Ever since I wrote Lords of the Horizons: A History of the Ottoman Empire, I’ve been brooding. On the face of it the Ottomans had precious little to shout about, though they ruled from the castle at Buda to the deserts of Arabia.

 They never embraced democracy or rights for women, nor invented steam power or the internal combustion engine. They made no strides in maths or natural science. They didn’t even print books until 1729, and then only a few commentaries and a Turkish grammar.

By the 19th century the empire was infested by bandits, inflation was rife, trade was lax and there were at least half a dozen rival versions of the calendar, and even of the clock. Shortly after the end of the First World War it all collapsed, and not with a bang, but a whimper.

All the same, the Ottomans knew how to live. For centuries they kept the peace. They loved gardens, and picnics. In 1492, they welcomed the Jews expelled from catholic Spain, and cities like Thessalonica became centres of Jewish life. Talent, mixed with a little luck, was allowed to shine, so a poor shepherd boy could rise to run the empire. The law was based on general Islamic principles, but it was contingent on place, faith, and custom, too. For six centuries the Ottomans allowed people to live quietly, eat well, and follow their own gods, rituals and traditions.

If they were slow to print books, it was only because they illustrated them so beautifully by hand.
During lockdown I’ve thought about the Ottomans a lot. Here is the original hardback. It was Kate’s idea to put the little men on the cover- courtesans and Sufis and Viziers.

The quiet grace of Ottoman civilisation was best summed up by Edward Lear, who travelled all over Albania and the Holy Land in the 1840s. In Constantinople he apologised for treading clumsily on a pasha’s water pipe. ‘The breaking of a pipe-stem would, in ordinary circumstances, be disagreeable,’ the pasha observed; ‘but in a friend, every action has its charm.’

The Ottomans were descended from nomads; we’ve always been a little nomadic, too. We have lived together in thirteen different houses.

One of our first kitchens was in a trim artisan’s cottage in Bethnal Green which provided my mother Jocasta Innes with a neat shot for her book, The Thrifty Decorator.

We soon moved out to the country.

This is in Dorset.

Ben Pentreath put this house – our last but one –  in his book, English Decoration, pointing out Kate’s ability to make it look as though we’ve lived there forever.

The blue lamp is a tea caddy, one of two I once bought from a loose tea shop in Nanjing.

Ottoman architecture can be terribly grand – all those domes and baths and mosques – but the detail is sometimes fabulously domestic, too. This is a little birdhouse, built on the wall of a mosque in Uskudar.

And another here, in a house on Tinos where we went a year or so back:

I wish all architects would pin a picture of those pigeon holes to the top of their computer: every building should be made fit for animals to live in, whether eaves for swallows, or wainscots for mice.
The world’s first animal hospital was a refuge for migrating storks in Bursa. It is still there. Its terribly important to look after your animals

This is our sitting room.

When the Victorians threw out the windows, they re-used the old Georgian shutters to make the surrounds, and you can just see the ceiling. Repurposing stuff was an Ottoman thing, too, hence Hagia Sophia, and any number of Byzantine churches that were adapted as mosques.

The table in our dining room is a billiard table. Nobody seems to want them any more – I think Kate got this one for a fiver.

There isn’t anything very Ottoman going on here, except the witches’ ball. The Ottomans were quite as superstitious as the rest of us. Superstition is, I think, an expression of sensitivity.

Everyone knows that Voltaire’s Candide ends with the injunction to cultivate your garden, but you might not remember that this solution is provided by an Ottoman gentleman farmer who greets the travellers on their way out of Istanbul. I think of gardening not as a retreat, but as a form of attack. It’s an attack on those internationally traded, air-freighted, seasonless commodity foods and ho! for local and organic, like the Ottomans. Most of their great men started life as simple peasant boys, tending goats on a Balkan hillside somewhere. They knew the basics, and why they mattered.They took things more slowly, as we should learn to do.

More and more I think that’s the only way forward. We have to take charge of what we eat, and reject all that supermarket pap. Write immediately to your MP and ask them to vote against the amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would allow the import of food produced to lower standards than ours.

I’ve joined the Landworker’s Alliance, which runs Farmstart to help people without capital or connections get a start in farming on a small scale. So many industrially farmed acres of land could be broken up and worked by enthusiastic horticulturalists. We need a peasantry again, as wise people have always suggested. One of them was HJ Massingham. I wrote about him recently in my column on Country Life

My mother described herself as a peasant, by nature; and a greedy one – that was why she was such a good cook. She wrote several cookbooks after The Pauper’s Cookbook, and the one she loved best was The Country Kitchen: we re-published it last year. Isaac did the layout and we did the pictures together and we used a drawing by Kate for the cover

It’s a book about making things, getting stuck in. On the back, a painting of Jocasta in her surly twenties, by Caroline Hill.

Kitchen battery

Here are our Argentinian chorizo sausages, made to my grandmother’s recipe (Eileen was an excellent cook, raised on the pampas)

Back kitchen

The recipe for making beer in that book inspired Isaac to start brewing; he and Harry have a real knack for it. They set up St Bride’s Brewery, and instantly won Gold in the Taste of the West awards for their Bridport Stout, @stbridesbrewery on Instagram.

In the Ottoman spirit of self-sufficiency, making things, and keeping it all simple, we have been busy this Spring making hens, for instance:

while building a clay oven

and even making charcoal (on an Ottoman brazier)

and cold frames

But my secret passion are the compost heaps. I have a row of five, all now elegantly roofed. In go waste peelings, paper, magazines, flyers, and cardboard boxes, tea bags and coffee grounds.Everyone is encouraged to pee on the heaps.

Compost is Buck-U-Uppo for the soil, and the bins themselves are made of bits of rubbish held together by a few nails. Shown here is a good fork for it, too. Old tools are best. The long wooden handle of an iron-headed hoe, which I keep razor sharp, very subtly bells out towards the end, so it doesn’t slip. Not a tool you can find in the garden centre.

In Ottoman times, if anyone saw a scrap of paper on the street they’d pick it up and put it into a chink in the wall, in case the name of God was written on it.

 We are a bit the same with books, which are piled up the stairs and in every nook and cranny of the house.

One visitor was pleased we had carpets on the tables and books on the floor.

bedroom

And of course, there’s china.

Kate’s eye for the stuff, tinkling across cupboards and dressers in the kitchen…

…has inspired a tease in which the children get up on each others’ backs and rush about the kitchen, legs flailing and roaring ‘China!!!’

while she puts her hands up in horror and alarm.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who lived in Constantinople in the 1720s as the ambassador’s wife, thought the city was an ‘agreeable mixture of gardens, pine and cypress trees, palaces, mosques, and public buildings, raised one above the other’, reminding her, she wrote, of ‘a cabinet adorned by the most skilful hands, jars showing themselves above jars, mixed with canisters, babies [ie little cups] and candlesticks.’ 

Back kitchen

Izzy has been making me a boat….

The Otts weren’t so sure about the sea, but I think Englishmen should go out. We are an island….

Books can be found at http://www.argonautbooks.com/the-country-kitchen/
Kate can be contacted on katelshgoodwin@gmail.com
For more: bibleobritishtaste/Buck the Trend

Very many thanks to Kate and Jason, all phtographs copyright bibleofbritishtatse.com / Jason Goodwin

 

 
It is an odd thing to find yourself living back in your childhood house at the age of 40 with your parents and your own young family and husband. Sometimes as I walk through the house and garden I slip from mother to daughter and from adult to child.

At first I found this disconcerting, this shape shifting, but now I recognise the richness of such a multilayered emotional experience.

[ Bobs, the mongrel stray adopted and brought back after a holiday in Greece ]

It can be triggered by an object, a certain angle of light, or even as I round a corner a memory can surface from something as slight as the sound and feel of my feet on the stone stairs.

As the years pass I often wonder if the memories and emotions of others who have lived here before me are beginning to rise to the surface and I wonder if those who come after me will feel the gossamer threads of my own thoughts and feelings.

 

The power of seeing your children at the same age and stage as you were, climbing the same trees, running down the same paths and sleeping in the same beds is like diving back into one’s childhood and bringing up treasures which have been buried for years.

I understand my parents more deeply and it underlines the flow of life and my place in it. It informs all my work.

The Manor House has been the constant centre for three generations

and I – in the middle – have a foot in each one.

When we first moved here , I was three and my brother was five. My sister was still to arrive and was born some years later in the house . We had left London in the 60’s and returned to Scotland where my father had been born and raised and where he had got a job at the Edinburgh College of Art .

[Harry More Gordon, lively, outspoken, ‘the best dancer ever, and unlike most fathers, never embarrassing’, one time picture and layout editor at Vogue]

[Harry’s painting of Domenica’s younger sister Zillah, ill in bed.]

[Zillah by Harry More Gordon, post-school, with home made badge, ‘Piss Off.’]

The house had lain empty for a while, which is why we could afford it . Before that the old couple who lived in it had emigrated to the basement where the rooms were smaller and the ceilings lower for warmth, and the rest of the house had fallen into a deep sleep. In an effort to make the house at least look a bit warmer most of it had been painted in a heavy , dirty pink. The overall effect was depressing as hell and still freezing, and if my father hadn’t bought the house without telling my mother I doubt we would be here.

It took a long time to wake the house up again.

Even as a small child I could feel the dead places, the dark places and the ones where life was beginning to return. I was never afraid, even though others swore they saw ghosts. 

Now it is fully awake and has a gentle soft breath all of its own.

The first thing my parents did was to knock down all the partitions and return the rooms to their original proportions, install central heating and plumbing, and replace the roof,  which left a tiny budget for decorating and furniture.

[The crimson four-poster hung by Marianne More Gordon with a document linen bought at a local junk yard that she painstakingly washed and restored.

In those days no one wanted old furniture or plates or linen and so it was possible to get wonderful things for very little from auctions, junk yards and charity shops – the kitchen table cost the equivalent of 50p – the brass beds and their rock-hard horse-hair mattresses were from an auction, and the local junk yard has been a treasure trove to us all over the years, and still is. Once on a trip there my mother noticed bits of beautiful yellow shot satin being trodden into the mud. She collected as many bits as she could find and on piecing them together discovered that it was a Worth evening dress. It must have been unpicked to find out how it was made. It is incredibly beautiful  a work of art in itself and is just one of the many treasures we have found there. We delight in cracked , chipped and broken objects and it has become an obligation to rescue them.

