This meticulously considered woodland retreat in Herefordshire blends inside and out to create a remarkable sense of serenity. Rosalind Sack talks to owner Harriet Churchward to discover the story of this enchanting treehouse holiday home
THE QUIST TREEHOUSE IN HEREFORDSHIRE WITH ITS BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED FEATHER-EDGED DOUGLAS FIR CLADDING. IMAGE: DAN DUCHARS © RYLAND PETERS & SMALL
This incredible treehouse, nestled in a natural wonderland, indulges all the senses. Time spent here forces you to pause and re-set; whether listening to the gentle movement of the surrounding trees, enjoying a leisurely soak under an outdoor shower, or gazing up at star-laded skies.
Created by husband and wife team Harriet Churchward and Matt Pescod, this two-bedroom treehouse holiday home on the 800-acre Brinsop Court estate in Herefordshire – owned by Harriet’s parents – is nothing short of magical. Featured in the new book Retreats for the Soul by Sara Bird and Dan Duchars, the thoughtful design and build process of this hideaway, known as The Quist, stretched over three years. But it was well worth the wait.
“We live in such a beautiful place and we had this opportunity because we’ve been able to build on my parents’ land, so we’re incredibly lucky,” says Harriet, who also lives on the estate with Matt and their three-year-old daughter Minnie. Carpenter-builder Matt led the exterior build, while Harriet designed the interiors – and now takes on interior design projects for clients.
Naturally, it’s the incredible surroundings that have informed the design of this treehouse and the way that guests use the space. “I always feel calm and connected to nature and the environment here,” says Harriet. “The journey to get to the treehouse builds the anticipation, because it really is quite off the beaten track. It’s a challenge to reach; up Merry Hill, along a bumpy track and then it’s a walk into the woodland to discover the cabin amongst the trees.”
Of course, its remote location made the build all the more challenging. Delivery vehicles could just about get up the hill, “which was pretty hairy with tonnes of wood and timber coming up here, and the big stone bath, the hot tub, the massive sliding doors…” explains Harriet. But their suppliers could only drive to around 70 metres from the site, at which point Matt had to load everything onto a trolley of sorts and wheel it through the woodland. “Which he did with such good humour and positivity,” adds Harriet.
THE OPEN LIVING AREA HAS A PRAIRIE FEEL WITH CAREFULLY CHOSEN COLOURS, MATERIALS AND FINISHES. WALLS PAINTED IN LILAC PINK BY EDWARD BULMER. IMAGE: DAN DUCHARS © RYLAND PETERS & SMALL
Harriet and Matt were intent on treading lightly on the environment during the design and build process, while never compromising on materials and finishes. Inspired by the cosy, homely styling of old American cabins, Harriet designed the interiors to be hardwearing to withstand life as a holiday let without the need for constant repair, while also feeling luxurious enough to be a truly inviting home. They have succeeded on all fronts.
The entire structure sits on a concrete-free foundation and uses Douglas fir for its frame and cladding, together with oak constructed flooring. Rather than cut it down, a tree trunk slots through the elevated decking; amplifying its charm. While Matt’s decorative finish on the gable end, using log ends hewn from the estate, provides a welcoming habitat for insects. The couple have also installed bird, bat and dormouse boxes throughout the forest, as well as salt licks for local deer.
Inside, Harriet has chosen vintage or handmade pieces wherever possible. And sustainable and recycled materials have been used throughout, including the bathroom panelling which is created from oak offcuts.
Opting for hardwearing yet high quality fabrics such as wool, denim, leather and linen, Harriet says, “The furnishings aren’t something to be looked at, they’re to be touched and immersed in and laid on and sat on,” she says. A large squishy sofa, thoughtful lighting, china dinner service, theatrical drapes and a romantic tented bedroom with bespoke velvet headboard all add to the quiet luxury of the place. Then there’s the blissful hot outdoor shower and wood-fired hot tub on the deck…
The open plan layout and floor to ceiling glazed doors in the living area make the most of the uninterrupted views of the constantly changing woodland in every direction. While the deliberate lack of screens and scant reception invites guests to embrace a digital detox here.
“The treehouse is set in quite shaded woodland and, rather than fight against it, I wanted to lean into that cosiness,” says Harriet, who chose a mellow palette of colours, characterful textures and patinas, which create an immediate sense of comfort and ease.
“I wanted to echo nature; so I didn’t want any colours that felt synthetic or man-made. And we predominantly picked Farrow & Ball and Edward Bulmer (who’s local to us in Herefordshire), for their green credentials. It just felt right – with the type of build that we were doing and the type of experience we were promoting – that the paint we covered everything in really needed to be ‘clean’.”
“As much as I whinge to my husband because I do all of the changeovers between guests, it’s actually a real tonic to spend regular time in this kind of environment. It’s incredibly soothing and grounding and it’s a major reality check,” says Harriet. “Clarity sets in when you spend time here, and people often have quite transformative experiences here.”
While it’s an idyllic spot on sun-drenched days, the treehouse is equally as seductive in Winter when the eco-friendly bio-ethanol burner in the living room keeps the place toasty. So is it difficult to share it with strangers?
“Every inch of the treehouse has been touched by myself or Matt. It’s been so carefully thought out; our DNA is woven through it. Yet other people’s delight and enjoyment of it is central to the whole thing,” says Harriet. “When I walk in, the energy of the guests is still there and I can often feel the type of stay that they’ve had. And as much as we made it, we want people to treat it as their home when they’re here. It was always built with that intention, so I don’t mind handing over this special place in that way.”
THE GROUND FLOOR BEDROOM. THE WOVEN MATERIAL ON THE CEILING ADDS TEXTURE AND INTEREST AGAINST THE WARM, WOODY WALLS PAINTED IN CINNAMON BY EDWARD BULMER AND THE STRIPED BED LINEN BY SOCIETY OF WANDERERS. IMAGE: DAN DUCHARS © RYLAND PETERS & SMALL
VIEW THROUGH THE SLIDING WOODEN DOOR MADE FROM OFFCUTS TO THE DOUBLE VANITY BASIN IN THE BATHROOM, WITH A DYKE AND DEAN WALL LIGHT AND PINK ZELLIGE TILED BACKSPLASH. IMAGE: DAN DUCHARS © RYLAND PETERS & SMALL
THE TENT ROOM PAINTED IN FARROW & BALL’S JAMES WHITE, DESIGNED VIA A REMOTE CONSULTATION WITH CÔTE DE FOLK, FEATURING A BESPOKE HEADBOARD MADE FROM PATCHWORK VELVETS BY THE HACKNEY DRAPER. IMAGE: DAN DUCHARS © RYLAND PETERS & SMALL
PINOLEUM BLINDS, ANTIQUE FINDS AND THOSE INCREDIBLE VIEWS FROM THE BEDROOM. IMAGE: LUKE ATKINSON
THE GIANT LUSSO STONE BATH FITS TWO, WHILE THE OAK SLATTED CEILING EXTENDS OUTSIDE TO THE SHOWER AND HOT TUB AREA ON THE DECK. IMAGE: LUKE ATKINSON
A SOFA WITH A VIEW. FLOOR TO CEILING GLAZED DOORS ALLOW VISITORS TO GAZE OUT THROUGH THE TREE CANOPY TO THE MALVERN HILLS BEYOND. IMAGE: LUKE ATKINSON
The Quist treehouse is featured in Retreats for the Soul by Sara Bird and Dan Duchars of the CONTENTed Nest (Ryland Peters & Small, £25).
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