Offbeat Video

By Robert Firth


An artist who spent more than 30 years turning her rundown cottage into a life-size doll house says her colourful decoration has made the house – which should be worth upwards of quarter of a million pounds – unsellable.

Potter, Mary Rose Young, 61, has been painting the beautiful country cottage in leafy Lydney, Gloucs in her electric style by hand since 1987, when she bought the dilapidated house for just £30,000.

After 27 years in the house, she put it on the market in 2014, where estate agents said the property should have been expected to fetch at least £250,000.

But despite hoping to sell the property to open a boutique hotel nearby, estate agents could only persuade one person to view the house – leaving the family stuck there.

Despite this, Mary Rose refuses to paint over her life’s work in a more neutral colour and says she still loves her house-cum-pottery workspace and gallery, which she lives in with husband, Phil Butcher, 62, a musician.

She said: “I made this house around my own life and I wasn’t thinking about it being sellable.

“We’re living like two children in a doll’s house and in retrospect why would anybody else want to buy it?

“It’s like a playhouse for adults.

“I just thought it might go to a mad collector of my work who might want to buy it, but no one was interested.

“Only one person came and looked at it in the year it was on the market and they weren’t here long.

“I think they had just come out of curiosity to see the decoration and were never interested.

“The estate agents despaired. I could have painted over all my work, but I didn’t want to.

“I love my house and the house really works for me. I’m a colourful person and I even have pink hair.

“I like it more and more as I get older.”

Since her dreams of opening-up a boutique hotel were dashed by her inability to sell the house, Mary Rose has redoubled her efforts to put her mark on every last corner of the property and last year turned the courtyard into a bright pink painting studio.

She bought the house, which is composed of two knocked-through cottages, in 1987 for just £30,000.

They had previously been occupied by elderly couples and Mary Rose spent years renovating the house, turning the two cottages into one property and building an extension for her pottery workshop.

She originally painted the entire house white in the hope of lightening it up, but after realising it made the house look greyer began drawing patterns inspired by her colourful pottery designs on the walls.

Mary Rose said: “I did one wall orange with red dots and it really stood out and took people’s minds off the fact there’s hardly any natural light.

“It became a really fun project for me on the side of my pottery business and I was so galvanised by it I ended up neglecting my pottery at times.

“I painted it all myself and I would get help for some bits if I was in a hurry and was trying to work on the pottery.

“When you do it by yourself, you do it with all your heart.

“I’m very inspired by Venice and I did the garden room and patio area inspired by the city.

“I go to Venice a couple of times a year and everything there is just breath-taking.

“The floor to my gallery is inspired by Venetian floors and it took about a month to do. It has that trompe l’oeil 3D effect.”

Mary Rose has even incorporated pieces of her pottery into the house’s features and the sitting room boasts a pottery chandelier, while the bathroom walls are adorned with homemade pottery tiles.

She began making pottery in 1984 and originally sold her products at a harbourside market in Bristol, before her creations began to get picked up by department stores.

She said: “I have my workshop and gallery in the same house where I live so this house has been perfect during lockdown.

“I’ve stopped noticing how colourful it is because I’ve lived here for so long.

“Lots of people are self-conscious and don’t say much when they see the decoration, but the right reaction is to laugh and go ‘oh wow.’

“It should make you feel like a child walking into a sweet shop. I want people to feel like adults can have lots of fun too.”