A BREATH OF FRESH AIR
Sophie and Nick Clarkin swapped bustling city life for a centuries-old country farmhouse – and have never looked back
Bold textiles, beautiful oil paintings and timeless antique furnishings perfectly complement this period farmhouse in Berkshire
a breath of fresh air
The sight of this beautiful Tudor farmhouse, nestled in peaceful Berkshire countryside, conjures up romantic notions of the perfect rural life. And for Sophie and Nick Clarkin, that vision is not far from reality.
After seven years living in their Victorian terraced house in Battersea, the couple decided to swap their busy London lifestyle for a more bucolic existence, where they could raise a family, which now includes Freddie, 6, and Constance, 3, and be near Nick’s children from his previous marriage. Nick, the owner of a recruitment company, and Sophie, an entrepreneur and owner of scented candle company The Bird Box, have ample room here to also run their businesses from home. ‘ We knew nothing about the area and had seen a few properties, but as I walked over the threshold of this house I was hit by this strange feeling that I knew it was where we were going to live,’ recalls Sophie.
Although the Clarkins could see that there was a great deal to be done, they snapped up the property in 2008, and work began. Over the next 12 months the house was rewired and replastered, and false ceilings were ripped out to reveal the vaulted originals. ‘ We felt that with so many beams, the house needed lightening up,’ says Sophie. So the couple stripped off the bold 1960s wallpaper and painted the walls in Laura Ashley’s Creamware and muted Farrow & Ball paint tones for a fresher feel.
After a year spent travelling, in 2010, Sophie and Nick finally moved in. It was then that they could add their own special personal touches to the house and begin to
settle into family life. Freddie was born that year, and Constance three years later.
Sophie knew that her love of textiles would provide the necessary injection of colour, while Nick’s collections of antique oil paintings would add personality. Both the sitting room and family room have large traditional sofas. Each is laden with feather cushions covered in neutral linens and subtle silks, punctuated with the occasional vibrant botanical print to echo the sprawling woodland and meadows bordering the nature reserve lake outside. Some of the fabrics were bought on a trip to Thailand, where Sophie discovered Jim Thompson’s collections of authentic Thai silks. She couldn’t resist bringing some home with her. ‘I got many of the cushions made by hand, as finding my own fabrics is a real pleasure,’ she explains.
Much of the furniture was sourced by the couple from Lots Road Auctions in Chelsea. Nick admits that he has a penchant for auction houses, pointing to a pair of Winston Churchill’s riding boots standing by the open fire, which he acquired at one. It is these unusual touches that have turned this historic house into a unique and colourful sanctuary. ‘ We like to think that we’ve imbued it with our individual style and surrounded ourselves with pieces we love,’ reflects Sophie. ‘After all, that’s the only way to turn a house into a real home.’
SITTING ROOM A symmetrical sofa arrangement and a roaring fire (next to Winston Churchill’s boots) make this a sociable space. the Duresta chelsea Village sofa, from £3,408, Furniture Village, is similar. Bespoke cushions made with fabrics from l interiors. Walls painted in creamware matt emulsion, £35 per 2.5 litres, laura ashley, and lichen estate emulsion, £ 43.50 per 2.5 litres, Farrow & Ball
KITCHEN-DINER With an Aga at its centre, this cosy country scheme is a great place for Nick, a keen chef, to entertain friends. Four-oven aga,from £11,645, aga rayburn. try the limestone flooring at stone circle, from £54sq m. Quercus rustic solid oak dining table, £600, oak Furnitureland, is a good option
GUEST BEDROOM The headboard, covered in one of Sophie’s vintage fabric finds, adds warmth and depth to the room. Oban mirror, £235, Oka. Walls painted in Lichen estate emulsion, £ 43.50 per 2.5 litres, Farrow & Ball
GUEST EN SUITE ‘I adore bold colours, especially darker tones as they can create a really dramatic look,’ says Sophie. Walls painted in Hague Blue estate emulsion, £ 43.50 per 2.5 litres, Farrow & Ball. For a bath like this one, try the Spey with claw feet, £2,975, Drummonds
CONSTANCE’S ROOM Bright splashes of pink and pretty furnishings complement this rustic setting. Try Dragons of Walton Street for children’s chests of drawers. Anna Dropside cot, £130, John Lewis
FREDDIE’S BEDROOM To save space, Freddie’s bed nestles neatly under a staircase leading up to a mezzanine floor.
MASTER BEDROOM Cupboards made from reclaimed oak panels create a seamless look. Cromwell chandelier, £337, The Lighting Company