At Under the Thatch we offer something a little bit different from what you’ll find at the other cottage agencies. We specialise in atmospheric interiors, authentic conservation and buildings with genuine character and owners who care. We’ve been happy to welcome lots of new followers lately, so thought it was a good time to remind everyone what makes us UTT the company that it is.
It’s no easy task fitting a modern functional kitchen into a historic interior, but we think that Kathleen and Lewis have done it just right at Garth Gell. The Aga heats the room perfectly and is lit ready for arrival; the room feels instantly homely, rustic, and everything you’d want a family kitchen to be.
At first glance, one might be forgiven for wondering why the ‘A-frame’ in the kids’ bedroom at Y Bragdy hasn’t been cut or modified to add headroom. But the story here is that it’s the original oak cruck from the house – dendrochronologically dated, so we know for sure that the tree was felled in 1498. Adults have to duck to get under as they enter the room, but Ned and Sophie have added a linen cushion to soften any occasional accidents. The history of the building hasn’t been compromised for modern convenience – that’s why it says Under the Thatch.
Derelict for decades, Bryn Eglur (built 1755) has been brought back into the modern world with a light touch by designer owner Dorian Bowen. Underfloor heating has been carefully inserted under the slate stone flags, a neat modern bathroom has been installed in what was the dairy, and a spacious modern kitchen into the beudy (cowshed). In the house, the original patina and surfaces have been respected, with some early twentieth painted surfaces conserved for the future. Most people would have painted over the 1950s paints, and we’re delighted that Dorian saw the beauty in the aged surfaces.
Lots of people restore interiors from the nineteenth century and earlier, but not many take places back to how they looked in, say, the mid-1940s. That’s why we love the Land Girls’ cabin in Somerset, friends Michael and Mary have restored it to how it was during the Second World War when small tin cottages sprung up on farms as accommodation for seasonal workers aiding the war effort. The attention to detail here is glorious – a lifetime of collecting by the Chapmans for everything that evokes the era. We guarantee that a stay here will make you smile.
Although we can’t promise that all UTT gardens are as professionally designed and managed as those at Suffolk House, the attention to detail here makes it an Under the Thatch. There are acres of formal, semi-formal, and informal gardens here, as well as direct access to the sea wall along the estuary. Whether it’s lavender or topiary, the gardens here have been designed for year-round interest by a couple who love plants (and know a great deal more than we do about them!). Gardener’s World came to film, which says it all.
We’re known as being the home of quintessential Welsh cottages, and Cwm Hill says ‘Pembrokeshire’ as much as any cottage anywhere. We rescued this little cutie from a roofless ruin, abandoned in the 1940s as there was no road to it. We introduced a track across a mile of fields and worked hard not to extend the place, keeping the entire house within the original shell, as it had been since the house was constructed around 1850. The soft pink limewash was still extant on the old ruin, so we color-matched a new batch to continue the tradition.
We’ve restored dozens of buildings over the last 30 years, but our toughest job was undoubtedly Wendy – a 1908 passenger railway carriage that sits on the coastal footpath between Aberporth and Tresaith in West Wales. Given its exposed location, Wendy had had a lot of work over the years since she came to a halt there in 1936, and the entire rear wall of the carriage had been removed in the 1970s to triple the size of the place. We made the brave decision to reinstate the original carriage as was, demolishing a huge flat roof extension, and reducing the carriage back to a carriage with compartments. Given that there’s no road access (you have to walk 300 yards from the parking) it was no mean feat, but we’re delighted with the result. Nobody wants to stay in half a train carriage when they could enjoy the experience of really being in a train carriage that came to a stop on the edge of the sea.
Slate is the name of the game at Blaen y Buarth, which is no surprise given its location in North Wales, close enough to the heartland of the Victorian slate mining industry. The porch is constructed from three immense slabs of local Welsh blue slate, the dairy sink is hewn from a single tonne of the stuff, and owner Ceril has used another monolithic slab to great effect as a shower screen. The garden fence is ‘crawiau’ – offcuts of raw slate used to keep the dogs in, and the lambs out. Finished with local antiques and textiles, when you stay here, you know where you are – this is Eryri (Snowdonia) incarnate.
We’ve renovated a number of properties in Poland, and a favorite is our apartment in the old town of Krakow. There’s a vibrant bohemian atmosphere in the Kazimierz district, with truly original bars and restaurants lit by only candlelight, with unrenovated interiors and antique furnishings. We took that theme as our cue for the interior of the apartment, removing modernizations to give the flat an almost derelict feel – as if it had been abandoned after WWII. In reality, there’s a great heating system, triple glazing, and a modern wetroom, but the impression is that this is the real spirit of Krakow – a city that we love dearly.
Long before the ‘tiny house movement’ had a name, and before Instagram was invented, we were building and restoring very small houses as they forced inventiveness in design and construction. Y Becws is a conversion of a tiny bakehouse across the courtyard from Plas Pennant on the Chirk castle estate, but it’s a lesson in ‘small is beautiful’ – it really is very small, and yet you really do have everything you need without feeling cramped. Congratulations to Nick and Derek for restoring this beautiful small home.
We couldn’t do a list of ‘utterly’ Under the Thatch properties and not include the Trehilyn farm of Jo and Griff Rhys Jones – their project has been a core part of our brand for nearly the lifetime of our company. The Rhys Jones family has restored seven remarkable properties on Strumble Head, and it’d be hard to choose a favorite, but the Georgian farmhouse itself is a gem. Here you can see the back view with a stair tower added around 200 years ago, and you can read the definition between the residential and service wings of this substantial farm.
Most of what we advertise was originally constructed more than a century ago, but sweet Tŷ Unnos in Carmarthenshire is in fact, a new build. But it’s really not like most new builds in the Welsh countryside, and that’s what makes it feel at home Under the Thatch. This bright modern home respects and echoes Welsh traditional architecture but doesn’t recreate it as pastiche – it’s a lesson in how to build compact, comfortable accommodation in a simple contemporary Welsh style.