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The Welsh House: Slow Living in a Traditional Cottage, Available for Rent, in Wales

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The Welsh House: Slow Living in a Traditional Cottage, Available for Rent, in Wales

March 22, 2017

From his carefully curated Instagram feed, which features charming images of fresh-cut flora (@thewelshhouse), you’d be forgiven for thinking that Dorian Bowen is a florist by trade. Instead, he’s the proprietor of The Welsh House—actually three holiday cottages—available for rent in rural Carmarthenshire, Wales. Bowen brought the cottages back to their traditional Welsh interiors that, paradoxically, eschew the modern, digital world, encouraging what Bowen calls “slow living escapism.” At the start of daffodil season, I spent the weekend at one of the charming cottages, Bryn Eglur; here’s a look inside.

Photography by Will Venning for Remodelista.

Bryn Eglur means &#8
Above: Bryn Eglur means “Clear Hill” and is nestled in a grove of trees.

In 2003, after 25 years living and working as a building surveyor in London, Bowen began his search for a rural weekend retreat and found it in the form of a small, white cottage—Bryn Eglur, the first of his renovations. Built in 1755 and left uninhabited for 40 years, the cottage was an opportunity to escape “from our modern lives back into the heart of nature.”

The entryway to the cottage. With the exception of the new slate flagstones and an underfloor heating system, the two main reception rooms have been left intact.
Above: The entryway to the cottage. With the exception of the new slate flagstones and an underfloor heating system, the two main reception rooms have been left intact.

“The cottage was in a pretty sad state when I found it,” says Bowen in a melodic Welsh accent. “Ivy had completely overtaken the roof, to the extent that I thought the cottage was thatched.” Wherever possible, Bowen set about repairing rather than replacing the interiors. All interior walls were stripped back to the stone so that the mortar could be repaired. The walls have been covered in a layer of lime plaster and whitewashed throughout.

The formal parlor is to the left of a wood-paneled hallway. &#8
Above: The formal parlor is to the left of a wood-paneled hallway. “Most of the traditional cottages I’ve seen no longer have this small room, but I wanted to keep it as it was,” explains Bowen.

The parlor—which would have been used for Bible studies and to greet visitors—has been furnished with perfectly-proportioned local auction finds. On the mantlepiece is a framed image of an Edwardian school class that Bowen found when renovating. On the wall that leads to the kitchen is a display of Welsh cawl spoons (cawl being a traditional broth of root vegetables and lamb).

To the right of the main entrance is the snug, where an open fire would have blazed in the huge inglenook fireplace.
Above: To the right of the main entrance is the snug, where an open fire would have blazed in the huge inglenook fireplace.

The original iron fire crane is still in situ, as are the panels of interwoven hazel which line the chimney flue (unseen behind the mantle). The armchair and sofa are both Ercol designs covered in traditional Welsh fabric.

Bowen installed a spacious modern kitchen in the adjoining cowshed.
Above: Bowen installed a spacious modern kitchen in the adjoining cowshed.

A red Rangemaster cooker heats the space. Meals are eaten around a bleached Welsh refectory table on mismatched antique chairs. Bowen found the wooden settle at the property when he moved in. The red of the Rangemaster is picked up in the stable door (just seen on the left).

The kitchen surfaces are made from Welsh slate and incorporate a vast, reclaimed salting sink (traditionally used for curing meat), now used to drain crockery and wash fruit and vegetables.
Above: The kitchen surfaces are made from Welsh slate and incorporate a vast, reclaimed salting sink (traditionally used for curing meat), now used to drain crockery and wash fruit and vegetables.
Another collection of wall-mounted cawl spoons.
Above: Another collection of wall-mounted cawl spoons.
The cottage is at the end of a rough track surrounded by fields and brook. The reception rooms look out over the fields.
Above: The cottage is at the end of a rough track surrounded by fields and brook. The reception rooms look out over the fields.
Freshly-cut daffodils and wildflowers brighten the cottage.
Above: Freshly-cut daffodils and wildflowers brighten the cottage.
In the main bedroom, a simple iron bed and a few choice pieces of Welsh furniture fill the room. The bed is covered in a traditional Welsh blanket.
Above: In the main bedroom, a simple iron bed and a few choice pieces of Welsh furniture fill the room. The bed is covered in a traditional Welsh blanket.
A wood-paneled staircase leads to two interconnected bedrooms.
Above: A wood-paneled staircase leads to two interconnected bedrooms.
On the other side of the distressed green boards is a traditional Welsh cupboard bed that Bowen found on eBay —the perfect cubbyhole for children.
Above: On the other side of the distressed green boards is a traditional Welsh cupboard bed that Bowen found on eBay —the perfect cubbyhole for children.
What was the larder in a north-facing corner of the house has been turned into a simple bathroom with a roll-top bath.
Above: What was the larder in a north-facing corner of the house has been turned into a simple bathroom with a roll-top bath.
 Bryn Eglur is not the place to come for guaranteed clear skies and Wi-Fi coverage—but if you&#8
Above: Bryn Eglur is not the place to come for guaranteed clear skies and Wi-Fi coverage—but if you’re looking to switch off completely, this simple, snug set-up will help.

Bowen says of the Welsh cottages: “In the thoughtful mix of finds, you’ll discover not so much a style, but more a feeling—one that is focused on simple living and a sense of authenticity.”

N.B. For more information, visit Bryn Eglur.

Looking to unplug? Check out these rustic UK escapes:

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