As the Founder of the eponymous brand and creative design studio The Joy of Print, Cath Kidston is famed for her passion for colour and pattern. In her new book, ‘A Place Called Home,’ Cath documents how she brought her irreverent style to her country house, says Jessica Jonzen
THE TELLY ROOM IS A COMFORTABLE AND COSY SPACE. THE CONTENTS OF THE ROOM ARE A REAL JUNK SHOP MIX WITH A LOT OF FURNITURE FOUND AT CAR BOOT SALES. THE PERSIAN RUG IS THE ANCHOR FOR THE ROOM AND EVERYTHING FITS TOGETHER AROUND IT. IMAGE: CHRISTOPHER SIMON SYKES
When Cath Kidston and her husband, Hugh, first visited Paradise, their 17th-century manor house in Gloucestershire, she had a visceral reaction to it, which she recalls in her new book A Place Called Home. “When we arrived it was pouring with rain and was a really miserable day, but when we walked in I had that heart-stopping moment when I felt I could have been at home, and the feeling completely overtook me.”
Despite having happily lived in their previous house, a beautiful 17th-century Cotswold farmhouse, for 15 years Cath had suspected that its steep staircases and small windows meant it wasn’t the place for them to grow old in. “I secretly longed to be back in a house that had that feeling of airiness, which might be somewhere that I would want to stay forever.”
Cath spotted the romantically-named Paradise in a copy of Country Life and realised that the house was near their home, but they’d never seen it because it is so tucked away. Having probably started out as a farmhouse, over the years Paradise was extended and gentrified until it became the rambling manor house that Cath and Hugh went to visit on that rainy day.
The couple fell in love with Paradise’s abundance of original features, airy rooms flooded with light and its unbroken views across the valley, and bought the house not long after Cath left the business which bears her name. Having started her career assisting decorator Nicky Haslam, Cath started the Cath Kidston label in 1993, turning it into a global lifestyle brand famed for its nostalgic prints and joyful use of primary colours.
I knew I wanted new things, but I also wanted some of my Cath Kidston memories.”
For the first time in her adult life Cath was not working and had the time to dedicate to decorating the house. “It was an amazing time because it was a great distraction and I was able to think about what I wanted next. I knew I wanted new things, but I also wanted some of my Cath Kidston memories. These were the hopes that shaped what we have done.”
Cath’s beautiful new tome A Place Called Home is an interiors book-meets-memoir, documenting how she approached decorating Paradise room by room. Combining their inherited furniture and art with modern prints and vibrant colour, Paradise not only tells the stories of Cath and Hugh’s lives before they lived here, it also embraces a new chapter for the couple. The house is grand but not pompous, with the couples’ dogs happily lolling on sofas, and its more serious features are livened up with modern touches.
After a year of building work to re-wire and re-plumb the house, put on a new roof and open certain spaces up, it was time to “put the jigsaw together,” as Cath writes. Decorating the house was no easy feat, however. “When I ran my interior design business, I used to be able to decorate other people’s houses in a very decisive way, but in my own home it can take me ages to make decisions. Perhaps the endless problem-solving is one of the reasons I love decorating.” She has more than succeeded. Here we share three of the house’s key rooms: the sitting room, the kitchen and the all-important telly room.
THE STRIKING FEATURE OF THE SITTING ROOM IS THE BEAUTIFUL FIREPLACE. ON EITHER SIDE OF THE CHIMNEYPIECE HANG TWO DUTCH PANELS AND OVER THE FIREPLACE, A BRONZE BRANCH BY THE SCULPTOR DAN CHADWICK. IMAGE: CHRISTOPHER SIMON SYKES
The Sitting Room
“I remember looking around the house for the first time and being entranced walking into this room, with its three lovely long windows that flooded it with light,” Cath writes. The sitting room, with its carved stone fireplace to mirror the ornate stone arch which sits above the French windows on the outside of the building, succeeds in being both elegant and inviting.
The soothing pale blue paint on the walls, chosen on impulse before a photoshoot, is calm and soothing in the room which is reserved for entertaining a houseful of guests. Cath found the rug in a local auction house and it is complimented by the sofas upholstered in pale green and white Howard material, with simple plain linen curtains at the windows. Splashes of yellow in the cushions add a modern touch.
CATH WANTED THE KITCHEN TO BE AS SIMPLE AND TIMELESS AS POSSIBLE. COLOUR IS ADDED WITH THINGS LIKE CHINA AND TABLECLOTHS – ALL OF WHICH CAN BE CHANGED EASILY. IMAGE: CHRISTOPHER SIMON SYKES
At one time a chapel, the kitchen is one of the few rooms where Cath and Hugh made structural changes by opening up a couple of blocked-off doors to help the flow of the rooms and let in some extra light. They had new units made by their builder to fit into the semi-circular sweep of the end wall, and painted them and the walls in Cath’s favourite white gloss paint. “I like keeping the bones of a kitchen simple and adding colour with things like china and tablecloths – all of which can be easily changed.”
The couple inherited an Aga and had it re-enamelled in black, and “the kitchen floor is one of the reasons I fell in love with the house,” Cath writes. At the centre of the room sits a scrubbed pine 1960s table, on loan from one of Cath’s great friends and which she has sat at since childhood.
The modern Windsor chairs bring an edge of masculinity to the room which is softened by a hand blocked table cloth and tomato red cushions. Cath didn’t want the room to be too cluttered and so chose just a few pictures which make a real impact. Two Chris Ofili tea towels in Perspex frames sit on either side of the sink and an orange-and-black abstract print by Breon O’Casey hangs on another wall.
The Telly Room
The room where Cath and Hugh spend as much time as the kitchen, the telly room (pictured at the top of the page) also acts as the reading room and a space for the couple and their dogs to relax. Made up of the contents of their old house, this room is full of mementos from their past. The Persian rug came from a shop in London on the Wandsworth Bridge Road, which Cath found for Hugh when she was working as his decorator – which is incidentally how the couple met.
Cath describes the contents of this room as a “real junk shop mix,” with a lot of the furniture coming from car boot sales. Paintings inherited from her aunt Corise, who was an artist, hang on the walls. “I loved her house and her use of reds, yellows, and blues (quite childish colours in a way), which are reflected in the decoration here. They are a combination I come back to again and again.”
The telly room is “very much about comfort and mood” Cath writes, and cheery touches like the year-round jar of Quality Street which sits on the mantlepiece add to the sense of fun. “People come in and immediately feel at home. You can put your feet up. The dogs are usually asleep on the sofa, or more often than not, sitting with us watching telly.”
A Place Called Home by Cath Kidston is published by Pavilion*. Photography by Christopher Simon Sykes, RRP £30
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