Character cottage that used to be a tavern now has a stunning contemporary interior

When couple Natalie and Paul Marsden visited Rowen in Conwy Valley, it captured their hearts and they knew they wanted to move permanently to the area.

But as an interior designer, and a tailor and fashion design lecturer, the creative pair knew it had to be the right property for them – one that connected with them and where they could express their own unique interiors personalities.

How fitting then that this cottage in the village was looking for a new owner at the time – and it used to be a haberdashery store.

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Natalie remembers: “We loved the area and wanted a slower pace of life away from the city, we fell in love with the cottage immediately and its proximity to the sea, mountains and nature.

“The house is special to us as it really opened our eyes to what living in rural Wales could be like.

“The village has a great sense of community and we loved it so much we even got married at the local Seion Chapel. We also have a great local pub – the Ty Gwyn which has lovely outdoor space during the warmer months and serves great food, beer and wine!”

But the cottage has had a more colourful past, with a slice of its life operating as a tavern.

This created some extra spaces that are perfect for their work, but it also meant some pub features to upgrade or change.

Natalie says: “We understand it was one of the original taverns in the village, situated in its original centre and on the pilgrimage route to Anglesey.

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“The layout was exactly the same as it was now. We were lucky in that it had an untouched basement space that still had the old cellar doors on the outside of the property.

“These old cellar doors are now a large window which floods the space with light.

“The original windows were white-framed and the downstairs flooring was dark oak and fully carpeted upstairs.

Maybe not what you were expecting?
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

Mainly black and white with pops of bold colour
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

“The kitchen was already fitted although in a light grey colour and our fireplace was also original but in an oak finish.”

It was time for the couple to bring their creative flair to the cottage and put their own interior stamp on it, which Natalie describes as clean and minimal with a playful twist.

The first thing to do was to honour the home’s past on the outside.

Natalie says: “At one point it was also a haberdashery and grocery store and the original shop signage board is still in place which we have now reinstated with the house name being hand painted by a local sign writer.”

Then the ambience the couple were looking to achieve inside was the core driver of the design.

Character beams, arched window and a log burner in the kitchen diner
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

Black is back
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

Natalie says: “We are both designers so it was important that we were able to express ourselves within our living space, whilst also making the cottage feel as light and airy as possible.

“We wanted to achieve a playful yet welcoming feel whilst paying homage to the cottage’s heritage, as well as the locale with a contemporary twist.

“We tried to stick to a monochrome palette with elements of surprise in each room.”

The tavern’s cellar is now a work space
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

The cellar doors are now a window and the cellar steps where deliveries were taken are still in place
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

The front of the end-of-terrace cottage is full of charm – half slate, half white-washed stone, with a stone wall surrounding the cute front garden that is the ideal place to park a bench.

The choice of a stormy sea inspired, dark, rich navy for some of the external painting hints at the stunning, contemporary interior design waiting inside.

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And as you step inside, the style is instantly engaging.

White walls and ceiling, light and tactile furniture, and big pops of colour make the space speak with the owners’ personality.

Natalie has a long list of how the couple have made this house their home.

She says: “The house has been fully decorated inside and out – including window frames, walls, floors, feature fireplace using Little Greene plant based paints.

The old pub office is now a music room
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

Sliding door takes up less space
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

“We had the basement converted into a usable space with a new hidden internal staircase that is now a studio for my husband’s tailoring business, where we also installed underfloor heating.

“We also modified the kitchen so it suited our day-to-day needs and had the full thing sprayed black with lakeland eco kitchen paint, and the old pub office room is now a music space.”

Upstairs Natalie says they did a full renovation job on the bathroom, including new doors to maximise the landing space.

Traditional Welsh fabric brings in some colour and texture
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

Bedroom two cocooned in black
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

The bathroom is one of the spaces that has been given optimum personality, with the space singing to the tune of pink, grey and soft green, with different sized pattern and black fixtures and fittings adding the extra layer of contemporary design for an extra ‘wow!’.

It might be one of the smallest rooms in the house, but it has one of the largest visual statements to make.

Natalie continues: “The master bedroom has fitted wardrobes and the second bedroom has new carpets and a giant window to view the mountain behind.

“Externally we have enlarged the pub seating area again to maximise the incredible views, and when we did we found lots of old broken crockery and an old pocket watch, along with some old stone carvings.”

Now each room can offer a mix of new and exciting elements to the period charm, from exposed stone walls to a bedroom cocooned in black, from traditional Welsh tapestry to sleek black kitchen units.

There’s a interior wow in the bathroom
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

Patterns of different sizes, grey, pink, green and black accents make a fabulous space
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

At the rear of the cottage is a garden that, of course, is as quirky as the house, with an elevated terrace that is a sunny spot to sup a pint as well as spot yet another unique feature – an arched window at the end of the kitchen.

The cottage sums up the couple’s unique style and it is a wrench for them to be leaving it.

Even the rear garden is unique at this special home
(Image: Iwan M Williams, Conwy)

Natalie says: “We love the cottage and the area, sadly personal circumstances changed with the loss of my stepfather.

“So we are looking for a little more space to allow my mother to be part of our next living arrangements, and have found somewhere very close by so we are still within a stones throw of the cottage.

“But we will be very sad to leave, as it has been such a big part of our lives.”

The cottage hiding a colourful and contemporary interior is for sale for £349, 950 with Iwan M Williams estate agents, call their Conwy branch on 01492 555500 to find out more.

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