Interior design practice Harp Studio have transformed a medieval Welsh cottage into a tranquil getaway-cum-photographic studio where craft and artwork is for sale
While ‘restful’ and ‘uncluttered’ might be the descriptive terms used for the newly restored Mole Cottage in Presteigne, Wales it wasn’t always so. “It used to be pelmet central, think thick beige carpets, clip-on curtain rails, intense navy blue fabric curtains,” says Justine Cook, the artist-turned-interior designer, and founder of Harp Studio, who’s renovated the dated den into it a contemporary, light-filled bolthole. A tiny burrow half below ground, it was created with Mole from ‘Wind in the Willows’ in mind.
Despite what people might think, I’m not a minimalist
Cook, who sells bespoke furniture and small batch homewares alongside artwork and one-off curio in her tightly-curated online shop, has transformed a two-bedroom dwelling within the semi-basement of a medieval building in Presteigne, into a clever multi-purpose space. Mole Cottage acts as photography studio during the week, and is available to rent as a bijou holiday home for two at the weekend.
Inside, an entrance corridor flows into a compact kitchen through a newly-created archway. There’s a slender shower room and bedroom-meets-lounge where a bespoke beechwood campaign sofa covered in Irish linen, unfolds into a comfy slumbering spot. Underfoot, the floor – which had to be raised during works after unexpected flooding – is heated, and clad in smooth, slate Mandarin Stone tiles. Interiors pay homage to Harp Studio’s signature ‘detailed minimalist’ style, with thoughtfully-selected statement pieces layered against a pared-back canvas of ancient stone walls painted in Little Greene’s Linen Wash. Original beams are livened up with daubs of subtle, fern-shade Grey Moss.
“Despite what people might think, I’m not a minimalist,” explains Cook. “It’s about giving a room space to breathe; I just need white empty space in order to highlight what’s interesting.” This translates to a dramatic French inspection lamp strung above a vintage fortune teller’s table with sturdy, caterpillar-like carved legs in the hallway. Or neutral bathroom hues accented by a wall of off-white and duck egg blue zellige tiles. Other striking details are in the kitchen, with its broad, galvanised zinc sink – discovered at a reclamation yard and restored with brass garden taps- and upcycled scaffold boards reimagined as worktops. Some patches of weathered paintwork intentionally left as is are described by Cook as “a conscious antidote to the perfection of Instagram interiors we are fed online.”
Mole Cottage is also an informal showroom, with almost all of its contents – from a 1930s armchair reupholstered in Boucle LeLievre, to charcoal-coloured ceramic mugs crafted by Chloe Charrington – for sale. Currently, stoneware vessels reminiscent of cracked bread boules by Amanda Duggan, a quadriptych of Alexandra Yan Wong’s monochrome acrylics, and duo of Gothic-y Harp Studio onyx-rooster feathered pendant lights, reside in the lounge,and will be replaced by an ever-changing lineup of different pieces.
The cottage is at its most spectacular when golden-hour rays stream into the lounge, and Cook’s ‘endless fascination for nature’s wonderful and unusual forms comes into its own as hollowed-out gourds lining the windowsill are illuminated, each like a miniature frozen-in-time solar eclipse.