Days out are made of this

It was a fun Friday in the office this week. Very, very sadly for us, it was time to say goodbye to Ruth, who’s been with us for a few years now and is absolutely brilliant – a leading light of so many projects we’ve worked on.  I can’t tell you how much I’ll miss Ruth’s cheerful good humour and sense of fun, her talent, and her sheer ability to get through drawings at the speed of light. Ruth’s on her way (okay, via Glastonbury) to work for a post-disaster reconstruction charity in the Philippines, where I’m sure she’ll do an amazing job, and then travelling and working to the other side of the world; and Friday was her last day with us.

I’d thought it would be a shame for this just to evaporate into any other day followed by ‘drinks around the photocopier’ (as someone once described it to me). And it was midsummer… and it’s good, from time to time, to get out and have a look at things. So we teamed up with our neighbouring office over at William Smalley Architects, and hired a mini bus, and set off for a day exploring buildings and landscapes in Oxfordshire.

Here we are speeding away in our ‘executive bus’. There’s Ruth on the right.


First stop was the beautiful house that Will has been working on for years – first designed when he was working with James Gorst, but since he set up his office a few years ago, he’s carried on with the site supervision and detailing. It’s a beautiful place – an old farmhouse that has been restored and dramatically extended.

Entering the hall is like walking into a serene monastery. The old walls of the farmhouse have been repaired and lime washed.P1030518

A new stair rises up the north side of the house.


Every detail is spare and restrained yet beautifully considered.

The outside of the house has a dramatic extension in oak and concrete which contains the great stair hall seen above. P1030519 At the ground floor is an outlook across the garden and stream. Perfectly done.
P1030522 Happy architect and clients are always a pleasure to see. It’s quite a job to create something like this, and massive architectural projects have their emotive ups and downs, as I am sure many readers of this blog know. But at the end of the day, you’re always aware of creation of something special.

A fascinated office at the end of the tour.P1030529

Next stop was Rousham, the remarkable William Kent landscape and house which I wrote about a couple of years ago, here. Still just as magical, perhaps more so on this beautiful June day, and this time we had a tour of the house as well.

(No photographs are allowed, although I had, I am afraid, taken this one of the beautiful Kent chairs in the hall, before I found that out.  Whoops).

Stickers on the door announce robust political affiliation. Mrs Cottrell-Dormer would get on well with my Mum.


We had a wonderful tour given by Mrs Cottrell-Dormer, accompanied by Millie, a rescued dog from Wales.  We have a new hashtag, in the line of #first world problems: #aristoproblems – as in ‘well I wish the peacocks wouldn’t stop making a mess of the glasshouse roof’. There were plenty others. It was a delight.P1030536

Lunch was a dream picnic on the lawns. Thanks to Zoe for organising that, and the whole day, to run seamlessly and without a hitch.

The arch to Kent’s stable block:P1030540

You can’t help wishing that they hadn’t changed all the windows to plate glass in the 19th century.  One of the old Georgian windows can be seen bottom right.

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Kent’s stable block:P1030548 P1030551 P1030553 P1030554 P1030556 P1030558 P1030564 P1030571 P1030577 P1030580 P1030581 P1030594 P1030597 P1030601 P1030602 P1030605 P1030606 P1030608 P1030611

The geometry of the garden, and vistas created from one stage to the next, is staggering. The walled garden, in its own way, is just as beautiful. P1030618

The dovecot garden was filled with foxgloves. Amazing.P1030621 P1030623 P1030625 P1030635

In the afternoon, on our way back to London, we left Rousham and visited Fawley House, our project near Henley. He we are in the Orangery pool room, which was finished last year.

And a few more views of the house under construction. It’s beginning to look absolutely beautiful, and it was good to show everyone around.

P1030489 P1030490 P1030492 P1030499 P1030502 P1030506Then it was back to London, and dinner in the Lady Ottoline pub, where you really can’t go wrong.
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I think we all felt a little like this photo on our way back to Maggie Owen‘s. Maggie has the shop next door to ours and had come along for dinner. She crazily made the mistake of asking us home:P1030665

The party carried on into the night. Needless to say, I fell asleep for a bit but woke up to find James and Ruth in top-hats ready to carry on through to dawn.P1030672

Ruth, we’re really, really going to miss you!  But it’s an exciting new step too, and that’s the fun thing about life.

Saturday slipped by slowly but in a dream, perhaps befitting Midsummers day.  Chris, Roy & Maggie came over for supper; Sunday morning, bright and early, we made a Columbia Road dash to the flower market.P1030684 P1030694 P1030697

Which turned out to be rather more of a shop than I’d planned. I found a beautiful little rosewood Danish planter in one of the shops that lines Columbia Road. So then it was time to find something crazy to live in it. My flat got the house plant memo, after all.P1030701

Although it turns out that Daturas are highly poisonous and not meant to live indoors at all. But it does look very beautiful, for now.


Datura installed, it was time to head to Sotheby’s, for a brunch-time viewing of the Impressionist and Contemporary sale. I add this snippet only as a mere footnote to an already perfect weekend… in order to share this lady, superb in her pistachio-green safari suit that we concluded she’d been wearing, and looking great, since the 70s. Just in case you ever wonder what Ben Pentreath style is all about – here it is.


You can’t make this up. Genius.

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