When my editor at Harper Impulse asked me to write a story about an older woman, I immediately knew the setting into which I was going to put her – Ashgrove Cottage, on the edge of the Forest of Dean in the UK. Of course, in the book it’s Ash Cottage – but Ashgrove Cottage is real and it’s where my husband and I moved on the 19th December 2013. And that’s how ‘A Cottage in the Country’ was born.But while Maddie Brooks’ story is fictional – as are all of the characters - the setting and the catalogue of moving-in disasters are REAL. Not only that, the reality was much worse. However, sometimes life is so funny that it’s almost unbelievable and I had to reign back a little and leave out some moments that, at the time, seemed like the final straw. But we survived and with two big projects left to complete, it now feels very much like home! However, another thing a lot of people don’t realise, is that the interior design posts I do for Loveahappyending Lifestyle emagazine are all REAL projects.
Some relate to previous homes I’ve worked on in the past, but the most recent posts are things I’m doing at Ashgrove Cottage in between writing books and running websites. I’m fortunate enough to be married to my own ‘man who can’, who has been using his building skills for a long time now, as this is our thirteenth home. Many have been renovations – including an old stone lodge, a former stable-block and a couple of 200-year old cottages. Before I began writing, in March 2009, I was an interior designer and it was my job to choose all of the final finishes for new-build homes that weren’t sold off-plan (ie whilst building work was still in progress). But the really fun part was kitting-out the show homes. It was not unusual for me to be seen walking around stores with a train of trolleys behind being pushed by helpers, all piled high. Most of the show homes were 4 or 5-bed, executive homes, and choosing the furniture, soft furnishings and decorative pieces was such fun! However, what people don’t realise is that what appears to be quite a glamorous, exciting job is also very hard work. I was once given two weeks to buy, and install, everything to furnish a four-bed, four-bathroom, luxury home ready for viewings on day fifteen! There was another problem … the developer had nowhere I could store the goods, as the site was still ankle deep in mud and groundworks. The show home itself had a hive of guys still working on it and the deadline was tight.
Here’s a link to my feature on LLm: http://www.loveahappyending.com/category/interior-design/
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