Living Large In Small Spaces - A Charming House in West Sussex

Eighth post in the series

If you're familiar with my blog, you know I have a weakness for old-world cottages and have devoted a fair amount of my posts to showing them off. Traditional, quaint cottages get me every time. Their charm is undeniable.

While the small house I'm featuring today is not technically a cottage, it is Old World and has many cottage characteristics.  Its owner Fiona of Just Paint It White lives large in this small (approximately 700 square foot) house on the south coast of England, and I'm thrilled to include her story in the Living Large In Small Spaces series.

Fiona purchased her home in 2000.  "I loved the outside on paper," she says, "because it's like a fisherman's cottage with exposed brick and no [plaster covering the brick] and it had a beautiful maple growing across the front (the maple came from a neighbour's garden and grew across 5 houses but, unfortunately, they cut it down)."

The house was "in pretty good shape" when Fiona bought it. She replaced the boiler, and the windows at the front of the house because "although the old wood ones were adorable, they made the house very cold." 

Fiona designed a new front door, added flower boxes and, using her decorative painting skills (more about that later), transformed the black gas box to match the brick. "The gas box has faded somewhat," she says, "so I need to paint it again."


She also replaced the bedraggled front lawn with a lovely patio and garden.


Of her gardening prowess Fiona says, "Up till then I hadn't even owned a house plant!"

"Although I am surrounded by streets full of very similar terraced houses, I actually like the bay windows and wooden porches and not very far away there are some wonderfully old period properties." ~ Fiona

Fiona made major improvements to the kitchen.

"The kitchen was very sad, and it took us about two years to be able to afford to do it up. We put in new cabinet doors, work surface, oven, hob (cook top) and lovely slate flooring." ~ Fiona

Fiona scored the slate flooring in exchange
 for a decorative painting job.
After living in the house for several years, Fiona moved to a flat across town for personal reasons, and rented out the two-bedroom house for seven years. In 2013 she returned to her home.

Fortunately, the tenants had left the house in good condition "apart from a very worn carpet." 

The kitchen after the tenants moved out

The kitchen after Fiona "filled it up."

Fiona didn't want her kitchen to "look like it was off the shelf."

There's plenty of cottage character in this kitchen.

The larder cupboard with dentil cornice was custom made for the space.  To its left, under the counter, is the refrigerator.

"I like to think that my dog looks as perfect
as the one in the calendar!" ~ Fiona

Natural light floods the kitchen, and makes the room visually larger.

Fiona says there's "still a lot of work to do in the kitchen." On her wish list is painting the kitchen cabinets either soft gray or white.

The living room when the tenants moved out.

The cozy living room (lounge) is decorated with objects Fiona has collected over time. 

Fiona made the driftwood lamp.

A log burner warms the space.

The tongue and groove wall was added during Fiona's first stay in the house.

"As I have always said - more is more !

Less is more doesn't really work for me !" ~ Fiona

Her color choices are soft and serene.

Dining room when the tenants moved out.

"I really don't like the topiary tree fabric on the armchair, but it was FREE and I'm putting off making a slipcover and waiting till I win the lottery to get it covered professionally!" ~ Fiona

"Lighting is very important. We actually took out the overhead light in the living room because overhead lights can be so cold. I have three lamps on at night (in the lounge diner) and I only put the chandelier on if I'm working at the dining room table." ~ Fiona

On a shopping trip Fiona found the "very chippy, shabby old cabinet, with a marble top and great details." She looked at it three different times to make sure she really loved it, and that it would fit the space "between the architrave of the hall door and the under stairs cupboard" before making the purchase. 

Fiona designs charming vignettes, often using what she calls "nature's cast offs."

Her dining room portrays charming French country influences.

Fiona painted the "too shiny" brass chandelier collar white and wrapped the cord with a "pale blue silk bandage" from her stash.

Wanting to hide her craft supplies in the built-in cabinet, Fiona crafted doors. She added the trim and fabric, painted and installed the doors herself.

She found the beautiful glass handles on the internet.

Fiona did extensive work on the bathroom.

She removed the multi-colored tile and installed tongue and groove paneling all around the room.

The chair is one of Fiona's wonderful makeovers. She ingeniously added slats to the bottom to hold a storage basket.

This little cabinet is a Fiona makeover, too.

The bathroom now has a lot of vintage style.

"I love the room from every angle." ~ Fiona

While working on a commissioned painting job Fiona rescued vintage glass door knobs from a demolition pile.  She had been looking for knobs just like them for her house, and was delighted to find six, the exact number she needed for her stripped pine doors.

Fiona's guest room doubles as her sewing room.

The sewing machine cover was designed and created by Fiona.

"When I lived here before I thought we made it pretty nice," Fiona says, "but blogging has inspired me so much more, that I think the house is looking better than ever. I'm so inspired all the time that I can't wait to decorate the rest of the house as I've only really scratched the surface. The lounge/diner won't change much, it just needs a lick of paint, but I need to do the hall and landing(that's next), both bedrooms and do a lot of work on the kitchen."

Fiona's vision and creativity extends far beyond her home. 

 Mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil heart-tower
with balsamic glaze

She is head chef at a local beachfront café. These photos of her creations are from the Valentine's Day menu.

Fresh-baked cheesecake with fresh strawberries

Fiona is also a trained decorative artist, and spent ten years doing commissioned work. The following photos show only a few examples of her extraordinary talent.  

Roman ruins under the stairs

"I wanted to paint a scene through the ruins with a bright blue sky so that the stone work really popped, but my client wanted a neutral colourscheme - c'est la vie." ~ Fiona

A mural within a swimming pool room. 

