02 Oct

Day Job

Sea fan, peacock feathers and chinoiserie

As a lot of you have been asking about what I do, I thought it was time to introduce myself.  My name’s Justine and I wear many hats.  My career is an artist but as that earns me no money, my day job is an Interiors Consultant/Stylist.  I don’t do photo shoots or that sort of thing but I do create beautiful homes for people.

Foxed mirrors, linen and apples

My blurb for you so you know the kind of thing…

Home Interior Styling – Having had a long career in interiors, Justine has extensive experience in creating fantastic concepts for both the domestic and commercial environment. Initial meetings can be held at the clients site or working to brief via email. Services provided: Creative Direction – Buying & Sourcing – Design Concepts – Inspiration Moodboarding – Interior Styling – Colour Consultancy


So if you need any of the above and you love my style please do get in touch!


You’re all familiar with the kitchen at Harp Cottage!

18 Sep


Baileys is a bit of a trip away from Harp Cottage (about an hour and 15 minutes) but well worth a visit whilst you’re in the area.   Also you’re in the countryside, everything is about an hour away!!!

Highlights of a trip there when I met Lou from @littlegreenshed there 😊

The Tabernacle Tearoom is only open at weekends but it’s a great place to stop and take in all the loveliness – the cakes are amazing and made by the same woman – she needs to do a Bailey’s cake book!

White Crockery, do I need to say anything else….

Love the chalk left on the draw front

Sumptuous linen cushions perfectly stacked on a milking stool

Lily the Baileys cat, enjoying the sunshine

The Tin Tabernacle cafe looking moody

13 Sep

Curated Cupboard

Harp Cottage is a lifestyle cottage.  Not only a holiday let, it’s my way of sharing my home and style.  It was our home for many years and most of the elements in it are from when we lived there.  The furniture was mostly found especially for the cottage though we brought a few pieces with us.  One of these is what we call the Tin Lizzy.  Now known as the Curated Cupboard.

The Tin Lizzy aka the Curated Cupboard

This is a metal 1940/50s cupboard that was left in the first house that we bought and made our first home in.  It was in my studio and I loved it.  It has travelled with us ever since.

Open for business, the guests own personal shop

The cupboard came about out of a need to share.  I love a good rummage in a flea market or antique shop.  I am absolutely in heaven in a brocante or vide grenier in France but this means you collect stuff, beautiful stuff and you have nowhere for it but you can’t stop picking things up because, well just because.  And I have a ‘look’ – my findings each shop look pretty much the same but each is different, the age, the patina – you get the picture!  I needed an outlet, so the Curated Cupboard was born.

Usual colour palette of finds

I have no desire to open a shop – I know how much hard work it is and how stressful it can be.  I also couldn’t shop enough to actually keep a shop going.  I know I could try…but…

Also wonderful shops, such as The End in Hay on Wye, already exist and they are so brilliantly created that there’s no point!

So it seemed natural to create a very small space in the cottage itself, where guests who share the same aesthetic, can take away things that have caught my eye and are how I create the Harp Cottage look.  The Curated Cupboard is an honesty cupboard, an ethos that I love.  I want to live in an open community and here in Presteigne and Hay on Wye we have several honesty shops which remind me that this is the kind of world I want to live in.

Inside the Curated Cupboard

Sometimes I come across something that I must share with everyone and this was true of Beanpole Pottery – instagram @beanpole_pottery  As well as making the most beautiful ceramics Kristine is also a beautiful person, please go and check out her work!  We have a few of her amazing pieces left in the cupboard and I would love to have more but shipping and import taxes make it unfeasible.

The honesty box and @beanpole_pottery

The main items that form the Curated Cupboard are wares I have found in France but I will buy anything anywhere that I like the look of, so please expect to see a mix of objects all collected together to make a whole.  The basis of the Harp Cottage look.

Marmalade and pharmacy pots and lichen


06 Sep

September Starts

September has always felt the start of the year for me rather than January.  It’s probably the overhang from life in school, college and university; the academic year has a strong influence on all our lives.  So each September becomes a time of forward planning, putting new plans in action and of looking ahead.  Maybe also it’s the realisation that we need to prepare ourselves for a period of introspection that the longer nights mean more thought time rather than doing time.  It’s the time of year when we start to become more cerebral, we look for books to read, projects to take us through the dark evenings.


Photograph: India Hobson, Haarkon

We also seem to walk more in the Autumn, the delight in the beautiful changing foliage, the crisp leaves beneath our feet, the sense of calm that comes from walking out your thoughts whilst being all wrapped up in the crisp air and then coming in to the warmth and smell of a log fire and a pot of tea.

When we lived at Harp Cottage, the fires were part of our daily routine.  Coming in from the weather to the warmth of the fire seemed to connect us in some way to the changing of the seasons.  I think living in the countryside does that.  And living in an old stone cottage that was built to protect one from the weather, reminds us of the need to retreat to the safety and comfort of the hearth as the season changes.  The reconnecting of our thoughts and plans as we slow down into the gentle turn of the year into Autumn.


Toni Baynham – a recent guest at Harp Cottage took this wonderful photograph celebrating Autumn on Autumn.

06 Jun


The ever so lovely people at Absinthe Minded Magazine have written a wonderful article about their stay at Harp Cottage and the surrounding area in Vol 5 of their excellent online magazine.  If you haven’t read it before please go and look at it now.  It’s a beautifully put together online publication that we’re all hoping can soon be available in print.

