There are rules to take and rules to break when it comes to decorating a house and holiday homes are no different, says Helen Winter.

The Bournemouth based interior designer was asked to renovate this 17th century Corfe Mullen cottage for its owners, who live in the Midlands and didn’t have time to run the project themselves.

“Dulcima cottage was supposed to be named after a witch and used to be two tiny cottages that were then knocked into one and had an extension added at the back,” explains Helen. “When I arrived, it had a shabby chic look but was a bit tired in places and definitely needed refreshing.”

Because the basics had been attended to, and the thatched roof was in good order, Helen could concentrate on ensuring the four-bedroom cottage worked hard for its new owners, both as a second home and one they could rent out.

“I had to think about how holiday cottages are used differently to private homes,” she said. “For instance, the kitchen had a breakfast bar facing the wall with around six seats against it. I thought that no one’s going to want to face a wall on holiday, with their back to the garden, so I had it the thick oak top re-purposed by my carpenter to create an island in the room, which instantly turned it into a more sociable place.”

Helen decided the cottage would probably be attractive to multi-generational families and set about ensuring it could cope with occupants that spanned three generations.

“We thought the kitchen and eating area would be the kind of space where smaller children would watch TV and you could keep an eye on them,” she said. “But there were also a couple of other rooms where you can shut the door and have some privacy.”

She decided to go with plump, overstuffed cushions and deep comfort in the sitting room and have a ‘more active’ space where people could watch TV or youngsters could play games.

Upstairs she decided to create a different feel for each room ‘based on who’s most likely to want it!’. “That meant we configured one room with fun, playful wallpaper and bunks, with space for beanbags for children and because we thought the parents would want to be close to that room, we designed the master bedroom for near there,” she says. Another room was designed with teens in mind, with single beds that could be zipped together for other guests.

Outside they did away with a crumbling play fort and built a climbing frame and a barbecue hut perfect, Helen says for when guests want to be outside or cook ‘even in the rain’ as they are protected from the elements.

Décor-wise, because of the cottage’s age, there were some issues. “The ceiling beams were very dense and in a row and were painted black,” she remembers. “I found myself walking around, ducking when I didn’t need to because, psychologically, they were lowering the ceiling height.”

She considered having them sandblasted but instead opted to ‘paint them out’ using the same colour as the ceiling itself to make them disappear.

Because the cottage is next to a pavement there was also a privacy issue with the front windows. “We wanted to make sure people couldn’t just peer in and so we installed these translusent roller blinds which allow for the light, and dressed the windows up with curtains,” she says.

The warmth and colour in the house was a deliberate choice, much of it prompted by the owners who insisted on ‘a bit of orange’ in one bedroom. “It’s not a colour I’ve used a lot but I took the cue from the wallpaper in the main bedroom and it looks amazing,” she said.

She also used wallpaper to stunning effect in the family bathroom. “My decorator hated me because the walls are so wonky but I love this paper; the colour and the design – my company is called Coral and I think it’s one of the things which inspired me,” she says. “I thought that because it’s a holiday cottage you can be a bit bolder because people won’t have to live with it all the time.”

The cottage has proved popular, both with its new owners and with the people who come to stay.

“Holiday homes are different from your everyday place but there are so many ideas you can take away to use at home,” she says.