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Mole Cottage in Wales: A Calm, Creative Holiday House

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Mole Cottage in Wales: A Calm, Creative Holiday House

Harry Crowder April 12, 2021

As admirers of Justine Cook’s distinct brand of “detailed minimalism,” we were intrigued to learn of a new rental project from the creator of Harp Studio—the diminutive Mole Cottage, which has just started taking bookings for the summer season.

Photographs by Harry Crowder.

The entryway to Justine Cook&#8
Above: The entryway to Justine Cook’s creative, characterful Mole Cottage. Cook uses her collection of natural ephemera, including Baobab seed pods, bleached berries, Sudanese ladder seed pods, and structural dried stems, as decor throughout the house.
The cottage is tucked away down a small lane in the Welsh border town of Presteigne, on the banks of the River Lugg. Cook describes it as “a tiny burrow, half submerged underground,&#8
Above: The cottage is tucked away down a small lane in the Welsh border town of Presteigne, on the banks of the River Lugg. Cook describes it as “a tiny burrow, half submerged underground,” hence the name, which references Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s tale, The Wind in the Willows.

This is the third rental created by Cook. (The popular Harp Cottage was sold via The Modern House last year and featured here in December.) “We bought Mole Cottage—which was very floral, very 1980s—in 2019, and work was due to start February 2020,” she recalls. “In February, we were flooded. It’s a medieval building, that has never flooded before in its known history. Then lockdown hit.”

Undeterred, Cook worked with the building, conjuring light, space, and atmosphere from its small, sunken footprint, which consists of just three rooms: a sitting room/bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. “Ultimately, the flooding worked in our favor,” says Cook, who was spurred on to flood-proof the entire cottage, refinish the walls with breathable lime plaster, and raise the floor in order to install underfloor heating and slate tiles throughout.

Cook&#8
Above: Cook’s Campaign Sofabed takes pride of place in the living/sleeping area. Inspired by campaign furniture (designed for travel), it is made to order in beech and covered in 100 percent linen in four colorways: Limewash, Pearl, Putty, and Dark Moss (and as a two-, three- or four seater).
Come evening, the sofa unfolds into a capacious bed. Tucked into the corner of the room is a vintage armchair reupholstered in bouclé by Lelievre.
Above: Come evening, the sofa unfolds into a capacious bed. Tucked into the corner of the room is a vintage armchair reupholstered in bouclé by Lelievre.
Harp Studio&#8
Above: Harp Studio’s glossy black feather lampshades are made to order.
The slate-paved passageway to the main living area.
Above: The slate-paved passageway to the main living area.
The small but perfectly configured kitchen has been fitted with worktops made from reclaimed scaffold boards, reclaimed wood for the cabinet doors, and a salvaged zinc sink with brass garden taps. The kitchen shelves are stacked with tactile, hand-thrown ceramics created for Harp Studio by ceramicist Chloe Charrington.
Above: The small but perfectly configured kitchen has been fitted with worktops made from reclaimed scaffold boards, reclaimed wood for the cabinet doors, and a salvaged zinc sink with brass garden taps. The kitchen shelves are stacked with tactile, hand-thrown ceramics created for Harp Studio by ceramicist Chloe Charrington.
Rough hewn cutting boards add to the rustic feel.
Above: Rough hewn cutting boards add to the rustic feel.
A mix of vintage flatware and cooking utensils are displayed in vintage marmalade jars.
Above: A mix of vintage flatware and cooking utensils are displayed in vintage marmalade jars.

“As Mole Cottage is half submerged and tiny it was important to create a sense of light and space,” says Cook, whose background as an installation artist and sculptor has plainly played into each of her projects. “The cottage gets the most wonderful light that creates beautiful sun shadows throughout the space. Light, and how it moves through a building, is key to all our projects.”

Mole Cottage’s function is twofold. At weekends, it serves as a rental space for solo travelers or couples seeking a restorative break. During the week, it is a studio space and showroom for the Harp Studio collection—an evolving range of homeware that includes hand-thrown ceramics, one-off vintage finds, natural curios, raw smoked steel containers, and furniture. “The collection started as a need to create,” explains Cook. “My background was focussed on creating spaces for people to experience and respond to. While creating interiors is similar, I also needed to create the objects in the space to achieve the effect I was after.”

The walk -in-shower is lined in Zellige tiles. All internal doors are reclaimed wooden farmhouse doors painted in Grey Moss by  Little Greene Paint Company. The walls are Linen Wash.
Above: The walk -in-shower is lined in Zellige tiles. All internal doors are reclaimed wooden farmhouse doors painted in Grey Moss by  Little Greene Paint Company. The walls are Linen Wash.

“We consciously reused materials as much as possible and used reclaimed furniture and materials where possible,” says Cook. “A building takes you on a journey and responding to the space is vital to create a harmonious relaxed environment.”

For another atmospheric bolthole, see:

‘Hotel of the Year’: The Birch in Hertfordshire, England

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