Originally built to house the poor in the nineteenth century, Cheyneys Almshouse is now home to Fortnum & Mason in-house milliner Adrian Howard and his partner Sven. After stumbling across it in The Guardian’s ‘Wreck of the Week’ feature and falling in love with it, the couple tranformed the once boarded-up, derelict property into a spacious and unusual retreat.

Under the kitchen’s central work table there’s a Fortnum & Mason crate, full of more china treasures which are in everyday use

Under the kitchen’s central work table there’s a Fortnum & Mason crate, full of more china treasures which are in everyday use

Adrian made the tea cosy out of old ties

Adrian made the tea cosy out of old ties

Gladys the mannequin stands in one corner of the kitchen wearing a chic red cloche hat, made by Adrian

Gladys the mannequin stands in one corner of the kitchen wearing a chic red cloche hat, made by Adrian

Major Lynch – a male shop window dummy dressed in a guard’s uniform and a crash helmet – stands next to a station map from a Jubilee Line underground station. The Jubilee line station sign was bought as a tribute to Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Major Lynch – a male shop window dummy dressed in a guard’s uniform and a crash helmet – stands next to a station map from a Jubilee Line underground station. The Jubilee line station sign was bought as a tribute to Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

“When we lived in Germany,” Adrian explains, “I had a shop called ‘Brit Bits’ selling bric-a-brac I would bring over from England. I used to get bored sitting in there, so I got a sewing machine and started making cushions. That led on to door sausages and aprons and then I made some tea cosies out of bits and pieces I had lying around. People would always put them on their heads, so I started making hats...”

“When we lived in Germany,” Adrian explains, “I had a shop called ‘Brit Bits’ selling bric-a-brac I would bring over from England. I used to get bored sitting in there, so I got a sewing machine and started making cushions. That led on to door sausages and aprons and then I made some tea cosies out of bits and pieces I had lying around. People would always put them on their heads, so I started making hats...”

The walls of the downstairs loo are covered with framed photographs, prints, cards and letters with personal meaning

The walls of the downstairs loo are covered with framed photographs, prints, cards and letters with personal meaning

The original 1842 building was built as two tiny houses with a shared staircase. On the landing two small runs of stairs face each other – one original and the other copied for the extension

The original 1842 building was built as two tiny houses with a shared staircase. On the landing two small runs of stairs face each other – one original and the other copied for the extension

Adrian made the bedspread and cushions in the master bedroom out of an old curtain of his mother’s

Adrian made the bedspread and cushions in the master bedroom out of an old curtain of his mother’s

It’s their family tradition for everyone to dress up for Christmas dinner. A pale blue 1930s bell boy’s suit, with the traditional chin strap hat, which Adrian wore a couple of years ago, hangs on the end of the bed.

It’s their family tradition for everyone to dress up for Christmas dinner. A pale blue 1930s bell boy’s suit, with the traditional chin strap hat, which Adrian wore a couple of years ago, hangs on the end of the bed.

One of the spare rooms is home to another mannequin, called Charlie

One of the spare rooms is home to another mannequin, called Charlie

The bathroom features an amazing bright blue 1920s washbasin – not actually plumbed in, but too beautiful to leave in the second-hand yard in Hastings Old Town. Its vibrant colour is matched by a pair of pale blue grosgrain mule slippers Adrian couldn’t resist from Fortnum & Mason

The bathroom features an amazing bright blue 1920s washbasin – not actually plumbed in, but too beautiful to leave in the second-hand yard in Hastings Old Town. Its vibrant colour is matched by a pair of pale blue grosgrain mule slippers Adrian couldn’t resist from Fortnum & Mason

The two guest rooms, in the original south side of the house, are packed with more found treasures. In the pink bedroom, hat pins, hat boxes, Victorian laced boots, tiaras and bow ties share space on top of a chest of drawers

The two guest rooms, in the original south side of the house, are packed with more found treasures. In the pink bedroom, hat pins, hat boxes, Victorian laced boots, tiaras and bow ties share space on top of a chest of drawers

Maximillian the mannequin watches over the pink room in his German army helmet

Maximillian the mannequin watches over the pink room in his German army helmet

The wall outside the green bedroom features a sign from the Victoria Line, bought at a boot fair in tribute to Queen Victoria, who was monarch when the house was built

The wall outside the green bedroom features a sign from the Victoria Line, bought at a boot fair in tribute to Queen Victoria, who was monarch when the house was built

Adrian and Sven bought the light fitting in the sitting room from an antiques shop in Bruges

Adrian and Sven bought the light fitting in the sitting room from an antiques shop in Bruges

Adrian embellished the vintage wig stand with hundreds of crystals, sequins and buttons. He had the trumpet as a boy

Adrian embellished the vintage wig stand with hundreds of crystals, sequins and buttons. He had the trumpet as a boy

A vintage school map of Germany hangs over a sofa that used to belong to Adrian’s parents

A vintage school map of Germany hangs over a sofa that used to belong to Adrian’s parents

The snug. Adrian made the straw boater into a lampshade. He found the Venetian glass mirror on the street in London

The snug. Adrian made the straw boater into a lampshade. He found the Venetian glass mirror on the street in London

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether
  • styling: Lucy Fleming

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