See their write up featuring Harp Cottage here https://www.absinthemindedmagazine.com/harp-cottage/

and please do follow them on Instagram @absinthemindedmagazine

Here’s a photo taster from our article



Photographs all by Absinthe Minded Magazine


29 May

Shutter Style

The sitting room shutters

Harp Cottage is said to date from 1672, which makes it a 17th Century cottage.  It’s heavy on history – three centuries of it.  How do you respect that history whilst also living a modern contemporary lifestyle?

One of the things we wanted to do when we moved into the cottage was to leave it as if it had never been touched, as if when we moved out, the bones of the cottage would tell it’s story.  Whilst at the same time we needed to not be a slave to the history, we needed a modern house to live in, we are part of it’s history too.

The whole of the cottage needed attention, the windows were falling apart and yes, the wind did blow through them and they didn’t have shutters then.

We both don’t like curtains per say, they can look amazing and can be the right thing in the right window or door but in a small cottage we wanted clean lines.  To start with we had to live with the very drafty windows.  No heating in the early days and no wood burner in the sitting room, instead there was a Georgian open fireplace that did not warm the room and it turned out it was a ticking time bomb (I will explain in another post!).

So the answer was shutters.  We had a pair of typical Georgian panelled shutters made and although they were beautiful they were simply too grand for our humble cottage.  But they worked and we were warmer!  When could finally afford to, we commissioned new windows and therefore needed new shutters.  We still wanted them to be contemporary to the house, so we looked at other Georgian shutters and realised plank ones made perfect sense.  Less grand and more in keeping with a cottage.  We had had the windows made bespoke by a local carpenter  – he also made our beautiful kitchen worktops.  He was the obvious person for the job.  He raised his eyebrow when we presented him with reclaimed Georgian tongue and groove doors (from English Salvage in Leominster) and asked him to make them into shutters.  He returned with beautifully made shutters and he hadn’t made them look perfect.  He ‘got’ that we wanted them to look like they’d always been there and so left the nail marks etc visible.  He also made the window sills for the three downstairs windows at the front of the cottage from wood we found in our house in France.  We like the idea that part of our history was part of the cottage’s history.  Lots of the cottage had been built using repurposed materials we were just following the ethos!

We painted the shutters in the sitting room the same colour as the walls and the rest of the woodwork.  The plan was to do the same in the hallway but they looked amazing as they were.  I’m a great believer in leaving things to be and breathe.  Not our usual colour scheme but a lovely ochre colour that also showed the history of the doors they’d once been before being repurposed into our shutters!

The original ochre paint showing through on the hallway shutters


22 May

Kitchens of Distinction

Everything in Harp Cottage has been considered.

The beech worktops in the kitchen are from the hill immediately behind the cottage.  Go straight up through the wooden gate at the end of the driveway and you’re on Old Radnor Hill.  Shush, don’t tell we said you could go up there.  In fact you may regret it as it’s a 1:4 steep incline.  A number of trees had to be felled on the hill and one day hearing the chainsaws I puffed my way up to find out if we could have some firewood.  Since moving to the countryside I have become obsessed with wood – logs in particular.  I can suffer from wood envy at the sight of a beautifully stacked wood pile!  In fact it turns out they offered us the trees themselves as long as we could get them down off the hill…..

Pondering over how to get them down we hatched a plan that these trees were too beautiful for firewood alone, they were perfect for worktops instead.

After a chance meeting with someone I found out that there was a man – not too far away (well not in country miles) that had a mobile cutter, that could slice up the tree in situ, which would make bringing them down off the hill ‘easier’.  Remember we are talking about a 1:4 incline here.

Under the guidance of the amazingly named woodsman  Sherwood, we decided that the beech tree would be the best tree to slice into slabs.  I have a video of it somewhere, which I must find, of the tree being sliced up and it shows the skill and sheer force that was needed to do the job.  The slabs were then brought down by sheer magic, I think, and no-one got hurt!

The planks were then left to air dry for two years.

Through the gate at the top of our lane up through the fields to the woodland on the hill.

When the boards were sufficiently aired they then were taken by the lovely joiner Chris, who made our windows, and left in his workshop to climatise.  He then worked his magic  (lots of magic in this story!) and made us the beautiful bespoke beech work tops we now have in the kitchen in the cottage.

10 Jan

Breathing new life at Harp Cottage

Photograph by India Hobson

In the main bedroom at Harp Cottage is an ornate iron bedhead.  It isn’t quite wide enough for the kingsize bed but we found it in a hedge and we love it!  We love it because we found it in a hedge and rescued it.

We were out walking and exploring on the hill behind the house and noticed something caught up in an old hedge.  The hedge was scrubby and had been not looked after for at least 20 years.   The sheep wandered through it and the iron bedstead  was rusting and no longer needed.  So we covertly rescued it and carried it down the hill.

We painted it in Farrow & Ball’s Slipper Satin popped some rods in it for feet and love it for it’s quirks and oddness.

The hedge where we found the bedhead has now been beautifully laid by the new farmer who tends the sheep just behind the cottage.

05 May

Harp Cottage

Alex Ramsay HC from pub

Welcome to Harp Cottage!

Harp Cottage is  a 17th Century cottage that we are lucky enough to call ours, at least for the moment!  We moved to the cottage in January 2009 and have loved it ever since.

Slowly we will share our stories and thoughts about our beautiful cottage and hope you’ll enjoy hearing our adventures.