My father revelled in colour and pattern . He had a keen eye for paintings and fabrics.

It was he who commissioned Patrick Procter to paint him and my mother, and it was this experience which launched him on his own career of portrait painting.

 He painted beautiful still-lives too and most of the jugs and glasses and vases which line the shelves were collected and painted by him. [His textile design for a silk scarf for Libertys, hung in an upper corridor above jugs that were often props in his paintings.]

My mother is a sculptor and a textile artist. She made 3D fabric versions of the same jugs.

 [Marianne More Gordon’s 3D fabric jugs]

She was more interested in the feel of a room , the way the light moved around it and the fine balance between colour and shape .

She bought most of the furniture and chose the more delicate wallpapers from ends of rolls and sales.

House plants

[3D textile  by Marianne More Gordon [nee Thompson-McCauseland], who trained at the Central School of Art.]

Domenica, Zillah and drawing room tiger-skin rug by Harry More Gordon]

My father chose the ruched blue wallpaper in the spare bedroom, a thing of great awe to me as a child. Though he was a strong influence I would say it is my mother who made the house what it is. [Marianne’s bathroom]

This house is our home and our inspiration.  My father’s studio has become my son’s. My husband writes from a room on the top floor. [Charlie Fletcher’s writing room, with another of Harry More Gordon’s designs for Libertys, and a landscape oil painted by an illustrator for the ‘Ladybird’ book series, bought for £5 in the fabled local junk yard. Here he wrote the supernatural Stoneheart trilogy for children and The Oversight, his darkly atmospheric adult novels set in Victorian London.]

My daughter is back here

and working from the kitchen table during lockdown,

 and my mother and I each have a floor of the old laundry building as our studios.

[Domenica’s work table]

[Bride dog and friends, sculpted from felted wool, conceived, dressed and hand made by Domenica.]

It has seen books being written, exhibitions being created , ideas and children being born. It has seen celebrations and deaths. 

Coming back was something which happened quite by chance

and only now, 21 years later, do I truly understand the enormous value of intergenerational living in such a privileged place and the wellspring of inspiration it gives me .

[Late still life by Harry More Gordon. Objets trouves, the ceramics, feathers and the things picked up around the house that habitually made up his compositions.]

Love and thanks to Domenica and Marianne More Gordon and Charlie Fletcher. All photographs copyright Domenica More Gordon and bibleofbritshtaste.
 
you can buy your own felting kit and make a dog of your own. Domenicamoregordon.com

Charlie Fletcher’s privately published short story is Safe Home. written as a ‘venting exercise’ in response to the Iraq war and the Chilcot enquiry, and highly recommended.

An Argentinian cousin of my fathers once said to me – you do not choose a house – it chooses you. And I have to say she was totally right.
Having moved rather a lot since leaving my home in NZ in my early twenties I have found that some houses gracefully accept you, others grab you by the scruff of the neck and they also turf you out when they are sick of you … or in one case a house woke us in the middle of the night till we left…
The feeling needs to be mutual. I have a strong feeling when I go into a house, part of it is based on the aesthetics and part on the atmosphere which is made up by a myriad of things including light, proportions, ceiling height etc  – and with the feeling of a house. I am never sure if that has anything to do the the past inhabitants … or the ones still living on in the ether.

It also has to do with the way the house sits within nature – how connected it is. Wardington Manor where I now live with my New Zealand husband and three children is smothered in climbers and it’s wonky windows welcome tendrils of Wisteria and roses creeping in through the cracks.

Butterflies flit all winter around the library and in late spring they escape out into the garden and then the moths and bees arrive to take their place. 

This all makes the house feel alive.

The other important thing for me is books .. their warmth and the endless possibilities contained within them giving you the ability to climb inside them and disappear into another world.
Pictures books and novels … like old friends lining the walls. I always think if I end up in a council flat or an old peoples home I can always line every inch of it with books and textiles.

Stacks of book lie in every room on tables on floors.
I have always fantasied about the world stopping for a few months so I can catch up and have time to do a very long list of things like sort all the books … and in a way the world has stopped these last few months …. but I missed that window as flower and food production demanded attention! Part of me rather likes the impermanence of living in a disorganised house ( I can hear Henrietta Courtauld (my dearest friend in the world and business partner in The Land Gardeners) sighing!) – there is always that possibility of picking it all up and moving on. ..
 

This is a boiled wool Danish Great coat which lingers around with a couple of other long red hunting coats for when it gets cold … When we first moved in there was a very oil hungry boiler which we used very sparingly… as it cost a fortune and because as kiwis from the South Island we had grown up in cold houses with no central heating. As children we used to dash from the rooms with open fires clutching hot water bottles to our bedrooms in winter with at least two thick jerseys on, and often a hat. We bought these coats in Copenhagen in junk shops on Ravensborggade along with my other treasured items … pressed metal trays!
We live our life taking trays of food, drink or tea to different parts of the house end garden. They are brilliant as they are strong and light!

Ikea has made some a few years ago which I planned to paint different colours … (another job for when my world slows down)

One of the few spots to loll about in the house due to the indescribably comfy Bunny sofa which I got from the charming and talented Lulu Lytle from Soane Britain – possibly the only luxurious thing we own…and it gets better each year!
Both cushions are Soane as well … I dream of lining a whole room in those stripes….

Golly – I almost forgot … flowers or foliage in the house is what makes it come alive – they can change the feeling of a room and their scent can be felt from the other end of the house.
Henrietta and I always are always dragging in flowers to fill the house before we settle down to work in the top of the library, from huge branches of blossom to tiny Violets stuffed in egg cups.

The generous spirited Charlie McCormick gave me a full set of his wonderful seaweed prints and I promptly put them in yellow frames and scattered them thorough out the house and they never fail to make me smile and think of him. 

Lying over hall chairs and peeping out of chests are dress-ups and costumes. The children spent their childhood always in dress ups. When I lived in France for two years with George and Violet when they were little they were either running around in the garden and fields naked or in dress ups.What  do I love about them so much …the fabrics, the colours and the details …

I love the hand stitching and old linings and ribbon. I was a milliner in NY for a while and I used to adore fossicking around in the trimmings shops on the west side in mid town.

An asymmetric ball gown from the 80’s hangs in my bathroom … it is too big but there is something about the pink satin and the black velvet which I rather love..

An old French ruched frockcoat in our bedroom and a few Venetian masks on my dresser…

Prints of costumes in the hall

I endlessly love the various colours and details – often use these as inspiration for planting schemes.

Fabric and paper banners found in flea markets in France hanging in a study and hall.

The one place in the whole house that is not gathering piles of dust and the only closed cabinet in the kitchen

I keep meaning to hang these pictures – one is a picture of pressed flowers from Wardington made by a dear friend Emmanuel Taillard (www.victoreemmanuel.fr) and an Emma Tennant (www.katiepertwee.com) watercolour. Both of which I love and can’t quite get them out of my way and onto a wall – I love that I have to move them regularly to get a cookbook ….

The bright very uplifting woad flower on the table. Some say its roots can be a wonderful antiviral!!

Every meal we have candles and large white table napkins …. and since we are going solo in isolation I decided we could use napkin rings to cut down on washing
but as you can see we are not really a napkin ring family.

No kitchen cupboards for us … I love to see where everything is … and also so others who are staying can find everything.
Above is the most delicate Swedish vase given to me by the wonderful eagle eyed Lulu Lytle, www.soane.co.uk.
Golly I think this must be the last three remaining cups with handles!

The other thing I have been loving is paintings of landscapes … not sure if this is my way of travelling when I can’t…

And I am mad about the variations of greens… I placed this Danish painting at the top of a staircase I use daily in the winter when I was gasping for green…

We have set up in one of the spare rooms and Violet and I are snatching moments diving into the world of colour.


I had forgotten the process of mixing and remixing oils and the infinite possibilities and colours you end up with… each time time is a new journey

We recently covered the walls of the only loo on the ground floor – known as the scary loo (one of only two spots in the house that has a strange atmosphere) with the the photocopied layouts of our latest book. It has cheered the space up and I am rather liking the book more in black and white.

Wills cigarette flowers for entertainment

Loving thick paint applied with pallet knives.

I love a staple gun and fabrics to change around a room or atmosphere …nothing is permanent. I remember racing around with staple guns with Forbes’s cousin Lucy Elworthy (www.lucyelworthy.co.uk) before we had a crowd coming to stay – it was like set dressing – immediate and fun and not too considered!
The various textiles remind me of places we have been.

Crewel work seems to thrive in this house … dancing effortlessly with the Arts and Crafts plasterwork in the hallways

Painted leather screen

A changing room for bathing, now a cupboard in a spare room.

I found these chairs on the street just before lockdown at the top of Portobello Road – too mannered for this house so they are floating around until they can get to our home in France.
This house has a strong personality and is rather fussy about too much froth. But my distant French genes always fall for a bit of tatty flounce.

The colourful swirls of dried tulip petals keep their colour and form long after they fall.

The flower room after a flurry or flowers have gone off. This year for the first time we have been sending out vegetable boxes and flowers locally which has felt very right

The walls are also covered in A4 photocopies of pictures of the family – my favourite wallpaper – or they are plopped into cheap frames … when they are all away I have them near. This house demands a kind of honest direct approach and I rather love the feeling of camping with our rag tag belongings whose only value is something that caught my eye – and often that is the shaggy things that others would skip over. I do have French genes but when it comes to spending my Scottish ones come to the fore. And growing up in New Zealand  – where the countryside is so exquisite and the majority of the architecture is not  – one rifled through junk shops hungry for something with a sense of history, a story to tell, or with a texture or colour that was not readily available in such a young country.

