At home

The beau­ti­fully re­stored Ditch­ling home of Brand­watch cre­ative di­rec­tor Katja Gar­rood

Sussex Life - - Inside - WORDS: Dun­can Hall PHO­TOS: Jim Holden

De­spite its prom­i­nent lo­ca­tion in the cen­tre of Ditch­ling, op­po­site the vil­lage church, many peo­ple have con­fessed to Katja Gar­rood that they never re­ally no­ticed her house be­fore.

That was un­til she and part­ner Giles Palmer em­barked on a long four-year project to re­store the for­mer vicarage in West Street. “We bought the house in Septem­ber 2013,” says Katja from the newly built pa­tio, which took 18 tonnes of stone brick­work to cre­ate. “We were look­ing for some­where out of Brighton, where we both work. It was the view which sold us.”

And what a view it is. From where we are sit­ting we can see a long un­bro­ken run of coun­try­side lead­ing to Ditch­ling Bea­con which tow­ers above us. The south-fac­ing gar­den – which is Katja’s next project with the sup­port of Stella Star­cke of Bloom­ing Mar­vel­lous Gar­dens and gar­dener John Tovey – catches the sun through­out the day and al­ready boasts a pond, ap­ple trees and a se­lec­tion of wild flow­ers which Katja uses to fill vases through the sum­mer.

That morn­ing the eight­month-old lawn had just been cleared of a mi­nor in­fes­ta­tion of gi­ant snails. They were the two ice cream-in­spired sculp­tures pro­vided for Brighton and Hove’s six-week Snailspace trail by its main spon­sor Brand­watch, brought down spe­cially for Sus­sex Life’s pho­to­shoot be­fore their in­stal­la­tion by the British Air­ways i360 and in the Pav­il­ion Gar­dens.

So­cial in­tel­li­gence com­pany Brand­watch was founded in Brighton in 2006 by a small team in­clud­ing its cur­rent CEO Giles and Katja who is now the cre­ative di­rec­tor. Their dig­i­tal plat­forms are used

by more than 1,400 in­ter­na­tional brands, in­clud­ing Unilever, Amer­i­can Air­lines, Whirlpool, Asos, Wal­mart, British Air­ways and Dell. Brand­watch it­self has grown to em­ploy 420 peo­ple across seven global of­fices. Its flag­ship prod­uct Brand­watch An­a­lyt­ics gath­ers mil­lions of on­line con­ver­sa­tions every day from open so­cial me­dia sources to help sup­port their clients’ own mar­ket re­search. Vizia is used to pro­vide vis­ually en­gag­ing in­sights. It will be used to give real-time in­for­ma­tion drawn from so­cial me­dia about the Snailspace trail in a win­dow dis­play at the Martlets Hos­pice shop in Brighton’s Church Street as part of the Brighton Dig­i­tal Fes­ti­val – an­other city­wide event which Brand­watch is closely in­volved with. “It has evolved to a point where peo­ple can show­case their lat­est dig­i­tal in­no­va­tions – it’s very much a fes­ti­val for the city,” says Katja who has sat on the board for four years. “We rely on Arts Coun­cil fund­ing and spon­sor­ship – and a lot of vol­un­tary work – but we des­per­ately want to make sure that we ap­peal to peo­ple from all sorts of back­grounds. It’s a tes­ta­ment to the di­ver­sity of Brighton. Snailspace is an event we know our staff will love be­ing part of, as well as of­fer­ing them lots of cre­ative op­por­tu­ni­ties. We’ve al­ways been pi­o­neers in our space, and we love that this cam­paign of­fers us a chance to re­ally cel­e­brate that spirit of in­no­va­tion.”

With so much go­ing on it’s no sur­prise that Katja de­scribes her Ditch­ling home as her sanc­tum. She has de­signed it to be com­fort­able and ro­bust par­tic­u­larly as she shares it with two teenagers and her “clumsy” 6ft 5in part­ner.

Key to Katja’s de­sign of the house was a syn­ergy be­tween the old and the new. Orig­i­nally built as two semi-de­tached houses, the one-time Sill­wood House is thought to have be­come one house in the mid-19th cen­tury

and un­der­gone many re­fur­bish­ments and mod­erni­sa­tions over the years. One of its more un­usual in­hab­i­tants – un­cov­ered by the Ditch­ling His­tory Project – was Ada Bot­ting-tup­pen, who made her maid dress up in sev­eral dif­fer­ent out­fits every day to make out­siders think she could af­ford a house­ful of ser­vants.

