Mix­ing and match­ing on a Cor­nish farm

How one cou­ple rein­vented a Cor­nish farm, mix­ing mid­cen­tury pieces with 250-year-old rooms. By Jo Leev­ers. Pho­to­graphs by Penny Win­cer

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - Contents -

WHEN CHRIS­TEN PEARS and Chris Blake bought the group of build­ings that make up Mid­dle Colenso Farm, the farm­house was by no means the main at­trac­tion. ‘It came with a group of hol­i­day cot­tages, two barns and es­tab­lished fruit and veg­etable gar­dens. Those were our big­ger pri­or­i­ties be­cause we wanted a change of life­style,’ says Pears. ‘Back then, the house was prob­a­bly the least ap­peal­ing part of the pack­age.’

Although it was built in the mid­dle of the 18th cen­tury, the farm­house had been mod­ernised with vary­ing lev­els of suc­cess in re­cent decades. It had a ram­shackle, cor­ru­gated-plas­tic ex­ten­sion at the back, with win­dows held to­gether by duct tape. House re­pairs had been botched and part of the roof was bowed by ugly con­crete tiles. ‘Not only did it need a lot of work, it felt as if the house had lost its char­ac­ter along the way. It was nei­ther old nor con­tem­po­rary,’ ex­plains Pears.

Ren­o­vat­ing the hol­i­day cot­tages took prece­dence, so by the time Pears was ready to tackle the main house, she was well versed in the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of restor­ing old Cor­nish build­ings. ‘I learnt more than I ever thought pos­si­ble about lime build­ing tech­niques,’ she says. But by now she also had a much clearer vi­sion for the farm­house’s style.

‘Sud­denly, the fact that the house had lost many of its pe­riod de­tails started to feel like an ad­van­tage,’ she ex­plains. ‘It meant I felt freer to do what I wanted, which was to re­store fea­tures wher­ever pos­si­ble, then to in­dulge my love of mid-cen­tury de­sign.’

Lay­ers of plaster were chipped off the large in­glenook fire­place in the liv­ing room, re­veal­ing the house’s orig­i­nal creamy stone and a small bread oven on the left-hand side. Other walls were also stripped back to the stone – although around the stair­case this was more of a prac­ti­cal ne­ces­sity. ‘As we started work there, the old, damp plas­ter­board fell off,’ says Pears.

In many ar­eas the floor­boards were too rot­ten to keep, so pale Di­ne­sen floor­ing now runs through the en­tire house. The boards that were in de­cent con­di­tion have been reused to make the cab­i­nets that line the walls in the scullery. This room, lead­ing off the kitchen, is what used to be the plas­tic-and-duct­tape ex­ten­sion. ‘It was com­pletely re­built, so it’s ac­tu­ally the new­est bit of the house, but it feels much older and

Lay­ers of plaster were chipped off the fire­place, re­veal­ing a bread oven

Right The kitchen ceil­ing was re­moved to cre­ate a dou­ble­height space. The units are Ikea car­cases clad in Di­ne­sen timbers, stained black. A lo­cal black­smith made the pan rack. Far right A visit to Ett Hem ho­tel in Stock­holm in­flu­enced the bathing space, with tiles from Man­darin Stone, a tub from The Cast Iron Bath Com­pany and a stool from Lovely & Co func­tions like a tra­di­tional scullery,’ says Pears. ‘It’s where we store food, do laun­dry, and make jams and chut­neys with the fruit and veg­eta­bles we grow.’

In the spa­cious liv­ing and din­ing rooms, fur­ni­ture by Arne Ja­cob­sen, Børge Mo­gensen and Ernest Race sits well in the re­freshed, gen­tly rus­tic spa­ces. ‘I think a mark of a piece of well-de­signed fur­ni­ture is that it

‘Tourists want the beaches and pasties. Liv­ing here gives you a fuller pic­ture’

en­dures and can work in dif­fer­ent set­tings,’ says Pears.

