When Gill Deriu and her husband Sanero bought a cottage in Ireland, they created a characterful family house with the coolest of kitchens.
When Gill and Sanero Deriu moved to Cork from Sardinia in 2008, they weren’t looking to buy a home. ‘We had been renting a house and had just started searching for another rental property with more space,’ says Gill. ‘But then a friend told us that this house was for sale. It was everything we had been looking for – a detached cottage with a big garden and an interesting layout. We loved it.’ The couple put in an offer, but were dismayed when their mortgage fell through. But Gill was determined not to lose the house. ‘I asked the owner if we could rent the property while our finances came together, and he agreed,’ says Gill. ‘I promised we’d look after it like our own. He kept it on the market, though, which was stressful as people kept coming to view the house and I thought we’d lose it.’ Eventually Gill and Sanero secured the mortgage they needed and the house was soon theirs. ‘I fell in love with the feel of the place. The front door opens onto the sitting room, and stairs run from there to the upstairs.’ Another selling point was the large garden, which offered plenty of space for the couple’s children, Elia, now 11, Jasper, nine, and Isa, five, to play. However, the property needed work. Walls were dry-lined upstairs and downstairs to get rid of damp, and outdoor drainage was put in. The couple converted a large bedroom into two smaller rooms, and turned the master en suite into a family bathroom. ‘We redecorated everywhere,’ says Gill, ‘and we did most of it ourselves.’ The kitchen needed an overhaul, but mindful of budget, the couple worked with the existing units. Gill replaced the wall cabinets with open shelving. ‘I painted the cupboards, and we put in an oak surface on the island. I also installed pendants – getting lighting right was important to me, as it’s so critical in creating atmosphere.’ The result is a large, contemporary kitchen-diner where the family gather and the couple can entertain. ‘Our kitchen has changed so much since we moved in,’ says Gill. ‘It makes the house feel bigger and gives us so much living space. I loved its light, airy feel from the beginning, but now it has more character and depth.’ Upstairs, tactile fabrics and muted colours help make the bedrooms feel soothing and peaceful. ‘We’ve kept the bedrooms tranquil by mixing up natural materials,’ says Gill. ‘In our room, there’s a lot of wood and we’ve added texture with natural linen.’ Downstairs, Gill’s eclectic taste and love of colour bring a modern, bohemian edge. ‘It’s definitely more colourful downstairs,’ she says. ‘The fabric, furniture and rugs make the sitting room cosy, but we’ve kept clutter to a minimum.’ And she adds it need not cost a fortune to add personality. ‘I love rummaging in second-hand shops. In fact, I think pre-loved finds add to the charm of a house. Charity shops are brilliant for finding picture frames – and art doesn’t have to be expensive. We’ve framed keepsakes and the children’s artwork – they all bring personality to our home.
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