Text and images all by Bridget Elworthy at Wardington Manor
The Land Gardeners : Cut Flowers by Bridget Elworth and Henrietta Courtauld

AND NOW ANNOUNCING !
their brand new online pop up magazine …

Very grateful thanks to Bridget @thelandgardeners for writing this, the photos and words are all hers

 

Veere  Grenney is the interior decorator feted for his chic, very English style. Our friendship began half a dozen years ago when he asked me to help with On Decorating, the book he was writing, It gave me a perfect excuse to ask all about his youthful travels on the hippy trail, selling antiques at Portobello market, worshipping David Hicks from afar, learning his craft at Colefax and Fowler, his eighteenth century fishing temple in rural Suffolk and the stunning new house he was building on Tangier’s Old Mountain in his beloved country of Morocco. We walked our lurchers round Regents Park together once a week, Bunny my brindled Dartmoor bitch and his Rio, long-coated like a Flokati rug  –  a custom we’ve kept going – then sat down to coffee and our ‘work.’  One day then, ace decorator  Rita Konig sent me a completely brilliant email about a dinner conversation she’d had with Veere, for a section of his book which very sadly didn’t make the final edit. So here it is now, reproduced in full, the perfect introduction to Veere’s  own words – NOW READ ON

Rita on Veere : I can’t remember where I met Veere but it was quite a long time ago and it was sitting next to him at dinner – where he is an excellent draw – I took to him pretty instantly because he was this super chic man and he told me all about his early days living in London in squats. Imagine having Veere as a squatter in your property!!! Imagine Veere being a squatter!! Totally brilliant and of course showed him to be a person of many facets. I love Veere’s work. He is a contemporary John Fowler. His rooms are ones you want to be in and I love his palettes, he is a master at pale pink as well as strong colours – a chocolate brown Fortuny dining room, moss green mohair walls, yes please.

One of my favourite rooms ever is his bedroom on Cheyne Walk that he refers to as the Bedsit

and naturally – as is always true with Veere – it is class, it comes top who wouldn’t want a Veere Grenney bedsit! I can’t wait to see what he has done with his house in Tangier. 
XXX 
Rita

My childhood was in New Zealand, a pleasant and distant land, still rooted in England in all its forms and a society anchored to the land. Affluent but middle class, “Surrey in the South Pacific “ yet still egalitarian, thanks to the legacy of its Scottish settlers.Then as now, houses were my abiding interest. Those I looked at and lived in were weather-boarded, with large verandas or inspired by Arts and Crafts, Voysey, Webb and even Lutyens. (Even my school chapel at Kings College was modelled on the alma mater, Kings College Cambridge. ) All were built and designed for comfortable suburban living, with gardens, tennis courts and rose beds. I lapped it all up, dreaming of greater things.I had a voracious appetite to see people’s houses, their antiques, the layouts, the patina (if there was such a thing in a new society)  – and I heard – from the few who I looked up to – that shabby was OK . I couldn’t quite cope with that , and still can’t but I understood only too well , even then, that social establishment goes with permanence . My mother loved houses too so we moved a lot, satisfying our shared decorating lust and my dad’s quiet pleasure in ascending the social ladder.

This is probably house no 3. I was 16 and already in full decorator mode. it was an early verander-ed homestead that had been modernised  in 1966, its garden reduced to an acre and a half, the remnants of the tennis lawn just visible –  but with panoramic views of the harbour I thought it was as good as it got!!

But now I found a new definition of what was beautiful and chic. In the English magazines I was reading, David Hicks had begun turning the establishment’s houses upside down with geometric patterns and shocking colours. The USA’s House Beautiful showed me ‘feature walls’ and  ‘conversation pits,’ three car garaging and shag pile carpets!

The American decorator Billy Baldwin was just as clever and inventive as David Hicks ! All too exciting for words and I desperately wanted to live in their worlds too.

Thanks to Hicks I covered the walls of my own bedroom in orange hessian.

The floor was done in black and white tiles, there was a Victorian brass bed, the furniture was painted in gloss black and I bought yellow blow-up chairs in Sydney. The centrepiece on my wall was a beautiful framed  photograph of Jim Morrison with a crown of thorns above his angelic face. Possibly my first subconscious stirrings of homoerotic love, as two photographs of Jean Shrimpton and Pattie Boyd were relegated to less prominent positions. When I was describing this room in a lecture I tried to illustrate it with this drawing

Years of travel on the hippy trail followed. By the mid 70s I was finally in London, in a flat-share in Disraeli Road in ,Putney.

I slept in a large cupboard or closet as friends love to remind me, but soon baled out to live in a single large white room above a beautiful bookshop in Warwick Place, Little Venice. This was my first home of my own in London and the place where I fell in love for the first time. Its decoration was my priority, I hung or draped fabrics from New Guinea, Bali, Malaysia, Burma, Nepal, India, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and Morocco on the walls and every surface. I had collected them as I travelled, and any that I couldn’t carry became part of my wardrobe.

 Almost 45 years later this cushion I have in Tangier is among the last remaining pieces of that collection. Furniture was minimal but the floor was all cushions and there was always a fire in the fireplace, the only form of heating. The two beautifully proportioned windows were hung with grand chintz curtains from my landlady and to the horror of cool friends, I adored then —- somehow if you love things they always hang together! The Library, Gazebo, Tangier.

Squatting
After another prolonged stay in Morocco I returned to London. My second place was a squat in Oxford Gardens. It was a huge house with lots of inhabitants (and many passing through) and my bay-windowed room held remnants of Warwick Place, no chintz sadly,

but lots of the Arts and Crafts pieces I was  now selling from my stall in Portobello.

In the evenings I worked at Julie’s Restaurant close by in Clarendon Cross – the staff and a lot of the clientele were like-minded –my world was mainly Notting Hill –  cheap, alternative, buzzy, cool, black, white, gay and straight. I was honing my love of decoration by dealing in decorative and fashionable ‘stuff,’ getting to know the dealers, watching  the doyens of the decorating world from afar, getting a taste for it all and subliminally developing my own vocabulary of beauty.

Then came the 80s and my first real job. Seven years of Portobello and then a shop off Westbourne Grove had taught me about the world of the decorating houses. I knew many of the designers and this was the only world I wanted to belong to. I went to work with Mary Fox Linton – she was still in partnership with David Hicks  – and I entered  a new modern world of chic, sharp decorating with subtle palettez of  mauves, pale pinks and green and lilac. These were used with ethnic patterned dhurrie rugs that we designed, Perspex furniture  or pale  limed oak  – a new and exciting look

The first flat I owned was a first-floor bedsit in Notting Hill furnished with eighteenth and nineteenth century furniture and ethnic pieces but styled in a more pared-down, contemporary way.

And I was very influenced by Mary’s style. All these years later Hicks, Mary and Colefax are still part of what I do.I use ‘Hicks Tricks’ all the time…  And subconsciously I’ve learned how to arrange furniture in a living room from Hicks and Billy Baldwin—a sofa and two elbow chairs and two more chairs on either side of them. Hicks was the master at arranging a space for six or eight people to chat and sit together. The end result does not look like a circle, but if you move the chairs a little it works like a conversation circle.

Almost the day I left Fox Linton I acquired the lease on the Temple in Stoke by Nayland. 

I had been dazzled by the house and its magic ever since seeing it in a book by David Hicks. 

It was love at first sight in those pages in 1966 

David Hicks at the Temple

 and love at second sight in 1984 when I arrived as a guest of Charles Beresford Clark. C.B C’s  Temple, photographed for Living in Vogue, Conde Nast

When offered the lease I sold my Notting Hill flat to acquire it, a decision I have never regretted. This truly is a place to love, it lends itself to fantasy of decoration as well as strict Palladian order, it has grace, proportion, timelessness, sitting in gentle landscape immortalised by John Constable!  Rio, Veere’s white lurcher bitch, photographed at the Temple, Veranda magazine, 

I have loved all the decorative incarnations I’ve played with here

and now for my last throw I may go back to Chinese Yellow. It’s the colour David Hicks used here (but with blue), and so did I when I decorated in ‘86.

If it turns yellow again it could only be pink and yellow, my new favourite, with a good dollop of chintz ! Yellow and pink is it! Always happy and gay.

I am proud of the gardens I’ve made around the Temple

and of restoring the fishing canal whose dark limpid waters make a mirror for its severe grace.

 Ever since I arrived there have always been pink geraniums!! When I acquired the lease my wonderful landlord asked me to tea, I presume to see if he was happy to acquire a tenant he didn’t know. On learning I was from NZ his wife declared that she had lived there when her father was Governor General and all NZers were good people. Her husband then asked if I was the ‘marrying kind’? When I declared – Certainly not! – he was very pleased because he felt, thank goodness, the Temple was not suitable for children! The Temple, Veranda magazine,

My short time with Colefax and Fowler taught me so much. More than anything else the company taught me to appreciate quality and tailoring. For good decoration must be of high quality otherwise, it ‘s little more than fashion and set dressing. A lot of people can make stage sets, but they are not designers. For that you need years of experience—it’s like couture.

I think a huge amount of time should be spent on bedrooms, particularly the mattress and the linens. I like bedcovers and simple sheets and blankets, not duvets…. I also dislike pillows or cushions all over the bed. What do you do with them when you are getting into the bed? Throw them on the floor? A bed should look inviting and when it’s covered in pillows, it’s not.

I will leave you with two more mantras of my own:

There should be one unlikely or even discordant note in every scheme. You shouldn’t make things too perfect. The Saloon at Gazebo, Veere’s house in Tangier

If I do a room for someone, I really care about them and not how it will look in a photograph. I want to make them feel safe, and I really want people to have a happy time when they’re in that space. Otherwise, what’s the point?

All photographs copyright Veere Grenney, Veranda magazine/Conde Nast, David Hicks and Ashley Hicks; grateful thanks for use

Very many thanks to Veere. Veere Grenney Associates, www.veeregrenney.com

(and to Lavinia, who helped a lot too, and Rita)

The first time I saw Lulu Lytle she was delivering the Best Man’s speech at Ben Pentreath’s wedding supper in a very beautiful hat. I didn’t know a great deal then about Soane Britain, the decorating company that produces exquisite textiles and wallpapers, new craftsmen-made and bespoke designs and others inspired by the quality and longevity of the best British-made antiques. Lulu was its co-founder in 1997, entering into a conspiracy of excellence with Christopher Hodsoll. She tells us something of this here, beginning with her childhood as the determined animal-loving youngest of four girls and then as a student of Egyptology and a postgraduate at the fountain of knowledge that was the old Portobello Road…
  ~ NOW READ ON ~

These have been very long days sitting at my makeshift desk (3 Nigerian batiks draped over a folding picnic table) writing endless emails and communicating on zoom.

