Wendy Boonstra arrived in Ireland in December 2002 to start work at Castle Leslie, one of the great estates of Ireland. Originally from Den Helder in North Holland, Wendy discovered her love of decorating and design when her mother opened a fabric shop in the town.

She quickly diversified into running food fairs and workshops, and just two years later, opened her first shop. However, it wasn’t long before she felt the time was right to start selling out of her own home. ‘I decided to move deeper into the countryside,’ says Wendy. ‘I really wanted a quiet place; an old house or cottage with a garden and a bit of land where I could keep a horse, but could still run open-house sales.’

A traditional late-18th-century Irish cottage, with small windows and thick stone walls, it was attached to a cow barn that had previously been converted into a bedroom and a tiny sleeping loft. The house was located right on the side of the road and came with a garden and orchard filled with damson and crab-apple trees.

A kitchen had been built on as an extension at some stage, but it contained only a Belfast sink. ‘As it had been empty for so long, it was cold, damp and unloved,’ says Wendy.

Essential repairs

The house had been empty for some years and the kitchen was completely bare, so Wendy installed some basic cupboards and redecorated

bootstra-cottage-entranceShe brought the old skates from Holland. ‘You can use so many different things with memories attached to them to make original arrangements,’ she says

bootstra-cottage-corridoorA corridor links the house to the converted cow barn, which Wendy uses to display her very best wares. The paper bells remind her of similar ones from childhood, and the dancing shoes belonged to her grandmother. For a similar floral fabric, try Treyford from Elanbach

bootstra-cottage-doorwayThe front door opens into the kitchen, painted ‘oxblood red’, which Wendy mixed herself. A rustic plant stand in the corner is a good spot for the traditional poinsettia, and the deer head is on display all year round

bootstra-cottage-seating-areaOriginally a bedroom, the bathroom was converted some years ago. Wendy has added her unique style to the space with pieces sourced at auctions, fairs and car boot sales

bootstra-cottage-dining-areaThe 19th-century walnut display cabinet, bought at auction, is full of vintage fabrics and Christmas decorations. In the space behind it are the fridge, washer and dryer, concealed by an antique screen

bootstra-cottage-kitchen With every surface and shelf brimming with candles, vintage crockery and tasty treats, the kitchen is at the heart of Wendy’s celebrations.

bootstra-cottage-living-roomThe room is warmed by a solid-fuel Waterford Stanley stove. Clogs from Norway hang above it on antlers

bootstra-cottage-christmas-treeWendy achieved the living room’s unique colour by accident, when she painted over green with gold, which didn’t quite cover it, but she liked the effect. The tree is decorated with antique Dutch ornaments, alongside those made by the twins. The egg timer stool is Victorian and the mannequin was picked up at a vintage market in Lille, France

bootstra-cottage-childrens-roomMuireann’s room contains an antique painted French bed and her favourite painting of a Victorian girl on a pony. The dolls and teddy have been in Wendy’s family for several generations

Get the look

Capture Wendy’s warm and welcoming decorating style with these seasonal finds

bootstra-get-the-look
  • Stove: Belgravia 8kW, H70.5xW64xD39.5cm, from £1,770, Chesney’s
  • Decoration: Decadent Decs giant bronze bauble, H49cm, £30, Talking Tables
  • Throws: Patterned throw, W140xL300cm, £135, Do South
  • Teddy: Jonathan bear, H43cm, £250, Steiff
  • Sofa: Tosca sofa Smuggler model, H91xW132xD96cm, covered in a range of fabrics, shown in Cello Raspberry and DuBarry Twilight velvet, £2,482, John Sankey 
  • Wreath: Interwoven mistletoe and ivy design, Dia.40cm, £28.95, Rigby & Mac 
  • Table: Morris round dining table in Cuban, H76xDia.152cm, £10,946, Baker Furniture

Author & Photographer: Barbara Egan/Reportage

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