Picture the perfect getaway. Where do you fancy? Paris? Rome? Or perhaps somewhere exotic and further away? Well, yesterday I might have been imagining a faraway place too, but today I want to stay in Rolvenden Layne. I only live down the road from this wonderful little bolt hole, but within two minutes of meeting Diane and glancing quickly around her gorgeously quirky apartment, I’m already wondering whether I could slip away for a few days. It is to die for – or at least, to lie down and dream in for a while. 

There is a nod to the apartment’s previous incarnation as the village stores in the form of a statement set of scales that sit on the counter between the dining and cooking area

There is a nod to the apartment’s previous incarnation as the village stores in the form of a statement set of scales that sit on the counter between the dining and cooking area

Diane has created her very own version of The Little Paris kitchen. She hasn’t been afraid to use dark colours in this low beamed house and has opted for a sophisticated dark grey – Farrow and Ball’s ‘Plummet

Diane has created her very own version of The Little Paris kitchen. She hasn’t been afraid to use dark colours in this low beamed house and has opted for a sophisticated dark grey – Farrow and Ball’s ‘Plummet

Diane finds a lot of her furniture and accessories at Ardingly Antiques Fair and through visits to Rye, Tenterden and The Three French Hens brocantes at Silcocks Farm Shop

Diane finds a lot of her furniture and accessories at Ardingly Antiques Fair and through visits to Rye, Tenterden and The Three French Hens brocantes at Silcocks Farm Shop

Wherever they go though, Diane’s always on the lookout for more things that would enhance the apartment experience. “Every time I go and stay somewhere I’m looking for those little extra touches,” she says. “And every week that people come to visit I think of something else that will make their stay just a little bit special.”

Wherever they go though, Diane’s always on the lookout for more things that would enhance the apartment experience. “Every time I go and stay somewhere I’m looking for those little extra touches,” she says. “And every week that people come to visit I think of something else that will make their stay just a little bit special.”

A snooker table hangs decoratively on the wall in the kitchen, bringing a splash of colour to the room, but it’s also just waiting to be taken down for a game – and, by fluke, it fits perfectly on top of the dining table

A snooker table hangs decoratively on the wall in the kitchen, bringing a splash of colour to the room, but it’s also just waiting to be taken down for a game – and, by fluke, it fits perfectly on top of the dining table

“I see people in these massive granite kitchens and I don’t feel so much in love, I think ‘where are your little curtains, your pots and crockery?’ I’m not old fashioned but I don’t like it when everyone’s houses look the same” says Diane

“I see people in these massive granite kitchens and I don’t feel so much in love, I think ‘where are your little curtains, your pots and crockery?’ I’m not old fashioned but I don’t like it when everyone’s houses look the same” says Diane

Bargains and quirky finds have come from unexpected places and at different times: The copper effect lampshade in the bedroom is from Dunelm, some of the cushions and towels were from TK Maxx “I didn’t want to have to spend a fortune,” says Diane, “if I can find something for a tenner that works, then that’s good enough.”

Bargains and quirky finds have come from unexpected places and at different times: The copper effect lampshade in the bedroom is from Dunelm, some of the cushions and towels were from TK Maxx “I didn’t want to have to spend a fortune,” says Diane, “if I can find something for a tenner that works, then that’s good enough.”

The apartment’s French windows open onto a little terrace, which has just enough space for a table and two chairs. It is perfect – the essence of a Parisian balcony, albeit on the ground floor.

The apartment’s French windows open onto a little terrace, which has just enough space for a table and two chairs. It is perfect – the essence of a Parisian balcony, albeit on the ground floor.

Outside the garden is separated into two areas – a private garden for Diane and Ian and a more formal, courtyard-style garden for the guests. Privacy has been ensured with evergreen shrubs and topiary

Outside the garden is separated into two areas – a private garden for Diane and Ian and a more formal, courtyard-style garden for the guests. Privacy has been ensured with evergreen shrubs and topiary

Evergreen shrubs and topiary help to bring a chic, but verdant intimacy to the outdoor seating area. “The advantage of using mainly evergreens is that I can rely on it being the same throughout the year. And then I can add seasonal colour in pots.” In the winter the whole garden twinkles with fairy lights and makes a magical space to look out into.

Evergreen shrubs and topiary help to bring a chic, but verdant intimacy to the outdoor seating area. “The advantage of using mainly evergreens is that I can rely on it being the same throughout the year. And then I can add seasonal colour in pots.” In the winter the whole garden twinkles with fairy lights and makes a magical space to look out into.

Breakfast at The Stores comprises a wonderful choice of food, prepared by Ian and served by Diane who dresses up for the event in a charming polka dot dress and an apron, “It makes me feel the part, like I’m in The Little Paris Kitchen”

Breakfast at The Stores comprises a wonderful choice of food, prepared by Ian and served by Diane who dresses up for the event in a charming polka dot dress and an apron, “It makes me feel the part, like I’m in The Little Paris Kitchen”

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether
  • styling: Helen Barton

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