I am in Cleveland Square in Bayswater where I have lived for 20 years, moving here with my husband Charlie when I was pregnant with our eldest child, Tom. On first discovering the square I was completely smitten by the grandeur of the generously glazed, white stucco houses overlooking a rather lovely, shabby communal garden. The most prized flats are on the lower floors but were beyond our financial reach (my long suffering bank manager, implored me in my early twenties not to view my overdraft limit as a target) so we were lucky to find a 4th floor lateral conversion in need of radical remodelling, having been bedsits since the 70’s. These would have been staff quarters in the 1850’s and have no architectural details worthy of keeping. But our elevated position does give us extraordinary views over the communal garden and one side of the flat is flooded with my favourite morning light. When the vast London plane trees are in full leaf I feel as if I am living in a tree house.

Long daily walks with my whippet, Panther, have enabled me to discover untouched corners of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (which I had thought I knew inside out) looking at their most glorious.

Despite the huge uncertainty of the last few weeks and the havoc being wreaked, I have found solace in books, photographs and favourite things (I do include my family in that!) and I have relished the extra time at home to linger with pictures and objects and really think about where they came from. Many of the nicest memories are bound up with Saturdays at Portobello Market where I have been going since I first moved to London aged 19. Conversations with dealers were an informal education; with David Levi on treen, Derek Greengrass on ivory, Bill ’the knife’ Brown (THE great authority on cutlery), Fergus Downey on ceramics, Roger Kent on early metalware, the list goes on, all opening my eyes to the true meaning of craftsmanship. These conversations were sandwiched between dawn cups of coffee and late lunches in Edric Van Vredenburgh’s sublime flat on Portobello Road where you never knew whom you might sit next to.

The person to whom I undoubtedly owe the most for my education in the history of interiors is the scale-obsessed aesthete, Peter Twining (or the ‘Willesden Wonder’ as his old friend Christopher Gibbs affectionately called him).  His legendary antique shop on the King’s Road in the 60’s and early 70’s is amongst the shops and galleries I most wish I had seen. I could fill a small book with Peter’s quotes about everything from Jeremy Corbyn and Ronald Firbank novels (he likes) to sausages, “they drive me absolutely bananas” and Charles X furniture (he loves) to religion and Rembrandt, “dull, dull, dull”.

Hall. I have been an incurable hoarder all my life, as a child  amassing  stashes of postcards, stickers and wine labels painstakingly steamed off the copious empty bottles so assiduously supplied to me by my parents.  The list of collected things goes on, all kept in piles everywhere. Books are probably my greatest extravagance and new shelves are being added all the time. This oak ziggurat bookcase was made to support a madly heavy 19th century museum cast of a prehistoric giraffe.

Representations of animals abound. Were I to live in the country, I could feed my animal-mania by surrounding myself with the real thing, however a 4th floor flat denies me the chance hence the proliferation of animals, painted, sculpted, photographed and stuffed!

Anything animal related has always appealed to me. I had an ongoing correspondence as a child with an unfortunate secretary in Margaret Thatcher’s office, tasked with replying to letters like mine brimming with dubious advice on how to punish perpetrators of animal cruelty. 

The youngest of four daughters, growing up in Worcestershire, ponies ruled our lives, with dogs, cats, cattle, guinea pigs, tortoises, jackdaws and racing pigeons all in supporting roles.

Den. A surfeit of time spent on damp British riverbanks as a child might account for my growing wanderlust as a teenager, yearning for the intoxicating combination of all things opulent and eastern and led me to study Egyptology at university where I was lucky enough to be taught by the brilliant Harry Smith who excavated the Sacred Animal Necropolis at Saqqara.

The pictures and textiles in our den have all been gathered to create my own oriental dream; Islamic textiles, extravagantly shaped turban incensers, Tibetan temple trumpets, paintings of Bashi Bazouks and maps of the pilgrimage to Mecca. A glorious striped kelim which I bought 20 years ago from Peter Hinwood unites the disparate things in this room and makes them all sing.

Peter, whose homes are treasure filled and bewitching kaleidoscopes, has always been incredibly generous with his time and judgement and very kindly alerts me to camels in remote auction houses.

I suspect my love of all camels, (Bactrians trump dromedaries for me), ties in with my fascination for the silk route,

I have collected all things camel for as long as I can remember and Camel Blues were the only choice when the moment came in a newsagents in Rugby.

Fifteen years ago a friend kindly sent me an article from The Field about John Hare, who, having made several expeditions into the Gobi desert in Mongolia and China and discovering the plight of the critically endangered wild camel, had founded The Wild Camel Protection Foundation.

Happy to have found a fellow camel lover, John answered my fan mail and we arranged to meet at The Travellers Club on Pall Mall. This was the beginning of the most joyful friendship which in time led to a hilarious adventure in the Gobi with John and my sister Emma, to see one of the two breeding centres he has established there.

A textile I particularly treasure is this late 17th century velours d’Utrecht, an
architectural fantasy with fountains and a man riding a plumed horse brandishing a sabre 

The painting of a Bashi Bazouk came from George Sherlock via Peter Twining who originally found it

The extra large Bunny sofa was made by one of our workshops so that we can  all squeeze comfortably onto it together to watch telly,

although on the rare occasions when I do watch a film it’s usually just me and Panther watching a Visconti movie that no one else wants to see.

Sitting Room. With the accumulation of children and books this room has had myriad uses as Tom, Bunny and Xan have grown up. Due to lack of wall space pictures hang over shelves which is rather maddening as I spend my ife removing them to find books.Tom, our cricket obsessed eldest, spent years practising some of his more nuanced shots by aiming to avoid the paintings in this room.

There were some minor casualties…including this 19th century watercolour of a rhinoceros, after the French naturalist and zoologist Georges Cuvier,  and bought from dealer James Mcwhirter. We all love backgammon, played endlessly on this 18th century games table from Andrew Secombe 

A drawing of a lion, labelled Orange William (from Valerie Arieta whose shop on Ken Church Street was always a favourite haunt)
hangs above a paper cache cow from France

A watercolour of a cross eyed tabby cat which I bought at Kempton hangs above an electrified Egyptomania jar. 

This small oil from The Lacy Gallery is not the sort of thing I am normally drawn to, verging on the saccharine.  However its mad combination of paper parasols, palms (I’m crazy for palm trees) and caribou onesies lured me in.  It retained its original tattered label saying ‘Two Eskimo children, Zinkeisen’ By extraordinary coincidence, shortly after finding it a friend came to stay, the talented portrait painter Charlotte Johnstone.  She saw this picture hanging on my bookcase and exclaimed that it must be a painting of either her father and her aunt, or two aunts, as she remembered these Eskimo costumes in her dressing up box as a child. She was right as she discovered when she saw the label on the reverse, her grandmother was Doris Zinkeisen. 

The rug, in a Chevron design drawn by Peter Twining and made by Veedon Fleece’s Nepalese Workshops, was one of the most transformative additions to this room. A pair of Bergeres, copies of the marvellous Syrie Maugham model which I buy when I can at auction and have copied for Soane, flank the chimney.

Hanging on the chimney is an 18th Century painting of a Mandrill (by Martin Ferdinand Quadal) which I bought from Robert Barley who always had the most brilliant stands at Olympia. My family roll their eyes when I say that my first sighting of the mandrill winded me but it really was love at first sight for me, (I’m less sure about him!) I subsequently discovered it had come from the collection of Arthur Jeffress whose legendary shop on Davies Street is another I would have loved to see.

Kitchen. The kitchen’s design started with some green blue tiles I had fallen for at Worlds End Tiles. I had been collecting old Sheffield plate and copper vessels of all shapes and sizes for some time which I was keen to not to hide away but look at every day hence the open shelves. I had then, and still have, an irrational loathing of eye level cupboards which I appreciate is counter intuitive for a hoarder.

For someone with absolutely no sense of direction (as a teenager I navigated my incredulous father to the wrong side of a causeway adding 2 hours to our journey, not recognising the blue line as water that might not have a bridge) it is odd that I should be so drawn to maps. This perspective of London done by Dutch born Kip in 1720 from the roof of Buckingham House, came from the extraordinary Chatsworth attic sale in 2010. Dining chairs made by Soane are based on a 1940’s model from Piers Westenholz from whom some of my all time favourite things have come. They have been remarkably resilient over 2 decades of daily use, with the goatskin morphing mellifluously from a pale caramel  (what on earth was I thinking with small children?) to a deep nutty tan. I rather love the loose covers made from a copy of a 19th century Turkish voile but am overruled by all the others so they are rarely on.

I found this 19th century Qajar painting of a prince at an auction house in northern Italy which prompted the redecoration of the kitchen, with walls and ceiling lined in our Qajar stripe, a copy of a wonderful Manchester print I bought so long ago from Clive Rogers who, amongst other things, sells marvellous Ottoman textiles

I am always drawn to old hookah bases which I use as candlesticks. Charlie was rather bewildered by my one big shopping trip ahead of lockdown. Along with catering quantities of fresh fruit and veg (which he pointed out would all be over the top within a week) I had bought 100 candles. 7 weeks later and we are down to our last 10 so I am feeling vindicated

Bedroom. I fell for the 18th century capriccio in Victoria Davar’s shop on Lillie Road and study it from our bed in the reflection in the bathroom mirror. It hangs on Soane’s Dianthus Chintz wallpaper which is a faithful copy of an 18th century Indian Chintz in the collection of textile collector Karun Thakar whom I met at Portobello. We have become great friends over the last 2 decades and I have learnt more about textiles from Karun than from anyone or any number of books.

