Life in the country

Country homes in England


A lifelong love of North Yorkshire led Helen and John Charlton to buy an idyllic holiday country home in England that proves small is beautiful.

Country homes in England: EXTERIOR

Helen has set aside a corner of the garden for dining, Table and chair, Ikea. Throw, Busy Bee Studio. Driftwood boat, Eskdale Antiques.

Country homes in England: AT HOME WITH…

OWNERS Helen Charlton, a teacher and designer-owner of handmade accessories and gifts business Busy Bee Studio, and her husband John, a company director

HOUSE 19th-century terraced English cottage

ROOMS Sitiing room, kitchen, one bedroom, bathroom

Country homes in England: SITTING ROOM

The cream walls, window seat and exposed stone around the fireplace create a warm and welcoming feel. The maple flooring was once part of Helen and John’s farmhouse home. Curtain, Roman blind and cushions fabrics, Laura Ashley. Long case clock, painted in Pigeon by Farrow & Ball. Similar from Styles of Stow. Union Jack cushion, Jan Constantine.

NORTH YORKSHIRE’S coast moors have a special place in Helen Charlton’s heart. She grew up within sight of the sea and favorite family days out would always be a trip to Whitby, fish and chips and walk on the beach. “My mum and dad really loved it here,” says Helen. “So when I inherited some money from them, I began to look for a Country homes in England.”

Helen knew exactly what she wanted. ‘I was thinking of a romantic, just-for-two retreat cottage,’ she says. Then the estate agent’s details for the English country cottage arrived. ‘We came to look, but I already knew it was going to be the one.’ The stone-build country cottage is tucked into the middle of a row of three, huddled together in a tiny hamlet on the Moor’s edge. Its cottage English garden and beautiful bedroom up in the caves make it the perfect hideaway.

‘We lived with the interior as it was for about eight months,’ says Helen, ‘and I used that time have good think and really plan out what we were going to do with our country cottage in rural England. I like to keep a little journal, a notebook of things that I like, that eventually filters into what I use.’

The real work began when they persuaded the builder, who had worked on their own farmhouse, to move into the country cottage for five weeks. He stripped back the dark beams, built a new chimney breast in local sandstone, replastered, laid new floors and refitted the kitchen and bathroom. ‘He was fantastic, but he did say he wouldn’t do it again!’ says Helen. ‘He was sleeping on the floor and working realy hard all day.’

The kitchen and bathroom were the most challenging rooms, but by squeezing a seating area into the kitchen and adding a skylight in the bathroom, they made the most of both spaces. ‘I wanted to keep mostly to one color throughout,’ says Helen, ‘because we needed to keep it light in our country cottage in England. The materials we’ve used are quite hardwearing so we didn’t need to worry about that, and then I had to have a few gorgeous, girly touches – plenty of pink and a bit of shabby chic here and there.’ Helen was tempted to go with a strong seaside theme because they’re not far from the beach, but instead chose duck-egg blues and florals for a country cottage feel

‘It is the escape we hoped it would be,’ says Helen. ‘We love walking on the beaches at Robin Hood’s Bay and Sandsend, visiting all the lovely English villages, then coming home to this quiet little valley. It’s magical.’

Busy Bee Studio, 0191 378 9573,


Simple units, oak worktops and limestone flooring contrast with duck-egg walls and checked fabrics.


The French-style painted bed takes centre stage. Bed, La Maison. Chest of drawers, Tynemouth Market.



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Medical doctor and piano teacher. Loves gardening, pets, children stories and England!
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