The Good Life

Canadian expat and blogger Elisa Rathje takes us round her stunning 17th century home, and lets us into a few secrets about her handmade style and homespun living!

There aren’t  many people that you can safely say make and restore most of the furniture and furnishings for their homes, but that is precisely what Canadian blogger Elisa Rathje does! The handmade chic of this inspiring writer is very much in keeping with the style of the historical property that Elisa shares with her husband and two young girls in West Sussex.

The 400-year-old building was originally a wheelwright and has undergone a few transformations in that time – and for the Rathje family it was love at first sight! “We looked at another property it would have been so easy to live in – it was very straightforward, nothing weird or unexpected, but in the end we couldn’t go with this property (Knave’s Acre) – it was so unusual, and there’re so many stories.” – Elisa explains.

The property was originally one building, but is now a semi-detached space, and was first named Knave’s Acre as you had to be a knave to farm here. You couldn’t get your horse in – there’s a cliff rising in the middle of the garden!

The layout of the property is unique due to the nature of the origins of the building. Unusually, there are four levels in total! But Elisa has an adamant feeling of historical perspective, and she is sympathetic to the period style of Knave’s Acre and the subsequent changes that the building has been through.

Uniqueness is something which she tries to convey in the way she decorates and furnishes her home. The house is rented, but Elisa has still managed to make the home feel hers uniquely, and the neutral white walls and the worn beams were already to Elisa’s taste, she explains, «…It already when we moved in. We didn’t own hardly any furniture, so there’s this opportunity to get some great antiques and pieces that we are interested in and fix them up!»

Elisa loves to learn traditional skills. The list is almost endless – pottery, quilting, spinning, sewing, shirring, dressmaking, knitting, woodturning and preserving: I’ve always learned what I need to get to make an idea happen. I’ve never focused on one particular medium… and I love a lot of variety and change.

Obviously, Elisa uses these skills to furnish her home, creating a beautiful backdrop to a creative and domestic life filled with the aroma of home baking; using organic ingredients of course. Not only that, everything is shared with her readers on her blog Apple Turnover.

So passionate is Elisa about homemade, and preserving traditional skills, that she is now in the process of making to kits for people who might like to do the same. She has even been talking with a Stonemason to pass on some knowledge about this wonderful skill. The videos will also be beautiful because everything Elisa uses the skills are vintage. Her ironing board is wood; there is an old fashioned iron on it. Her sewing machine is vintage. There doesn’t appear to be anything plastic in the house, although Elisa did say the children had some Lego!

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