The dressing table also came from the Chatsworth sale. The red chalk drawings are all by John Edwards who drew me as a child (top left) and then thirty odd years later, Tom, Bunny and Xan.

Warner Dailey is a dealer from whom I have bought some wonderfully mad things, the first being this 20’s clown suit which hangs on the back of my bedroom door.i like to think that the cats are talking to each other

Much of my reading is done in the bath which I particularly relish in the early morning when the light floods the room

Hall. The illustrations from which these plates were made were done by Jack Barraband in the late 18th century for a full survey of parrots done by Fraancois le Valiant. They came from Alistair Mcalpine who commissioned a sumptuous, limited edition reproduction of the book.

There are, I think, around 150, and I would love to have them all framed and hanging together in one room eventually.  I rather like them hanging on this wallpaper which I based on an 1820’s design from an album I had bought from Potterton Books.

The original Osmunda design

The cow was a Suffolk butcher’s shop sign and came from James Layte, another brilliant Portobello dealer.

As an escape from the emails and endless phone calls I find myself repeatedly drawn to textiles, old ones and new designs we are developing, draping them over sofas, hanging them over paintings and doors and beds and ruffling them to imitate frilled skirts for chairs.

 I look at them in daylight and at night, lighting candles to see how the colours change

I have also spent hours over the last couple of years musing about which artist I would resurrect to paint Panther and in what pose. This has necessitated looking through countless books and postcards at all my favourite animal paintings. 

It’s a very long list with contenders including Pharaonic depictions of Anubis, drawings of Renaissance hounds, great hunting dogs painted by Oudry, Agasse and Stubbs, and of course the  sublime images by Landseer, Lavery and Munnings. I can dream about Panther having posed for every one of these but in their absence I turn once more to my friend Charlotte with whom I am plotting an orientalist vision inspired by the artists I turn to again and again, Ingres and Gerome. 

As I think about all the things I most treasure, something I do frequently at the moment, I realise more than ever that it is people that bind them all together, be they the craftsmen and artists who conceived and made them, the experts who have written or spoken about them or the people who have sold or given them. There is something strangely comforting in that.

I will leave you with a challenge, to find the 3 profiles in a favourite engraving below done in 1815. On abdicating the throne Napoleon told his supporters he would return in the violet season, inspiring supporters of the exiled emperor to toast ‘Corporal Violet’. Copies of this engraving were secretly circulated throughout France containing the profiles of Napoleon, Marie Louise and their son Charles.  

Very grateful thanks to Lulu Lytle, all photographs her copyright

https://www.soane.co.uk/

 

The designer Jasper Conran O.B.E. is the author of Country ( Conran Octopus, 2010), still the very best book of its kind and a subject on which he is eloquent. He says that country life is about ‘getting back to the root of what makes us tick.’  Now read on:

Waking up this morning I realised that our house, the things in it and I have much in common. We are mostly chipped, frayed at the edges, quite old and sometimes, especially in my case, desperately in need of restoration.

This however is the way I like it, I find houses and furniture and objects that have lived a life and have stories to tell far more attractive than the shiny and new. 

It was ever thus. As a very small boy old houses and especially country houses and their settings were a primary obsession. 

It has been my good fortune to know most of the undisputed Kings and Queens of British style from an early age. Firstly Christopher Gibbs and Peter Hinwood with their unrivalled savour fair in how rooms and furniture and objects should be put together and insistence on the value of charm, provenance and patina above all else, whether in an 18th century rug, a 16th century Persian tile or Marie Antoinette’s marble milking table from the Hameau at Versailles.

Peter’s flat in London has always been my favourite interior of all time with its arsenic green walls, softest pink kitchen with checker board floor and bold coloured stripes chairs and sofas….I love it so much that I have made a Peter Hinwood tribute library which he promises to move into very soon.

Then lately Edward Hurst and Will Fisher (always ‘Dolly’ to me), who have always advocated the sleepy, the gentle and the dusty. It has been my privilege to have spent nearly every Friday afternoon for almost ten years with the poised and elegant Edward discussing variously William Kent at Rousham, the differing merits of the great 18th century designer/makers, door handles, panelling, leaded glass, chinoiserie and just about anything else house related.

His knowledge of his subject and the detail that he insists on going into is spellbinding and our lunches have without a doubt been a great benchmark of happiness in my life.

Other Gods of insouciant style who take human form are Isabel and Julian Bannerman whose deceptively casual and practically thrown together approach to home making leave one drowning in wonder and admiration.

The Bonnie and Clyde of garden design have eyes as precise and exact as Exocet missiles when it comes to spotting a 17th century bust sulking in a corner of some forgotten antique shop, which on arriving home gets slung in to just the right endroit surrounded by absolutely perfect neighbours. 

Their several stately homes have all been marvellous, apparently nonchalantly put together places without (supposedly) a tremendous amount of planning and with as little dusting as possible. Isabel giggles at my house-proud ways and frankly she is right to but, hey ho….. 

Tessa Traeger and Patrick Kinmonth have been great mentors to me. This friendship has lasted for over forty years, packed full of belly aching laughter and sharing of beauty. They have been unfailingly generous all this time in steering me towards imagery, music, textiles, food and flowers.

Things that I didn’t know existed before and might never have known of had it not been for them. Their sublime manor in Devon is an object lesson in how to live; restrained when it should be yet completely unrestrained when strictly necessary.

Following on from there is the Master of Design, David Mlinaric whose encyclopedic knowledge of historic detail is delivered with thoughtfulness, politeness and rapier sharp accuracy. His patience also appears to have no bounds, my favourite expression of his being “Oh, do you really think so?” David’s contribution to this country’s beautiful buildings has been, in my view, sans pareil.

The great Pasha of Tangier, Gordon Watson is frankly something quite out of the ordinary. He is one of my dearest friends who does not live in this country. The house and garden that he built in that fabled city is a wonderland of disparate objects from all countries and many centuries, festooned liberally around the all of the rooms.

The marvellous thing about him is that EVERYTHING in his house is for sale and so going for a drink there always feels somehow profitable as one leaves clutching an embroidery of a parrot or a charming water colour of a ferret.

Nicky Haslam really knows about the art and design of living well.

It was he who pointed out to me that furniture in the garden is just as useful as in the house “Darling Jazzy, do you think that we might have somewhere to sit outside?” An important Nicky lesson is that a well-stocked and readily available drinks tray is easily the most important accoutrement in the home “Daisy Fellowes told me that and of course she was absolutely right.”

 

I suppose that what links all these terrific people together is that their taste and style has never been about being monied (though in most of their cases money does help) but by truly creating HOMES not showplaces and a real appreciation and love of the manmade objects that they deal in, or the houses they decorate.

They have been and are a continual source of inspiration and hilarity to me and for that I am eternally grateful. Finally, let’s have a shout out for Min Hogg who really set the ball rolling when she started ‘The World of Interiors’. What a woman, what a star. With her slightly smudged ruby red lips, her headscarf, fag, ubiquitous smock and BRILLIANT eye she was quite as big a shockwave to interiors as Diana Vreeland was to fashion and her influence is possibly felt even more now than when she started her magazine many, many moons ago.

 
Grateful thanks to Jasper Conran,

All photographs and text copyright Jasper Conran.
www.jasperconran.com

 

I found my house in Stockwell 20 years ago. It’s an early Victoria terraced house second from the end, with steps up to the apple green front door and a ground floor bay window on metal stilts.

There was a for sale sign outside the house I noticed when visiting my good friends Rohan and Catherine who lived next door. Amazingly they had been given keys by the owner, so straight in we went.

The house was totally empty, not a stick of furniture just the bare bones.I remember is so well, it was an early summer afternoon and the sun was streaming through the back sittingroom window and it looks so welcoming.The house had been rented out as bedsits with a shared scuzzy kitchen in the basement, which led into the garden.

Most of the original features were still intact, all the floor boards were exposed, each room had forgettable Victorian fire places, which over time I’ve up graded. One of my favourites is an unpainted carved wooden surround which I bought from the Colefax and Fowler leaving Mount Street sale, it’s in the kitchen, far too smart for the house but I don’t give a monkieys.

In the main sitting room I guess a painter had lived, who loved green oil paint. The floor boards were covered in Veridian green sadly not a favourite shade of mine. There are still specks under the rug today.

I had always wanted my own front door after years of renting flats in shared building. The first flat I bought in Battersea had the worst entrance known to man, it was an ex local authority building, council flats to you and me, built in the 70s. It has a urine stinking entrance hall and a death trap lift.
But it did make the cover of The World of Interiors, thank you for asking. [Jack and Jill. See below]

This house was my dream come true, steps up to the front door, originally 2 bedrooms with double sitting room on the first floor with a large connecting door, which I jig-sawed in two. Fireplaces at both ends with views over the back garden and all original sash windows, no shutters sadly.

I was working for Min [Hogg] as a stylist at The World of Interiors at the time when I bought it. So I was constantly bombarded with beautiful wall papers and fabric, most of it way out of my budget. I loved (and still do) hand-painted Chinese wall papers and would beg De Gournay to lend me drops for my shoots.
I can’t quite remember how it came about but after a great friendship had evolved with De Gournay they offered to paper my entrance hall, so they could shoot it, shut the back door!
The rest is history, I still have this stunning dusky green background wallpaper with off white birds and coral details, it’s their Earlham design.
Totally too smart for my hall but looks amazing and I love it daily.

Back bedroom

Garden veiw

Stairs to basement kitchen

Wallpaper is an addiction, once you’ve tried one you need more and more. Most of the house is now papered. [The ‘too-grand’ Colefax and Fowler kitchen chimneypiece]

The kitchen has a Pierre Frey paper called Espalier, which is of twigs and herbs espaliered across it, it creates a kind of trellis illusion, its become another top favourite.

I was in Pierre Frey on the Fulham Road before it moved years ago, when a lady came in waving a page torn from The WOI with my kitchen on it, she wanted the same paper, I was quietly thrilled.

