Interview with the Owner: Sarah Astman, Westerleigh Cottage
- Tell us three words that best describe your cottage?
I think the best words that simply sum up Westerleigh Cottage are, eclectic, enduring and relaxing.
- Why did you choose this particular area of the Cotswolds?
I grew up in this area and many of family and friends live nearby. As a child I have many happy memories of family walks through the beautiful Cotswolds beech woodlands and then in the winter months cosying up by the fire with tea and warm buttered crumpets. Cowley village also provides a wealth of amenities such as the Cowley Manor Hotel, which is great for lunch, dinner, afternoon tea or just drinks in the beautiful bar. There’s also the Green Dragon, a cosy traditional and very friendly Cotswold pub with its own very well accommodated village shop selling local produce with an amazing deli.
- There’s a real sensory emphasis on raw materials within the property and you’ve left many of the original features in the cottage, including the original beam structures – why did you choose this? Was this crucial in your design?
The original part of the property dates back to the 1700s and it was important to us that our renovation works were sympathetic to this history. The renovation works were aimed at stripping back the unnecessary modern additions, such as taking down the fitted wardrobes to open up the space and removing the thick wood vanish and rough plasterwork to reveal the buildings original architectural components, which are not only beautiful but they create a feeling of real honesty and add interest.
- We’ve spotted quirky artwork throughout the house, all with a countryside feel. Were these pieces of art chosen for specific reasons, or simply because you loved them?
The artwork throughout the property was chosen as we both love the work and feel that they complement the look and aesthetic of Westerleigh’s design. They are fun and thought provoking without being provocative. Whilst the majority of art is inspired by nature, there are some works that reflect the vibe of local towns.
- What’s the best room in the house and why?
I love to spend time in the kitchen with my friends and family. It’s a great social space and the window seats, island bar stools and dining chairs provide a range of seating options. I designed the kitchen with stress-free easy entertaining in mind. The large island unit provides a great space for laying out one of my super spread buffets and the lack of wall cabinets ensures that the room feels spacious and uncluttered. The bespoke pantry is great for storing food and equipment, assisting with the uncluttered look to the space. I ensured that the location of the dishwasher was in close proximity to the crockery and cutlery draws, which makes the chore of unloading so much quicker and easier.
- When is the best time to stay?
That’s a difficult question as all seasons in the Cotswolds have their own unique beauty. I love the spring and summer months for the outdoor living facilities the cottage has. At family barbeques the children, and sometimes adults, just love rolling down the sloped lawn on a warm summer evening. In autumn and winter months, the local area provides a range of super woodland walks with the bonus of a great pub en-route. I love to wrap up warm for a woodland winter walk and then arrive back at Westerleigh where upon arrival a warm and cosy woodburning stove greets you.
- What’s the best view from the house?
It has to be the view from the master bathroom freestanding roll top bath. When carrying out the renovation works, we had the bathroom window made larger so that you can gaze down the River Churn valley whilst relaxing in a warm bath with a good book or glass of fizz. I also love the village glimpses provided by the window on the stair landing. This window provides great views over the village rooftops, which is especially magical on a still frosty winter morning.
- What day trips would you recommend for guests?
The Cotswolds has so much to offer, from the Spa town of Cheltenham, the market town of Cirencester, Gloucester cathedral, museums and art galleries in Cheltenham, Cirencester and Gloucester. Outdoor sports such as shooting and riding. Endless woodland walks and cycling routes. The Rococo gardens at Painswick, wildlife parks such as Burford and Slimbridge. I personally love a trip to the market town of Cirencester with Roman ruins and museums to explore, independent boutique and antique shops, and the King’s Head is a great spot for lunch. Of course, not forgetting that we have the beautiful Cowley Manor on our doorstep which is great for afternoon tea and a stroll around the grounds.
- What are your favourite features of the cottage?
My favourite inside features have to be the original timber beans and exposed rough limestone walls of the Master bedroom and the beautiful lithograph on the curved partition wall of the Master ensuite. I also love the large freestanding bath in the master bathroom with its amazing views over the River Churn valley.
One of my favourite outside features is having the opportunity to listen to the beautiful melodic songs of the woodland birds when waking in the morning. I also love the terrace whereby I can often be found lounging around on the terrace corner sofa on a warm summer’s day. The terrace has great views over the Churn River valley, and it’s always fun to watch the alpacas in the fields on the opposite side of the valley.
- What would you like your guests’ first and last impression of the cottage to be?
Firstly, high-end homely comfort and lastly, how relaxed and easy their time spent at the cottage was. We want them to feel as if it’s their home from home and leave longing to return. It’s also nice if guests feel inspired by the cottages design and leave with some new design ideas for their own homes.
- Personal question: How did you get started in interior design and architecture, and what continues to inspire you?
With a background in Archaeology followed by a 17-year career in Environmental Consultancy, I have a great appreciation for history and the material artefacts of different cultures, as well as knowledge and passion for sustainable practices. My interest in historic buildings and architecture, material culture, contemporary fine art, and sustainability, combined with a love for travel, steered me toward a career in interior design especially in relation to creating eclectic, luxurious and enriching interiors and curating striking homeware and accessories.
My business partner, Simon Taylor, and I met at the Inchbald School of Design, London, and are members of the British Institute of Interior Design and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. We both came to Interior Design from different backgrounds and bring complimentary influences and experience from previous careers.
- Before you go: Can you share any top interior design tip that other cottage owners could take on board?
Lighting is key to all our designs, it not only plays a decorative function, great lighting can really enhance a design, whilst bad lighting can ruin it.
In any interior it’s important to strike the right balance between light and dark and pay attention to the areas of darkness as well as light. The space where light meets dark is an area of beauty, a place for interesting shadows as well as magical highlights. Low lit areas of a room allow your eyes, mind and imagination to relax, allowing you to think and dream.
Meet the owners of Westerleigh cottage – learn the hidden secrets of the cottage, their design inspiration, and suggestions for the local area.