"I had just come back from two weeks in Crete and really wanted to be back there. So I painted a terrace with far reaching views of the sea. Oh how I wanted that terrace to be mine (I have dreams of retiring to Greece)." ~ Fiona

Stone block around a cooker mantel

So delicate.

"Working as a chef is a necessity because it pays the bills. Doing the artwork pays much better, but because I have to pay all the bills myself I can't take a chance on the work being infrequent." ~ Fiona

It is home life, however, that Fiona most enjoys. "I love being at home away from the stresses of daily life," she says, "just chilling with my dog and having copious amounts of Earl Grey tea."

Fiona feels a small house is just right for her and Rufie, her dog. "If I had more money I wouldn't want a much bigger place," she says, "because I wouldn't want to be rattling around in it, and 'cozy' is just want I want to feel in my own home, it's so comforting after a long day at work." 

I wish to express my thanks to Fiona for allowing me the privilege of sharing her charming house in West Sussex.  Visit her blog Just Paint It White for more about her small home and large life.

Join me next Saturday for another post in the special series

 Living Large in Small Spaces

See more home tours in the 
Living Large In Small Spaces Series here.

Would you like to share your small space story 
or have your home 
featured  in this special series?
Send me an email and let's collaborate.
(See the "Contact Me" page for email address.)


  1. I recently found Fiona and her blog. She's super talented! You must visit her, NOW!

  2. What a lovely home Fiona has made herself! It's actually the picture that comes to mind when I hear the words "English cottage." I adore the kitchen, I bet she whips up some fancy food in that super charming space!

  3. I love her little space. She gave me many good ideas for decorating a very small dwelling. I can see how shelves are very handy. Love her inviting. And that blue shelf full of her little treasures and dishes is so charming. Deb

  4. Teri, I could move right into this charming home. No problem at all. Thanks for your nice comment.

  5. Delightful space! I can't believe it is only 700 sq ft.
    Love her old world like, vintage, hand created touches.
    Very, very nice . . .

  6. Dear Nancy, thank you for writing such a lovely post about my little house, it actually brought tears to my eyes because it feels special that someone likes my style so much. And seeing everything I've done and reading my own words makes me feel that I really need to get on with all those plans, because I've been a bit lazy recently !
    Sincerely, a big thank you x

    1. Fiona, it was my great pleasure to write this feature. I love your home, and admire your incredible talent. I felt I barely scratched the surface of your accomplishments in my post, and would have loved to do a lot more. Hugs.

  7. Lovely home - this one I could picture myself living in. :)


  8. Very lovely and peaceful cottage. I like her little sewing nook. So many stories to share throughout her home. Thanks for sharing!

    1. My pleasure, Judy. Fiona's home is one of my favorites in blogland. :)

  9. I have been following Fiona's lovely blog for a while now and I am constantly amazed with her many talents, from painting and sewing and drilling to cooking and blogging! She creates some of the most charming vignettes in blogland! Thanks for featuring her cozy cottage, Nancy!

    Happy Sunday!


  10. Nancy,
    Another great living small home! Fiona's home is so cozy and has such big style. Love every room in this cozy cottage. Thanks for sharing Fiona beautiful cottage with all of us.

  11. This looks like a cozy English Cottage for sure. I love the little patio she created. Not growing plants before she created the garden has given me hope that I can do the same next Spring. Debbie

  12. What a darling little cottage! Fiona - you definitely possess some amazing talents and skills that the rest of us can only dream about - love your paintings, your talents in doing your own wood projects - on so many levels, a charming cozy little home! Thanks Nancy for sharing this with us :)

  13. That is a beautiful home and I could see me living in that one too.

  14. What a charming home, and I love the French touches! That "Le Bain" sign is just great 😀

    1. Glad you enjoyed the tour, Julie. I like the Le Bain sign and everything else in the bathroom. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. So much charm, loved the tour...and the blue wall shelf in the kitchen, so pretty!

    Thanks so much for sharing at AMAZE ME MONDAY...

  16. Lovely! I love how she decorates.
    Fun to read, thank you so much for sharing your finds. :-)

  17. I love Fiona's house. I also think English houses are more inspiring to me, because their average size is about the size of my Cottage.

  18. What a charming french cottage. Love her decorating style and that adorable kitchen.

  19. Nancy, your blog is beautiful and I love, love this feature! Fiona's home is truly "cozy" and so warm and welcoming. I just love it! If I had the money, a small cottage would be my choice rather than a large house. She's definitely an artist and so very talented! The creativity she has shown in her home as well as her creations as a chef. Wouldn't it be nice to sit and have tea with her? :)

    Thanks so much for sharing ~

  20. What a lovely visit. Best wishes to Fiona and Rufie on winning the lottery ! A charming and tasteful post.

  21. What an utterly charming home! Genius idea with the gas box, too. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Laurie. xxx

  22. I follow Fiona's blog, and I'm constantly amazed by what she's done all by herself in her lovely home! Thanks for featuring Fiona and her home on your blog, Nancy.

  23. Another delightful home (I love her decorating style too!) ~ Thank you for sharing this on the Art of Home-Making Mondays last week! Please join in again this week :)

  24. Nancy, Fiona's cottage is just precious! I love the cozy feel and that larder cupboard, oh WOW! What an amazing chef she is and her dog is just as adorable as the one in the photo. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  25. That is an adorable home!! Love English Country style! Thanks for sharing!

  26. I follow her blog and have fallen completely in love with her home and her sweet self. Thanks for featuring her in this series!

  27. I'm in love... Fiona's cottage has such interesting details. I just found the back-links to these and I'm enjoying the ones I've missed. I'm not sure what is wrong with my feed. xoxo


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