Miro-inspired platter by Gavin Houghton for sale in his online shop

Lavatory

Bathroom

From our bedroom, which is at the front of the house with two sash windows overlooking a council estate – which when I first moved here was very lively – I would often see blue flashing lights on my ceiling at night and hear the coppers racing around trying to catch god knows who.
One day I’ll never forget someone knocked on the front door, I opened it to 2 police men both looking very formal, oh shit what have I done?
One of them – I can still picture him clearly as I had a major schoolgirl crush – he was a red-headed bearded god in uniform. I’ve Just checked my phone to see if I still have his number, I can’t believe it, Darren was his name.
Sorry get back to the story.
They asked if I would be OK for them to set up a stake-out post from my bedroom? Darren clipped his camera to my Madeleine Castaing stiff tasselled pelmet, focusing on a phone box over the road with a box on the floor recording every minute, sadly marmalade hunk wasn’t going to man the camera 24/7.
He did visit regularly to take away the footage and replace the tape. We would chat as I sat on the bed, it was quite surreal. I hope he enjoyed my bedroom wallpaper, which I gaze at more than any other paper in the house.

It’s from Brunswig and Fils and it’s called Gallier Diamond, I think it’s one of the most perfect design repeats.
Firstly, pale blue and chocolate brown together is a colour combination sent from the gods and the mix of geometric diamond shapes, natural sprigs of foliage and – to top it off – a classical curlicue which I’ve always been drawn to, creates the perfect rhythm and design.
The curtain fabric I mentioned earlier is in the same colour combo! I think of it as a Gauloise fag pack blue which Min would chain smoke in the Kings Road office before we were moved to Vogue House.

The overly grand marble fire place in my bedroom was a lucky freebie. I’d advised  a client with a stunning house in Kensington that is wasn’t correct or quite good enough for their dining room, so I replaced it with a stunner from Jamb. At the end of the project I found it  piled up in pieces, ready for the skip, so, doing the right thing I adopted it and had it installed in my bedroom and commissioned the Delft looking tiles from Douglas Watson, who’s brilliant. They all have a different background colour so they look original.

It seemed like the right time to get more dogs. We’d had to put down our last heavenly creatures, Boris and his girlfriend Loulou (they’d both reached very good ages). I’ve always loved Jack Russells, so the hunt was on.
I didn’t want puppies to house train and I feel it’s good to adopt dogs that need a home. We found the perfect couple. Both Jack Russells, 3 years old and living together. Not actually related, and we were told, that they had had puppies. together
The boy is called Jack and she’s called Jill. I’d had fantasies of giving them both delicious names, Ottoline, Anastasia, Igor, I seem to gravitate to Russian names. But out on our first walk, I needed to get Jill back in line, so screaming Anastasia didn’t wash, as you can imagine. So Jill it is, and I’ve fallen in love with her and her name. Jack’s such a Jack, so perfect.
The collection of these two turned into a bit of a saga. They lived in a housing estate in Bradford, 4 hours drive north of us. So off I went, stopping for a night in Manchester for the fun of it, then in the morning, sat nav set the final leg. I remember getting slightly nervous as I entered the cul-de-sac, but as I turned the corner I could see two Jack Russells perched on the back of a black leather sofa looking out of the window. The meet and greet was no fun, as the previous owners were still in love with them but they couldn’t cope. Workloads and manic pups. We sat on the floor and Jack licked my face and Jill wanted her tummy rubbed, nothing has changed in this department.
I asked if I could take them for a brief walk, just to be alone with them, so off we went. I then put them in the car before going back into the house. I had a box of chocolates for the owners, we hugged and exchanged cash and off I went.
They have turned out to be the nicest sweetest, friendliest dogs one could have wished for. I send the ex-owners photos and videos now and again. She told me she cries with joy.

GH’s hand thrown plates for sale in his shop

My other habit is paint, the house has been a great canvas to experiment with colour.
The entrance hall floor I painted by myself on my hands and knees black and white checker board, old floor boards look great painted in this design, especially in an entrance. I’ve used the same idea in a few clients’ houses. One of my latest colour moments I’ve added, is the tobacco ceiling in the sitting room!  Think old stinky smoke-filled pub ceiling, it’s that colour. Once you’ve had a painted ceiling you can’t go back.

For all the places to be, my Stockwell house is up there for me surrounded by pattern, colour and the ghost of Darren.

 

www.gavinhoughton.co.uk

All photography by www.bozgagovski.com

Thanks to Gavin, Boz, Darren

The bibleobritishtaste has asked what it is that one does turning to a new place and re-using all the leftovers for the fourth time in a lifetime .

I would like to point out as I do to people who say things like, ‘ Oh you two are always moving house…’ that there can be no greater privilege than to stay put. 

Dining Room and drawing office laid out on the 16-seater table, Trematon Castle, Cornwall, house no.3.

To stay put over generations must be a wonder beyond imagining, and it has much to do with such social stability over 350 years that the landscape and architectural makeup of the British Isles remains so astonishingly vibrant and preserved. [The Ivy, Chippenham, 1981-1993, Baroque, house no.1]

But I must confess to a flutter in the heart at the prospect of picking up the spillikins of one’s things and playing the re-arranging game once again. 

Hanham Court near Bath, 1993-2012, medieval and Tudor to Arts and Crafts, house no. 2

Hanham Court near Bath, house no.2

Trematon Castle, Cornwall, 2011-2019, Norman, medieval and Soane-Regency, house no. 3.

Trematon has belonged to the Duchy of Cornwall since 1337  and the Bannermans are Gardeners to the Prince of Wales ‘By Appointment’

Entrance Hall, Hanham Court, slab top’grotto’ table from a C18th design by Thomas Farnolls- Pritchard (also designer of the Pitchford Tree House in 1760) inspired by Batty Langley.

It may be that I caught this influenza from my mother who, being a keeper of a shop of antiques, liked to make room sets both in the shop and at home. This meant from a young age helping her move furniture about, paint new colour schemes and also dust what my mother called the ‘incanabula’ which formed her table-scapes. [ The copper ball-finial was made for Christopher’s Wren’s Tom Tower, Christ Church, Oxford, taken down in the 50s when a replacement was made]

Entrance Hall, Trematon Castle, the table again

Dusting is something I have never done since, and hoovering, which she made us do as well as hand sweeping the stair carpet – well I cleverly married a man who enjoys it. [Little Sitting Room, Hanham Court]

Little Sitting Room, Trematon Castle. [Close proximity to Plymouth and in here, slightly more naval.]

Drawing Room, Trematon Castle.

I revel however in playing doll’s houses and this is a thing, along with re-visiting lost domains, that keeps me calm in the hours of the night watch.[Master bedroom, Trematon Castle.]

Perusing these photographs from the bobt, I thought of my great decorating-on- a- budget heroine, Candida Lycett Green [daughter of the poet, John Betjeman ed.], my top decorator after Peter Hinwood. [Great Chamber, Hanham Court.]

I watched Candida move house at least four times in three decades, sometimes on short leases, each time with greater urgency, more straightened circumstances, and fewer things. Yet each iteration was purer Candida and more pleasing. [Great Chamber, Hanham Court.]

Her core beloveds would rise again undaunted and more cherished; her John Piper prints; her French 19th century farm house watercolours; the octagonal library table  – was it by Ernest Gimson – belonging to her father; the green stippled room; the red stippled room; the scrubbed kitchen table and an insulation of books. Each time the edit got better and the new pairings were more ingenious and successful. I love her last house with a passion. I try to emulate at every turn, but my way is very different, and not nearly so adept, though I never buy something cheap and cheerful in some horror shop like Trago Mills without thinking how much she would ‘get it ‘. [Library, Hanham Court, Lee Priory-style Gothick bookcase copied from one made for an Irish House by John Nash and pair of lamps]

My first household goddess was my mother, who, lumbered with five children, became an antique dealer in her forties after an apprenticeship scrounging in Portobello when it was a real market,  and in the shops that clogged high roads of England’s market towns such as Odium and Lavenham and Wallingford – where she in turn managed to open a little shop. 

Barbara Eustace’s framed stock labels, lavatory wall, Tremato Castle

She read voraciously most of the night and much of the day and the only physical activity she enjoyed was the moving of furniture and books, buying cheap stuffs on holiday or from Peter Jones, hanging of pictures, and painting new colour schemes round the pictures she had hung.  [David Vicary luggage label, ‘The Hon. V. Sackville-West]

I joined in willingly from a young age and quickly caught the acquisitive thing, if it was not already inchoate. [Bedroom, Trematon Castle, curtains hung inside out to show off their striped silk linings]

Bathroom with view over Plymouth Sound, Trematon Castle,the other one of the pair of lime-yellow armchairs.

From her I learnt the pleasure of jokes and chuck-away, she didn’t like to be too serious about anything {Dining Room chimney, Trematon Castle], flotilla of battleships

She had worked earlier for the legendary Roy Brooks, the honest London estate agent whose sales particulars and adverts said things like ‘ Pimlico Peid-a-terre  – only fit for dwarves’ ( not sure if you could say that these days  – but it made him a small time urban hero). [Original cartoon by Osbert Lancaster]

 Hence her shop labels, luggage labels in a way-ahead JCB yellow, were very honest and funny. See picture… ‘Jokey pictures for Chelsea bathrooms, exceptionally good frames.’

My mother’s approach was not quite as inventive as Candida, queen of comfort and a certain modern lightness, who made her hall console tables from tree trunks and painted scaffolding boards, but she was deeply afraid of conventionality. [Bedroom early in the making, with a pair of daybeds and Isabel’s fern photograph, Trematon Castle]

Master bedroom, Hanham Court, made -up Gothick 4-poster in grey paint finish

She was the first person in the world as far as I know to cover an arm chair with an old kelim carpet, and this was because she had a tame upholsterer called Mr Dickinson round the back of Elgin Crescent, who remade her derelict finds with the craftsmanship and humility of the tailor of Gloucester. [An attic bedroom, Hanham Court]

I can find no such heroic craftsmen now, and besides, I like the relaxed feel of a loose cover, which I can make myself and out of anything, table clothes, old curtains and of course  old Ushak carpets which can be used to cover club fenders and gracious ottomans. Needs must and the results are never boring. [Little Sitting room, Trematon Castle, the Gothick bookcases again]

The copper finial ball again.