Along­side these mid-cen­tury icons, the house is fur­nished with vin­tage pieces shipped over from the cou­ple’s pre­vi­ous home in Fre­man­tle, Aus­tralia. Blake worked out of there as a tall-ships cap­tain and Pears was a jour­nal­ist be­fore re­train­ing as a Pi­lates in­struc­tor. In Aus­tralia, Pears liked to trawl sec­ond-hand shops, which is where she picked up a del­i­cate Vic­to­rian chande-

lier, rows of im­mac­u­late glass­ware and an an­tique Ja­panese chest. ‘They are re­minders of our time abroad, so it felt im­por­tant to add them into the mix here,’ she says.

Liv­ing in Corn­wall year-round, Pears adds, is a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to a few weeks in the sum­mer sun. ‘A lot of tourists just want the beaches and pasties, a theme-park ver­sion of Corn­wall,’ she ex­plains. ‘That’s fine, but liv­ing here gives you a fuller pic­ture.’ Pen­zance is their near­est town: ‘Parts of it seem run­down, so lots of vis­i­tors prob­a­bly by­pass it in favour of St Ives, but I’m re­ally fond of it.’

Since liv­ing here, the cou­ple have dis­cov­ered more about the farm­house’s his­tory. ‘Our neigh­bours at the top of the lane used to own all the lo­cal farms and showed us pho­to­graphs of the build­ings in the 1970s,’ says Pears. One pic­ture shows an out­build­ing, now one of the cot­tages, with tres­tle ta­bles piled high with cut daf­fodils. ‘It was where the farm’s flow­ers were sorted and bun­dled be­fore be­ing sent to the mar­kets. Pears has also learnt more about her own fam­ily his­tory. ‘It was only af­ter mov­ing here that I found out that my fa­ther’s side of the fam­ily were Cor­nish tin min­ers, who moved to the north east when the tin in­dus­try fell into de­cline.’

Along­side the hol­i­day cot­tages, one of the barns has been con­verted into a Pi­lates stu­dio, where Pears now teaches – all part of their plan for Mid­dle Colenso. ‘I wasn’t sure how much de­mand there would be in such a ru­ral area, but it’s been very busy and I’m run­ning res­i­den­tial cour­ses later in the year,’ she says.

As for the farm­house, the build­ing’s char­ac­ter has changed in the past five years – much like the cou­ple’s feel­ings about it. ‘We didn’t set out with a “per­fect” house in mind – we knew we needed to be flex­i­ble,’ says Pears. ‘But in many ways this has be­come our per­fect house, be­cause we’ve de­signed it to suit how we live and have filled it with ob­jects that we love.’

The three cot­tages at Mid­dle Colenso Farm are avail­able to book through Clas­sic Cot­tages (clas­sic.co.uk)

Pre­vi­ous page A green Ernest Race DA1 arm­chair – found on ebay, then cov­ered – sits be­side a Mi­lano rug by Mourne Tex­tiles. The Gräshoppa floor lamp is by Gubi and the stool is Al­var Aalto for Artek; Penguin pa­per­backs are lined up on shelves made from Di­ne­sen floor­ing. This page, clock­wise from main In the beamed liv­ing room, the cof­fee ta­ble, by Sev­erin Hansen for Haslev, has leather-cov­ered sec­tions that ex­tend from each end to ac­com­mo­date hot drinks (‘An ex­am­ple of how Dan­ish do­mes­tic de­sign was very prac­ti­cal,’ says Chris­ten Pears, pic­tured). The Bum­ling pen­dant is by An­ders Pehrson for Ateljé Lyk­tan; in the kitchen, ce­ram­ics and a chop­ping board bought lo­cally sit next to Robert Welch’s tea set. The Car­rara­mar­ble work­top and tiles are from Man­darin Stone; the front of the farm­house; an ad­ja­cent barn pro­vides an ex­tra space for re­lax­ing or en­ter­tain­ing. The arm­chairs are Hans J Weg­ner’s GE 290 for Ge­tama and Børge Mo­gensen’s Span­ish chair (cen­tre); the scullery has an old-fash­ioned feel, with tiles from Fired Earth and units painted in Yeabridge Green by Far­row & Ball. The tea tow­els and brushes are from No56 in Pen­zance

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