THE MER­CHANT’S TALE

Country Living (UK) - - Contents - Words by francine ray­mond styling by hester page pho­to­graphs by cather­ine gratwicke

Be­hind the mel­low brick façade of a Ge­or­gian prop­erty in Kent is an in­te­rior filled with el­e­gant fur­ni­ture and an­tique finds that give it a charm­ing French flavour

Be­hind the mel­low brick façade of a Ge­or­gian prop­erty in Kent is an in­te­rior filled with el­e­gant fur­ni­ture and an­tique finds that give it a charm­ing French flavour

OP­PO­SITE So­phie with her cat Poppy in the door­way of her Ge­or­gian home that was once a seed mer­chant’s premises THIS PAGE In the kitchen, metal fold­ing chairs and an enamel pen­dant lamp­shade in­tro­duce in­dus­trial touches that com­ple­ment the an­tique weath­ered shut­ters, sim­ple wooden tres­tle ta­ble and orig­i­nal York stone flags

with its stylish French grey-shut­tered win­dows and match­ing long barn to one side, it’s hard to imag­ine that Water­lock House was once an agri­cul­tural seed-mer­chant’s premises. El­e­gantly Ge­or­gian, the prop­erty is now the home of an­tiques dealer So­phie de Bou­vier de Cachard, while the barn shows off her dis­tinc­tive col­lec­tion of dec­o­ra­tive pieces, dis­tressed painted fur­ni­ture and vin­tage in­dus­trial wares.

In the typ­i­cally Ken­tish vil­lage of Wing­ham, near Can­ter­bury, So­phie’s shop Branch­ing Out is a con­stant source of temp­ta­tion for those who love quirky bro­cante finds, and the per­fect show­case for her pur­chases. She keeps the best pieces in her home for a while and dis­plays the rest, of­ten a lit­tle re­luc­tantly: “I buy things that please me. Some­times it breaks my heart to sell a spe­cial trea­sure, but I have to re­mind my­self it’s a job.” Then, when stocks are low, she sets off to Detling, Faver­sham and Kemp­ton or the French mar­kets of Rouen, Lille and Amiens in her big white van to re­plen­ish her mer­chan­dise, some­times bag­ging fas­ci­nat­ing ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal and taxi­dermy pieces or unique gar­de­na­lia, all as likely to end up in her kitchen or spec­tac­u­lar gar­den as in the shop.

The kitchen is un­mis­tak­ably Gal­lic, with metal chairs from a mairie (town hall) set around an in­dus­trial work tres­tle ta­ble,

but the honey-coloured York stone floor is orig­i­nal to the house. The pi­geon-hole fac­tory stor­age units were painted and waxed by So­phie, who is an ex­pert at breath­ing new life into old pieces. An­tique in­te­rior shut­ters, still with orig­i­nal peel­ing paint, fil­ter light softly through the large front win­dows (and act as cup­board doors else­where), giv­ing the house an abun­dance of at­mos­phere.

For smarter meals, the din­ing room – home to an ate­lier ta­ble, scrubbed and softly waxed on iron tres­tles, with up­hol­stered chairs from John Lewis and lit by over­sized grey enamel lights – leads through to the com­fort­able liv­ing room. The mood is eclec­tic, mix­ing metal gar­den fur­ni­ture and an 18th-cen­tury door used as a ta­ble top, with gilded wood mir­rors and or­nate plas­ter putti made from early-20th-cen­tury moulds. Warmed by an orig­i­nal Ge­or­gian painted pine fire­place, with ex­tra heat sup­plied by old, tra­di­tional col­umn ra­di­a­tors, th­ese clas­si­cally di­men­sioned rooms for en­ter­tain­ing run the en­tire depth of the house.

The floor­boards are painted chalky white to lighten what was orig­i­nally a rather dark in­te­rior and the colour pal­ette has been re­stricted to stylish off-whites and greys (So­phie uses Brew­ers trade paints such as Pevensey from the Al­bany col­lec­tion) with oc­ca­sional earth tones or daubs of pale blue. This scheme con­tin­ues through­out the house, as well as in the char­ac­ter­ful beamed loft, where the strik­ing black-and-white di­a­mond

che­quered floor, drawn free­hand by So­phie, was cre­ated with emul­sion paint, then given a var­nished fin­ish to pro­tect it.

Up­stairs, the bed­rooms – their gen­er­ous beds cov­ered with striped vin­tage linen – lead on to a spa­cious bath­room and dress­ing room with rat­tan chairs and ta­ble. Fit­ted wardrobes add a Scan­di­na­vian note, en­hanced by the chalky grey paint­work. Col­lec­tions of old hat­boxes, wooden hat-blocks and shop-win­dow man­nequins lend a sub­tle fin de siè­cle at­mos­phere. The large rooms of the loft apart­ment above the shop, rented out for B&B, are dec­o­rated in a sim­i­lar style, with an an­tique de­con­structed wing chair show­ing var­i­ous lay­ers of stuff­ing and up­hol­stery, next to a vin­tage tai­lor’s dummy. Sur­rounded by th­ese at­mo­spheric French ob­jets trou­vés, you could be in a Parisian ate­lier over­look­ing the rooftops of Mont­par­nasse – if the views from the win­dow weren’t of green English fields.

Out­side, the in­ti­mate court­yard gar­den en­closed by high brick walls is like a the­atre set, with a foun­tain cen­tre stage sur­rounded by Provençal plant­ing. In­spired by the south of France, and by the gar­dens of renowned French tex­tile de­signer Ni­cole de Vésian in the Luberon area of the re­gion, the plot is filled with a min­i­mal­ist col­lec­tion of clipped box, laven­der and san­tolina against the back­drop of the Kent coun­try­side. Set among ma­ture pot­ted olive trees, the brick-paved ter­race is the per­fect place for lazy out­door lunches, over­look­ing a stylish tableau of stone stat­u­ary, weath­ered wooden cherry-pick­ing lad­ders, 19th-cen­tury wire­work fur­ni­ture and an ever-chang­ing ar­ray of vin­tage de­lights.

Branch­ing Out An­tiques and B&B, Water­lock House, Can­ter­bury Road, Wing­ham, Kent. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 01227 721792 or visit branchin­goutwing­ham.co.uk.

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