Here we are now, in the valley of the river Yeo,

Camping pro-tem in the carcass of half an Elizabethan E -shaped show-off house

A little house with big pretensions – demoted to a farm house by a fire which put paid to two prongs of the E leaving a botched L instead in 1820. [ New house, no. 4]

– Eviscerated of all internal glamour ( and logic ) but for monumental Hamstone fireplaces (all of which smoked like Vesuvius about to blow ) we thought very hard about how, or indeed if, we could live in it until there might be funds to ‘make reparation’ as our polish builder put it.

We could and do live quite happily with the ‘Jennifer Archer’ kitchen – her last but three at Home Farm I would suggest – dating from around 1980

I feel sure it was ‘top of range’ being made of American fumed Oak with a troubadour balcony over the cooker extractor. I think Candida would have painted it white but we couldn’t be bothered and besides, it is approaching its very own age of vintage charm. It works really well after forty years, only the hard, pug-beige tiles on the floor are a breakables magnet.

Their pug, Popeye.

Our bathroom had to have the avocado with gold fitments basin and lav replaced because they had seized up as has, finally, and rather regrettably, the engine of the green corner jacuzzi bath which we continue to enjoy.

Our bedroom next door is a peon of cross light, from north, east and West in it pours, bouncing off the white walls and through the fine spring spinach green linen of some Edwardian curtains bought at the Earls Hall sale in Fife in 1982 when we were first together. These curtains are two things we hated in the 1980’s, they are sill height, and they are slightly see through. I find a perverse pleasure in this now, bucking the trend is a habit born of necessity, it’s why I never wore jeans for the twenty years or so that the word ‘designer’ was so stickily attached to them. In houses as in clothes its always about finding something affordable garnished with a dose of wit and originality. It maybe outsize, violently coloured, puritanically simple, or  just plain odd like the strange objects one inherited from aged aunts – in my case the Tibetan dinner ‘Gong’,  not on object I would ever seek to own, but this one has been banging away all my life and everybody loves it even though it now serves as a repository for gloves and winter hats in the ‘gents’.

 
The downstairs loo is particularly horrible, nothing to be done for now,

but mercifully the sitting room is a gem. The smelly carpets ripped out and reasonable elm and pine floors revealed, we painted everything white and then just to make our mark we chose that egg yellow colour  to make the sitting room truly ours, a colour used by both our mothers,

by Janet Shand Kydd and by Nancy Lancaster, whose name for it was ‘butta yella’. It may not be forever but it is very heartening right now. Pair of upright sofas just covered in Baker’s Fern print, spare curtain chintz, the gift of Alice Lennox Boyd. The Gothick table lamps again.

Library, also tv, taken very soon after moving in, bookcase formerly in the drawing room at Trematon, and Christopher Wren’s Tom Tower copper finial ball

Drawing room and library bookcase at Trematon Castle

Trematon, the full rig

From the containers of ‘stuff’ we sifted as best we could, comfort and practicality sort of coming first. But thinking about it pictures are really how we make a room. [Hanham Court, staircase]

They are the one thing which it is quite impossible to give away when you move house, let alone sell to anyone, and we have collected stacks and stacks. [Hanham Court, bathroom corridor]

They gather dust and hang crooked, fall off the wall and the glass gets broken, and most of the time I despair of them. But, that’s how we stake our claim. [Hanham Court]

They are like the Rubik’s cube of our design process, they can be put together in myriad ways to create multiple and diverse effects. [Trematon Castle. dining room]

Hanham Court, attic bathroom

Candida did it too; in one house Pipers were on the stairs, in another in her bedroom and at another in the kitchen – each time giving a whole different decorating pleasure. [Treamton Castle. Drawing room, Piranesi prints]

Trematon Castle Drawing Room, small landscapes by landscape designer and decorator David Vicary and Isabel’s mother’s painting by Robert McBride, now  hanging in her bedroom at Ashridge Manor.

We have fern prints, torn out of a book with frames painted yellow ( here seen at Trematon)

 and they stack up each time in a new way. [Master bedroom at Trematon Castle, Isabel’s loose covers in G and P Baker’s Fern chintz]

David Vicary’s Wiltshire lithographs in a mixed hang at Trematon Castle.

David Vicary’s lithographs of Avebury and other Neolithic stones have not surfaced, but I like to have them somewhere I can look at them every day, along with Barbara Jones and Bawden and Ravilious. We once owned an unfinished Ravilious, paying on the ‘never never’ at the Fine Arts Society – we couldn’t finish either, making the payments, so it had to go back. [David Vicary’s Wiltshire lithographs in a stacked hang in the master bedroom at Hanham Court]

Master bedroom at Hanham Court rehung with C19th Neopolitan Volcano paintings.

Boy’s bathroom at Hanham Court

Boy’s bedroom at Trematon Castle

The beatitude bedroom at Ashridge Manor has the Sir Gawain’s green curtains, a Hamstone fireplace with matching Cupboard from Leominster, faux bamboo bedside chest and matching bamboo coloured home-concocted four poster bed now in its third home which is not high enough for the gothic top pelmet. [The bed when intact and first painted bamboo colour at Trematon Castle]

It fills me with pleasure to lie in the morning half asleep looking at Dennis Wirth Miller’s swooshy green swathes of paint entitled Dartmoor and Deli Lycett Green’ ‘s livid and gargantuan green cabbage. It’s all frightfully nineteen fifties with David Vicary’s smudgey sulphurous painting of Old Wardour Castle showing the Lane brothers grotto abstracted, and then the properly abstract aubergine, blue and pink the Robert McBride my mother bought long long ago.

It is all about associations, both in your head and each object with another, a conversation of sorts, chattering back in time. 

‘Mr. Maitland as Captain Diego’ in the bedroom at Ashington Manor: one of Julian’s ‘glitter pictures’ of famous actors, which were something you could make yourself from a kit in the 19th century, a sort of cut out and keep Hello magazine. In the way of Pollacks theatres, cheaply printed, you coloured them yourself and perked up by adding glitter and stamped metal pieces. I worry they will fade in the relentless sun. ‘They weren’t made for museums, they were made to be enjoyed!’ he rebuffs me, and he is right.

Ephemeral above all, flowers are the dernier crie in any room. [Trematon]

My mother first and later Candida, David Vicary and Christopher Gibbs were the master magicians of the huge branch bunches.

This I am happy and lucky to leave to Mr B, with whom I would be unwise to compete.

Bannermandesign.com
Isabel Bannerman is the author of Landscape of Dreams,(2016)  and  Scent Magic (Pimpernel Press, 2019
 

[All photographs copyright Isabel and Julian Bannerman/bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.]

 

I started trailing the designer Susanna White because of a lamp shade. It was a tall cone printed with ‘Hunters,’ the dashing repeat design of a man and woman on horseback drawn by her grandmother Joan Evelyn Thomson – aka J.E.T. ‘Hunters’ is entirely distinctive and remains my strong favourite among the stand out patterns that launched Whiteworks in 2017 – Susanna’s design partnership with her husband John – now operating from a jewel box of a little showroom on a corner of London’s Pimlico Road.

Joan Evelyn Thomson studied at art schools in Paris and Vienna in the 30s, modelled for the fashion house Worth and then fell in with the Bloomsbury Group, posing for her artist-friend Edward Wolfe who was working for the Omega Workshop. Post-war she produced these patterns of startling originality for the silk and textile supremo Zika Ascher, whose stable of artist-designers included Matisse, Cecil Beaton, Ivon Hitchens and Henry Moore. She counted Ravilious and Graham Green among her friends, married more than once, hung out with the Beatles and the Maharishi and took up Transcendental Meditation. Her designs were forgotten until Susanna found them in an old folio in a chest of drawers in her father’s house in 2014.

Susanna brought her experience in interior design to develop the JET collection of wallpapers and fabrics and makes beautiful use of them in the house in Gloucestershire that she built with her husband. It’s based on a ‘provincial merchant with ideas above station and no pocket to match and no below stairs servicing conceits….  and a house called Honnington that is a marvel,’  she says. It’s still a work in progress, unpatinated. But, ‘the best thing was that a friend bought her aged Mother with Alzheimer’s, who wandered round the garden saying she had ‘been here before’.’

For the bibleofbritishtaste she writes about Living with her Design Heroes, the makers and artists she constantly refers to herself. ‘ I like the premise that Syrie Maugham had painted everything white and the new wave pushed in with pattern and chintz. It struck a chord.,’ she wrote to me. ‘For all the talk about pattern and colour, people are still feeling super attached to grey and mushroom tones – I remember reading in a magazine that a room had been painted in 38 different shades of white… ‘
~ NOW READ ON ~

By Susanna White.

For the last 10 years John and I have been building a house and a garden. We knocked down a 1970’s prefabricated building and replaced it with a classical, one room thick, neo-Georgian dolls house with the surprise blessing of the local planners. It is not everyone’s cup of tea but it has been a complete privilege to draw on the influence of Design Heroes, while experiencing the endless choices and accidents that make up our house, not least the influence of the makers and robust interpretation on their part in producing a house from an C18th pattern book with (scant) broadband and C21st trimmings.  A multitude of influences have contributed to create our interior and I have with great difficulty chosen to focus on a significant few, who I think are anchors to the whole.

MARTHE ARMITAGE

I love to imagine some intrigued expert scraping away layers of history hundreds of years hence and being rewarded finally with fragments of the original papers. What a privilege and what a responsibility – Marthe Armitage was an obvious must.

Guest bedroom in Marthe Armitage wallpaper,  Chiswick House in green.

ADELPHI PARAKEETS AND PEARLS

Marthe was (and still is) represented by Hamilton Weston and it was here that I accidentally bumped into Adelphi’s work, whom HW were also representing at the time. 

Guest room in Adelphi Parakeets and Pearls with Aubusson and Patchwork

I love our ‘Parakeets and Pearls” an C18th French design in a custom Parma-Violet colour, almost more than life itself. I was so excited to find the paper hung in the latest Woodhouse dining room in the recent film adaptation of “Emma” in the original salmon pink and green document colours complimented by heavy swagged curtains dripping with fine passementerie.

