Lake District Interiors - Crosthwaite House

PUBLISHED: 00:00 30 July 2013

LAN August Keyhole

LAN August Keyhole

Not Archant

Ellie Hargreaves peeps inside an 18th Century home in the lovely Lyth Valley and discovers frugal can be fab!


At first glance, visitors to Sam and Tiree Dawson’s imposing home on the edge of Crosthwaite village would never guess it’s been furnished almost entirely from skips, thrift shops and eBay.

A popular guesthouse during the summer months and a family home all year round, this is the epitome of eclectic, mixing vintage and modern in a way that you’d pay an interior designer a small fortune to recreate in a property of this size.

In the Dawson’s case, stripping back and revamping their nine bedrooms, three lounges, dining room and installing a new kitchen cost just £19,000 – and many long weeks of hard graft.

The couple, together with son Milo, six, and daughter Summer, four, took over the property from Sam’s parents when they retired in 2011 after 26 years.

They moved in over Christmas and lived out of one of the guest rooms until March, when they re-opened having well and truly put their stamp on the place.

‘It was your typical B&B before – full of furniture and nick-nacks. I remember counting 17 occasional tables in the lounge,’ smiles Tiree, who works in marketing and as a freelance photographer. ‘It was absolutely lovely, but we wanted it to be a reflection of our tastes so we went on a de-cluttering mission. We got rid of the pink and sage green colours and we lifted up the carpets. We’d quite often be wallpapering at 10pm and when the power went one night we found ourselves decorating the kitchen wearing head torches.’

‘When we re-opened,’ continues Sam, ‘the transformation was stark. We weren’t sure what the regular guests would think but they loved it.’

With original wooden floorboards and off-white walls forming a blank canvas throughout, the couple have added splashes of colour using some of the china, glassware, mirrors and clocks that were already in place, along with pieces of furniture, toys and an assortment of re-purposed items they’ve picked up along the way.

Almost everything on show has an interesting tale behind it, whether it’s the moody oil that hangs on the guest lounge wall, by Tiree’s sister Senja Bownes (a well-respected Scottish artist); the 30-year-old Austrian clock that hangs on the stairs, having been fixed by Sam with the aid of two garden pebbles; or the fascinating prints of local scenes, passed down from Sam’s grandmother, which hang in the breakfast room.

Positioned at the front of the house, this, along with the guest lounge, has seemingly endless views of the valley, which has grown so famous for its damsons.

Guests dine each morning at mismatched tables decorated with old family china and flowers from the garden and local hedgerows. The chairs, from a church in Redcar, were sanded down by the couple and finished off by Tiree, who booked herself on a course at Kendal Upholstery. Meanwhile the boxes on the chair backs, which once held bibles, are filled with books from a second hand shop – possibly to keep guests occupied while Tiree collects fresh eggs from the growing number of ex-battery hens they’ve rescued over the years.

Much of what is served in here is sourced locally or home-made and the couple hope one day to turn part of their extensive cellar system – currently used for storage - into a home-brewery and pantry for preserves.

Each of the six guestrooms is unique, furnished by car boot sale finds, TK Maxx and friends who donated ‘bits and bobs’. Feature walls were created using Amy Butler wallpaper, found on eBay, and additional inspiration came from the internet (in particular Pinterest – an online ‘pinboard’ which allows users to store and share ideas), as well as a childhood spent by Tiree surrounded by artists, weavers and “a stack of early Terence Conran books and Vogue magazines”.

The children’s rooms are more rustic; filled with second hand toys and reclaimed items such as a bench from Freecycle and three now brightly coloured chairs rescued from a tip at Crosthwaite School. The children’s old teak beds came from India, where Tiree’s mum originated, while the couple’s own bedside tables are old orange crates, still bearing traces of ‘Outspan’ down the sides.

Other unusual items include cushions covered with Lake District tea towels, transformed by Tiree, who has sown since she was a girl, and a variety of glass and metal buoys, collected over the years and which now hang randomly from cupboards and bedheads.

More dramatic changes to the house were made to the rear, where an extension created a spacious sunroom/third lounge for the family to escape in to during the busier months. Even this was done with relatively little expense, as civil engineer Sam was able to draw up the plans himself.

Venture into this room, which has sliding glass doors down one side that look out over the garden, and you’ll be hard pushed to pay proper attention to Sam’s explanation of how he and a pal excavated 60 tonnes of earth during recent landscaping works. This is because the sunroom is also home to an 11 foot, floor-to-ceiling pole which Tiree says, with a slight blush, is for ‘strength training’.

So what do the Dawsons think about sharing their home with strangers? ‘It’s flattering,’ says Sam. ‘People pay to spend their holidays in the house we live in and as a result it always feels relaxed.’

The grounds are equally quirky - ancient bee hives, a tiny stone 18th Century ‘dame school’ once run by the lady of the house to educate local children and a three-seater toilet, which B&B guests will be relieved to know is no longer in use.

Want to recreate the Crosthwaite House look?

Pinterest is a great way for storing ideas. Tiree keeps ‘boards’ for each room and re-visits them regularly. ‘If I still like the ideas I’ve collected after a period of months, then I know they’ll stand the test of time.’ Visit

There are many upholstery classes around the north west. Kendal Upholstery run courses throughout the year (, Simply Upholstery ( are based in Horwich and Rhonda Fraser ( holds classes in Heysham and Silverdale.

Don’t be restricted by the original purpose of an object, advises Tiree. ‘Shoe lasts make great coat hooks. Large pebbles are pleasing book ends or doorstops. Mis-matched crockery is perfect for holding tea-lights.’

To find out more about Crosthwaite House visit or telephone 015395 68264

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