Welcome to Ecosalon’s Inspiration Home series, where we take you on a virtual tour of a real home. Last up was a tour of a Martha’s Vineyard cottage style home and this time around we are sharing a charming English country cottage style home. Enjoy! If you’d like to share your home, please get in touch.
Constança Cabral is a stay-at-home mom and blogger, and practitioner of seasonal living. Born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal, Constança and her husband decided they wanted to have the experience of living abroad for a time. Their first stop was rural England, where they lived for 3 years, and now they have recently settled on the North Island of New Zealand. Along they way, they had a son.
Seasonal living is all about taking advantage of what the season has to offer. In warmer months, the idea is to spend time outside gardening and foraging, and nesting indoors in colder weather. Constança is also a busy seamstress and makes many of the textile elements for her home. Her goal is to lead a “simple, meaningful, handmade life in a lovely home with my family,” she says.
Since Constança and her husband are recent transplants to New Zealand they aren’t quite ready to open up their doors to us yet, but they are sharing their English cottage home in the countryside, which was decorated in a fresh and modern English country cottage style.
Jen Wallace: You moved from Lisbon to the English countryside and now live in New Zealand. What’s it been like setting up house in all of these places?
Constança Cabral: When we were first married we bought a small flat in the centre of Lisbon. When the opportunity to move to England came up, we figured that was the perfect chance for us to radically change our lifestyle and try living in the deep countryside. We rented a charming house on a dairy farm and we were surrounded by just animals and plants.
We loved it, it was magical for us. It’s funny because it’s a matter of perspectives: some of the friends that visited us described the house as “fairytale-like”, whilst others said it reminded them of horror movies (being so isolated, with no fences and nobody around). When we moved to New Zealand, because we had a baby and things are so different from what we’re used to, we thought it would be more sensible to get a house in a village. I really miss the silence but for now this is working for us. I walk my son to school every day and there are people around in case something unexpected happens.
All that being said, I guess our main goal in terms of setting up house has been to try and make the most of the place we’re living in. We always want to live in character-rich, old houses which might be freezing and crooked, yes, but that are quintessentially English/Kiwi. In England we lived in a red brick cottage, now in New Zealand we are living in a 1895 weatherboard villa. We really want to experiment the architecture of the place we’re in.
JW: Moving first to the other side of your continent and then moving again halfway around the world must have made it challenging to make sure home feels like a home. How do you manage to make someplace new feel like yours?
CC: For me, a house only feels like a home when our belongings are in their proper place. I’m not a minimalistic nomad and I don’t believe in ruthlessly editing your belongings just because you’re moving to the end of the world. I like my books, my bed, my pillows, sofa, kitchen appliances—you get the idea. But the thing that really makes the house feel put together—and truly ours—is a decor that suits my style. At the moment I’m living with 80s wallpaper, crazy wallpaper borders (there are glittery dolphins in the laundry room!), a dysfunctional kitchen with tiled bench tops, so I am struggling to feel at home, yes. But we’ll get there!
JW: While you are busy setting up your new home in New Zealand, what did you take away from your English home that you hope to recreate in this new place? Is there a certain spirit or air that you want to reinterpret or will you be treating this new space as a blank canvas?
CC: In England I discovered a whole new world in terms of interior decorating possibilities. Suddenly it was so easy to just skip Ikea shopping and buy old furniture and objects with personality on the cheap. Charity shops, junk shops, and antique fairs are such amazing places and are so difficult to find in Portugal, where you’re generally faced with two extremes: either expensive antique shops or the inorganic waste collection. We were spoilt for choice in England! In New Zealand things are harder to get, but I go hunting for vintage bargains almost every week. There’s no Ikea here either! So yes, I guess I’m trying to recreate in our NZ home that same eclectic style I think I achieved in the UK.
JW: Nature and flowers seem very important to you in decorating your home, can you talk a little about that?
CC: That was another thing I took away from our English experience. I was a city girl and I had never had a garden in my life before coming to England. Having a garden and living right next door to the woods made me look at nature with entirely new eyes. Cultivated flowers, weeds, shrubs, leaves, tree branches, seed pods, berries—when you’ve got all of that around you, it’s impossible to resist the urge to pick them and bring them indoors. I can honestly say that I haven’t set foot in a florist’s for more than three years! I am definitely not one of those people who can’t pick flowers from their garden for fear of disrupting the garden’s scheme and harmony. I’d rather have the flowers die indoors than outdoors!
I reckon that a room feels more alive when you’ve got some sort of living element in it (apart from people, that is!). And what a great way to reflect the changing of the seasons and inject some different colors and patterns in our rooms!
JW: I’m in love with so many of your furniture pieces. They look to be salvaged/recycled/re-loved, is that the case? Is that for aesthetic reasons, for thriftiness, to be eco-friendly or all of the above?
CC: We’ve got a mix of Ikea basics and old pieces, with some salvaged objects thrown in. Apart from one or two “proper” antiques, everything else is pretty much old junk that you don’t have to be too precious about and that you can paint and alter according to your current tastes and needs. The reasons behind this are exactly what you’ve described. Old/recycled things are charming, well built, usually cheaper and eco-friendly. Why buy a new chair when there are dozens of sturdy, pretty chairs around at great prices?
JW: What advice can you give for those who are inspired by your English country cottage home in re-creating the look and feel of it?
CC: Look beyond the surface. Don’t overthink your impulses. Don’t be afraid to mix things. Have a good rummage through your mum’s drawers, your granny’s cupboards, your local charity shops and even the streets in your neighbourhood before you buy something new. Everything that isn’t in tip-top condition and that isn’t quite your taste can be reframed, repainted or re-upholstered!
JW: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
CC: Looking at these images of our English home have made me feel very nostalgic. We lived in such a special place and in the end the house really reflected who we are. Well, let’s hope I can say the same thing about our New Zealand home in a few months’ time!
JW: Thanks so much for sharing your home. I am looking forward to seeing your New Zealand home when it’s all ready. Good luck and have fun in the process!
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