Celebrated florist Nikki Tibbles has created a wonderfully eclectic and creative country home that sings with warmth and colour. As featured in Geraldine James’ new book, Cool Dogs, Cool Homes, it’s clear that this house has become a sanctuary both for Nikki and her beloved rescue dogs, says Rosalind Sack
RUBY AND RITA SIT IN FRONT OF THE FIRE WITH ITS ORIGINAL MANTELPIECE IN THE BLUE LIVING ROOM. IMAGE: JAMES GARDINER © CICO BOOKS
No matter how stylish your home, for many, a house just doesn’t feel like home without a canine companion. Long-term dog owner and former home buying manager at Selfridges, Geraldine James, is determined to spread the message that even with all the associated paraphernalia that comes with owning a dog, you don’t have to compromise on a beautiful home. Her new book, Cool Dogs, Cool Homes: Living in Style With Your Dog, features a broad collection of inspirational homes all over the country, where the owner’s sense of style and their dog’s freedom to explore are very happy bedfellows.
We especially love the vibrant country home of iconic British florist Nikki Tibbles, featured in the book, who has become as well known for her love of dogs as for her renowned luxury florist, Wild at Heart. In fact, so touched was she by the staggering statistic that there are 600 million neglected stray dogs in the world, that Nikki launched the Wild at Heart Foundation in 2015, which is committed to compassionately reducing that number through rescuing, rehoming, sterilisation and education.
(LEFT) SMITH DOZES ON THE CREAM PROVENCAL LOUIS XV BED; (RIGHT) RONNIE LYING ON THE SOFA IN THE LIVING ROOM AT THE FRONT OF THE HOUSE WHICH FEATURES THE ORIGINAL OLD FLOORBOARDS AND BOLD, COLOURFUL RUGS. IMAGES: JAMES GARDINER © CICO BOOKS
Naturally, Nikki’s passion for dogs filters through every aspect of her life and she shares her home with Lenny, Smith, Ronnie, Rita and Ruby; five adorable rescue dogs. We often talk about the importance of how our homes make us feel and the same goes for all members of the family.
Photographed in her richly coloured country home in Petworth, West Sussex, originally built in 1700 and extended in 1800, Nikki’s dogs look as comfortable in their surroundings as her bold and eclectic collection of furniture, art and accessories. Seeing these beautiful animals so at ease here, it’s difficult to imagine their struggles prior to finding sanctuary with Nikki.
Smith, named after the man who found him half-dead in a puddle in Spain, had been kept in a cage for three years and had a shattered collarbone, eardrum and ribs. A mix of Belgian Shepherd and Finnish Spitz, Nikki describes the 12-and-a-half-year-old as a gentle soul. Five-year-old Ronnie hails from Romania. A mix of Caucasian Shepherd and Magyar Agar, his mother was shot dead and Ronnie has hearing difficulties, thought to have been due to being in close proximity to the gunshots.
(LEFT) LARGE MISSONI RUGS COVER THE PAINTED FLOOR IN THIS SPARE ROOM WITH PINK WALLS AND EXPOSED BEAMS. (RIGHT) LENNY SLEEPING ON A SOFT RUG IN THE MASTER BEDROOM IN FRONT OF A MANTELPIECE FILLED WITH ECLECTIC ART AND CURIOSITIES. IMAGES: JAMES GARDINER © CICO BOOKS
Nikki first encountered Rita and Ruby, both two-and-a-half, in Puerto Rico where the Wild at Heart Foundation had set up a dog steralisation programme for low-income families. While eleven-year-old Lennie, with his large doleful eyes, was found in a dry well in Spain when he was just six months old.
Whether dozing on the sofa, warming themselves by the wood burner, or happily sparked out on the bed, these dogs are clearly very much at home here. Much like her flower installations, Nikki’s opulent and unstructured style stretches to every corner of her home. Recalling what first attracted her to the house, she once said: “I completely fell in love at first sight.”
“I wanted a rambling old house. I don’t like anything in the country that’s perfect and straight, and I was looking for something that hadn’t been done up.” Colour, texture and pattern are key elements here and, of course, there are plenty of floral motifs to be found, on rugs, cushions and artwork.
“My perfect weekend is spent here, surrounded by close friends and family, cooking, eating, and then going for a long Sunday stroll with my beautiful dogs,” she once said. “It’s blissful and it keeps me sane.”
A COSY NOOK FOR READING AND RELAXING AT THE BACK OF THE HOUSE WITH MID-CENTURY PIECES OF FURNITURE AND A LARGE VINTAGE BOOKCASE. IMAGE: JAMES GARDINER © CICO BOOKS
Cool Dogs, Cool Homes: Living In Style With Your Dog by Geraldine James, published by CICO Books. Photography by James Gardiner © CICO Books
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