A flower painting by my great uncle Malcolm Milne, who studied at the Slade under Tonks.

JET AND EDWARD WOLFE

As we built the house, Jet’s designs were still lying undiscovered in a drawer, it was unimaginable then that we would be pasting the designs of this singular Grandmother onto walls.

Tree Bough wallpaper by JET

Tree Bough

Sailor portrait by Wolfe, bedroom

Teddy Wolfe, was Jet’s great mucker, a rather flamboyant RA who had worked with Duncan Grant in The Omega workshop and been billeted with Jet and her first husband in Dorset during the war with his aged Mother, and his work features throughout the house.

Portrait sketch of JET by Wolfe

Wolfe painted Jet many times with and without clothes on. We recently found this rather odd drawing of her by Wolfe in a dusty South London auction house, she, reposed in middle age with sturdy shoes, tweed skirt and no top on.

Priscilla Kennedy tile mosaic and Hunters wallpaper by JET, guest bathroom.
 
Who knew that 25 years after her death, my grandmother’s forgotten work would become such a great influence on me.  Her vision has subverted my taste away from the classical fluttering pretties and palette of the English Country House movement to another between and post war era embracing the different cultural European influences of Moore, Matisse, Sutherland and Picasso, although my passion for John Fowler remains firm.

AUBUSSON

My Mother would have described our motley collection of Aubussons as “going-home,” splitting, threadbare and stained.

S J Whiteworks's Design Heroes: Cecil Beaton, J.E.T. and Marthe Armitage.

The big one in the drawing room with faded, browning, blousy blooms came from a house in Norfolk by way of friend and Independent Art Adviser, Charles Bingham-Newland. It was reported that the modest proceeds were deployed to help restoration of “the good one”. Muddy dogs naturally gravitate towards this canine friendly floor cloth and wine and coffee is regularly spilt without guilt or remorse

BEATON AND SPRY

Some of the elements of the house are period, found in strange reclamation yards. Since the outside is made of stone, we wanted fireplaces of wood.

Drawing Room fireplace, centre carving formerly at Beaton’s country house, Redditch.

Nick Gifford-Meade, then in Pimlico had the shelf of a chimney piece carved with a favourite motif of basket of flowers, around which we built our drawing room fireplace and was rumoured to have belonged to Cecil Beaton. Years later we found a photograph recording the chimney piece in Beaton’s bedroom at Redditch.

At certain times of the year, the late West light directly illuminates the treasured carved surface and hits the ghost of his careless fingerprint left.

S J Whiteworks's Design Heroes: Cecil Beaton, J.E.T. and Marthe Armitage.

Above the C18th century version of a basket of flowers is often a C20th version by Constance Spry, a comparatively shrewish, ‘hands on hip’ shape of vessel demanding notice, spilling over with seasonal clippings from the garden.

DIANA REYNELL

Grotto expert, Diana Reynell made the chandelier in the dining room.


A beautiful and fragile octogenarian arrived with her electrician and two other young men, who pushed her up onto a scaffold, as she, in a finely enunciated voice, whispered “I think this is my swan song”, humorous, as bird form had been the inspiration of her design.

Dining Room

So we cohabit with these Design Heroes  of ours – friendly presences who dispel some of the loneliness during this period of enforced introspection  – focussing on a few, making a chain of memories, of times, people and skills, that root us into our  strange new situation. Thank goodness we do not live in an uber cool, perfectly chic, award winning monastic space, as that would send me to the madhouse just now.

All thanks to Susanna (who wrote this) and John White of Whiteworks Group.  The Jet Collection is online and at JET and Co, 20A Pimlico Road, Belgravia.

[All photographs copyright Whiteworks/bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.]

It’s four weeks now since we’ve been here, down in Dorset. I’d say a couple of weeks ago the house got very tidy indeed. Everyone in the country, housebound and feeling helpless, went on a massive spring clean. We were no exception. It was a distraction to fear and sadness; in the world of an invisible killer it felt like a sensible defence.

But I’m glad to say that two weeks on, we’ve calmed down a bit, and are realising that our cleaning lady Anne’s view of dust (that if you carry on dusting the dust carries on coming back) has pretty powerful logic to it. So now the house has that nice gentle relaxed feeling to it of it being lived in for weeks and weeks in a row for the first time, literally, in nearly two decades. My predecessors at the Old Parsonage were hardly ever here except in the holidays; we’re here almost every week, but in normally in London for some of that time too. A house takes on a different feel when it is permanently occupied. A couple of years ago we came down here for a month in the summer, a record that will be overtaken this week. And how strange our flat in London must feel, shut up, curtains drawn, deserted, empty; at the top of an empty building in an empty Square…

So there is something idyllic in the lockdown situation, yet which makes one feel a bit guilty too… guilty for being surrounded by wide green open spaces where we walk every day, guilty for not really being touched by the sense of chaos, or indeed, hell on earth, that we know that some people and some families are going through. Guilty at being in a tiny backwater in a quiet part of Dorset in what must feel like the most beautiful warm spring in years.

Curiously too the days have been hurtling by; we start with a long walk, early; breakfast, then I start work – a half-hour lunch and then sometimes I’ve been emerging at 7 or 8 in the evening, before starting again. So Easter – four days off, with nothing happening – has been strangely needed and yet almost listless, empty, senseless by comparison. Charlie has been working incredibly hard in the garden, and getting his chickens in, and incubating a dozen runner duck and chicken eggs which are due to hatch in ten days. We’ve been going to bed strangely early, sleeping either incredibly soundly or having fretful, fitful nights depending on the pull of the moon and night fears and worries. Either way, the dawn chorus and our early walk has been a huge restorer.

Today, I’ve taken a few photographs of the Parsonage on an astonishingly bright afternoon – the air is clear, the sun is brilliant, the wind is cold – to just show a few of the rooms here.  I’ve lived here now since 2008; five years ago, Charlie and I were married, and the house became ours not mine. So much nicer that way. Twelve years is a long time in one building, in a way; long enough for walls to get faded where you haven’t had pictures hanging; for rugs and furniture to bleach to paleness if they are too close to the huge south-facing windows where the sun streams in all day long. I like that.

And slowly, ever so slowly, the house has filled up and up with our stuff. It’s more than stuff really, it’s collections, it’s all sorts of things. Last October, when we moved to Scotland, to a tiny bothy on the far West Coast (the first house I’ve ever bought in my life) there was a massive clear our and a whole huge truckload of stuff moved up there. The Parsonage breathed a little sigh of relief, and stretched its limbs… but filled up again; with some of my parents’ bits and pieces, with more treasures discovered on our early morning rounds of the Saturday morning market in Bridport, or bought, every now and again, at auction. 

In no particular order; kitchen stuff; including Charlie’s latest collection – daffodils – which are completely beautiful and extraordinary this year.  Next to the Fridge is our annual ‘men in kilts’ Christmas calendar.  We’ve collected Staffordshire pottery for years. It’s all over the house. Charlie’s china cupboards – well, some of the china was mine already, but it’s on another whole level now.

I’ve moved my office into the dining room for the time being. It’s proved to be a beautiful, peaceful room to work. The walls are lined with one half of my collection of Piranesi engravings (the other half is in London); the trestle table in the window has part of Charlie’s collection of geraniums.

The drawing room hasn’t changed very much over the years; the walls used to be pale grey, and about 8 years ago now I decided to paint it a pale pink specially mixed for me by Patrick Baty and now sold as ‘Parsonage Pink’.  I’ll be honest – I have been contemplating a change in here now, but let’s see.  

Piles of books are everywhere. My favourite piles are on the bookshelf behind the yellow sofa (by my friend Max Rollitt), most of which we’ve bought over many years at the brilliant Bridport Old Books, run by Rose and Caroline. 

One half of a collection of Fern prints is above the piano (the other half is in London).

The bedroom is filled with stuff, but collections-wise, the bookcase has part of my collection of King Penguins and old Batsfords.

The guest room next door has a Staffordshire dogs without their pairs, and a pair of Staffordshire Rabbits that we bought in Bridport last year. And part of the collection of Peter Hones (the rest you’ll see in a bit).

The landings have my collections of old geological maps and piles and piles of worlds of interiors, and a pair of cased fish that are destined for Scotland but have no home there, and a collection of coloured glass in the windowsill of the old oval window that overlooks the steps to the front door…

The guest bedroom I painted this sludgy dark green at the same time as the room downstairs went pink. It faces west and in the evening the sun glows here. 

There are two paintings by my Cornish ancestor, Richard Thomas Pentreath – the one above the fireplace Charlie and I found at Portobello.

The dark green Staffordshire dogs in this room are rather special finds. And part of Charlie’s geranium collection has gone wild in the bathroom.

In our bathroom is our collection of harvest mugs.

Well, I’ve gone a bit mad really with harvest mugs. I think we’ll redecorate this bathroom soon, it needs to be a bit more fun, like the gloss yellow walls that we decided to paint the kitchen a couple of years ago.

From the landing is a little passage, top lit, that leads to what used to be called the Village Room.

Years and years ago, when I was about 8, my best friend lived in the old Parsonage. It’s a house I’ve literally known since the 70s. This room was his playroom. We spent hours in here.  For a while I had it set up as an office. It was a beautiful room but the internet and phone line didn’t work there at all so I gave it up. It became a store and then a few years ago Charlie turned it into his flower room.

We installed an old Belfast sink with a single cold tap (we couldn’t get a hot water feed to that wall). 

And now, it too has shifted in emphasis, or mood – when a year or two ago, we bought three huge Edwardian museum cases for a song at a junk auction in London. They just fitted.

 And are now crammed with Charlie’s and my ever-growing collection of bits of china. 

And other things.   The cabinet of rosettes, dating back to the 50s and 60s, was my Christmas present to Charlie two years ago, bought from Drew Pritchard.

Long Live the Queen is the banner that hangs in the window of the flower room. It’s been there for a long time, but has never, ever felt more vital a message in the strange, desolate, sad, happy, unsettling yet strangely peaceful moment that we find ourselves in.

[All photographs copyright Ben Pentreath/bibleofbritishtaste. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.]