Country Living (UK)

A COLLECTOR’S LOT

An 18th-century converted farm cottage in Somerset is filled with the owner’s carefully curated treasures

- words by jane stacey photograph­s by huntley hedworth styling by ben kendrick

The artistic eye of Susie Smith is evident in every corner of her 18th-century farm cottage in the Somerset village of Batheaston. Vivid paintings hang on the walls, floors are scattered with brightly coloured rugs, and open cupboards and shelves are home to carefully curated displays. “I like surroundin­g myself with pieces that aren’t worth anything but are precious to me, picked up over the years in junk shops and while on holiday. I deliberate­ly put different objects and textures together. A ceramic sheep bordering on kitsch and a beautiful piece of coral, for instance,” Susie says, pointing to a curio-filled shelf above the dining table. “I love the serendipit­ous juxtaposit­ion of pieces. I’ve got cupboards full of stuff that I’ll wheel out to change things around occasional­ly.”

As a calm backdrop to her “installati­ons”, as Susie jokingly calls them, she has painted the whole house in pale colours. “I wanted the rooms to flow into each other, so I’ve chosen white, neutrals and soft greys, adding colour with rugs, chairs and cushions.” She follows the sunlight around her house as each day progresses, spending the morning painting in the kitchen, before moving on to her sitting room to read, and then changing position again to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine that floods the top of the house. “It is so peaceful and quiet,” she says.

But this former farm cottage hasn’t always been so light or so colourful. When Susie first viewed the property in 2007, it was still part of a working farm, and the outbuildin­g that now forms her kitchen was just a tractor shed. “The top part of what is now my garden was hard-standing for the tractors and we had to drill down quite a way to get to the soil beneath,” she says. The

main farmhouse was built in the 17th century and added to over the years, with Susie’s cottage an 18th-century addition. “It was a bit of a rabbit warren inside; lots of small, dark rooms leading into one another. But I could see that there was actually a lot of space, especially downstairs,” Susie says. “It had been rented out to a series of tenants, so perhaps inevitably it had an unloved, neglected feel.” With her grown-up children in homes of their own, she saw the scope for a house that would provide space for painting, reading and entertaini­ng. “There was a large, sad-looking piece of south-facing land, which I knew I could shape and turn into somewhere special over time,” she adds.

The first space Susie tackled was the kitchen. The original one was divided from the dining area by a huge wall containing a fireplace with a mezzanine floor – a set-up that Susie initially thought charming. “It felt enchanting and cosy when I moved in, but it soon became apparent that it just didn’t work. Both the dining room and the kitchen were dark because there was only one small window in each room,” she says. An architect friend helped her develop ideas for the two rooms, which were knocked through into one large space. The mezzanine floor was removed, the kitchen window enlarged and a French window installed in place of the old dining room window. Roof lights were also added to bring in even more daylight.

The existing solid-wood kitchen cupboard carcasses were kept because they were well made, but were repainted and given new handles; a couple of the doors were also removed to create some open shelving. “The wood worksurfac­e was a bit rough, but we just sanded that down and it’s fine,” says Susie, who also added glazed wall cupboards made from windows that were salvaged when work was done on a friend’s cottage – another opportunit­y to artfully display the collection­s of items that delight her.

“I prefer making do and taking on any changes gradually,” says Susie, who, over the years, has had the roof retiled and a staircase opened up to the top floor, where she has created an extra bathroom. Now, her own paintings hang on the walls, alongside those of her artist son and friends. And, in every room, she has added shelves or display cabinets – or found little nooks – to add pops of colour with much-loved objects – a row of orange paperbacks lined up in the crook of the stairs; a vintage blue and white dinner service in the bedroom; yellow china on the hall table that complement­s the linen toile curtains; even a group of stuffed birds and figurines in the downstairs cloakroom. These are the clever curated touches of someone who understand­s colour and shape – and how to use them to create a character-filled home.

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 ??  ?? Staffordsh­ire dogs keep guard on top of glazed cupboards, which display Susie’s collection of Victorian pottery and plates. The pale woodwork is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pavilion Grey and the darker unit in Mole’s Breath. The dolls’ house, purchased from a junk shop in Bath, is for Susie’s grandchild­ren to play with when they visit; rooflights and new, larger windows give the old farmhouse a more airy feel
Staffordsh­ire dogs keep guard on top of glazed cupboards, which display Susie’s collection of Victorian pottery and plates. The pale woodwork is painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pavilion Grey and the darker unit in Mole’s Breath. The dolls’ house, purchased from a junk shop in Bath, is for Susie’s grandchild­ren to play with when they visit; rooflights and new, larger windows give the old farmhouse a more airy feel
 ??  ?? Susie made the coffee table from a workshop bench, cutting down its legs and painting it
Susie made the coffee table from a workshop bench, cutting down its legs and painting it
 ??  ?? The downstairs splashes of bright colour give way to gentler shades of blue upstairs. In this guest bedroom, striped cushions are arranged on the window seats, and swags of fabric soften the tops of the Georgian windows, lending the space a tranquil air The collection­s continue in Susie’s bedroom, where a display cabinet houses pieces from an old French blue and white dinner service
The downstairs splashes of bright colour give way to gentler shades of blue upstairs. In this guest bedroom, striped cushions are arranged on the window seats, and swags of fabric soften the tops of the Georgian windows, lending the space a tranquil air The collection­s continue in Susie’s bedroom, where a display cabinet houses pieces from an old French blue and white dinner service

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