialist independents, plus I travel widely so home has lots of one-off pieces that have been added gradually.
‘My original style was much more white on white, with occasional splashes of bright florals and checks,’ says Natalie. ‘It has evolved into a more natural aesthetic where texture and patina add the interest in place of colour and pattern.’ Last summer the pièce de résistance was completed – the addition of a vaulted barn-style extension, which leads from the back of the former kitchen and dining area. The extension, with wood burner, reclaimed wide wooden floorboards and false beams, is bijou but the lofty proportions create a capacious feel. ‘Home is definitely where I am at my happiest now, unless of course I’m out driving around in Mrs T!’ Natalie laughs.
For more details follow Natalie on Instagram @laid_back_farmhouse
Saff, the couple’s 20-year-old cat, gets cosy in Natalie’s hanging chair
‘Our bedroom is a very calm haven – although I am constantly moving around decorative finds and creating new displays,’ says Natalie. The bed is from Feather & Black (featherandblack.com); the drawers, shelf and table are all from Haus (haus-interiors.co.uk). The wooden crate is from Three Angels (threeangelsbrighton.co.uk)
‘The apothecary cabinet [from Hill & Co Home (hillandcohome.co.uk)] in the master bedroom is one of my most treasured pieces,’ says Natalie. I instantly fell in love with its scale and proportions.’ The chairs and phrenology head are from Lots Road Auction (lotsroad.com)