Now Grade II listed, some of the changes to the house are ob­vi­ous, such as the pro­tected stair­case which goes nowhere in Katja’s stu­dio and dou­bles up as use­ful shelves. The big­gest new ad­di­tion to the house is a squar­ing off of the western wing where once there was just a flat roofed liv­ing room ex­ten­sion. Now it is home to the kitchen and mas­ter bed­room. Seam­less tran­si­tions like this helped earn the re­fur­bish­ment a re­gional award at the 2018 LABC Build­ing Ex­cel­lence Awards and a Sus­sex Her­itage Trust Award.

It didn’t come with­out a lot of hard work and dis­rup­tion though. Hav­ing spent 18 months liv­ing in the house the fam­ily moved out to Giles’ Brighton flat, and builders Nut­shell Con­struc­tion and the ar­chi­tec­tural team Ci­tyzen De­sign moved in. Ar­chi­tec­tural tech­nol­o­gist John Smith worked with Katja to make her ideas a re­al­ity. “As a fam­ily liv­ing in 2018 we wanted a place that was go­ing to suit our style of liv­ing to­day,” says Katja. “It was a col­lab­o­ra­tion that worked re­ally well. There was a great team spirit among the builders – they fell in love with the house and were re­ally re­spect­ful and care­ful.”

“This build­ing has been around for 300 years, we want it to stick around for an­other 300 years”

After two years of wran­gling with the plan­ning au­thor­i­ties the house was stripped back to a shell, with all the ex­ist­ing plumb­ing, electrics and heat­ing re­moved. “We tried to be as smart and en­ergy ef­fi­cient as we could,” says Katja, who ad­mits to bat­tling with the con­ser­va­tion­ists over in­stalling dou­ble glaz­ing. “We wanted to be re­spect­ful to the his­tory ab­so­lutely, but we wanted to be pro­gres­sive. The Vic­to­ri­ans lived with no cen­tral heat­ing and small win­dows – but that’s not how we live to­day. Why should we be forced to stay in the past? This build­ing has been around for 300 years, we want it to be around for an­other 300 years.”

While the fam­ily was liv­ing off­site, Giles and Katja took half a day off every week for a site meet­ing with the builders. “I was jug­gling full-time work and fam­ily with sourc­ing taps and tiles, mak­ing re­ally big de­ci­sions which some­times felt re­ally scary,” says Katja. “If you made a de­ci­sion in a rush it could have real con­se­quences. It helped that we had a vi­sion and a sense of style about what we wanted to cre­ate.”

On their web­site Ci­tyzen De­sign sum up the work as “you name it, it needed it”. As well as the western ex­ten­sion they spent a lot of time re­build­ing an un­sta­ble out­build­ing which is now con­nected to the east of the build­ing, act­ing al­most like an an­nexe. Every room was re­fur­bished and re­newed, with steels added to the old struc­ture. One cos­metic el­e­ment was mak­ing the colour of the house grey to com­ple­ment the light in the UK. “I must have gone through 55 dif­fer­ent shades of grey,” laughs Katja, who con­fesses to hav­ing OCD – Ob­ses­sive Colour Dis­or­der. “I love colour and how a brand’s per­sona evolves around its colours. For some of the up­stairs rooms I picked a par­tic­u­lar shade of grey. We turned up to see the painters look­ing so gloomy with their brushes putting the colour on. We had to make it three shades lighter.

“The out­side took a long time to paint as we were try­ing to match a Far­row and Ball shade – it ended up look­ing lilac so we had to use the orig­i­nal Far­row and Ball colour am­monite. When we bought the house the walls were pale yel­low and the pil­lars and win­dow frames were white. There was a charm about it, but I wasn’t a fan of the pil­lars, so I de­cided to knock them back with one colour. Grey changes with the light.”

The grey car­ries on in­side, with the liv­ing room painted a dark grey in a coun­ter­in­tu­itive move to make it cosy and per­fect for watch­ing tele­vi­sion on a drop-down pro­jec­tor screen. The smoked oak wooden floors on the ground floor, from Hove’s

“On their web­site Ci­tyzen De­sign sum up the work as ‘You name it, it needed it’”

Ocean Floor­ing, make for easy move­ment from out­side to in­side with­out wor­ry­ing about ru­ined car­pets, while the bath­rooms all fol­low a sim­i­lar de­sign and style us­ing Ital­ian-honed mar­ble sourced from Brighton’s Tile De­pot and taps from Brook­lyn­based Water­mark. Other in­no­va­tions in­clude a stun­ning ver­ti­cal light fit­ting by the main stair­case – orig­i­nally de­signed by Katja us­ing wa­ter-filled bal­loons – and neat de­sign touches such as a util­ity room sink by Wor­thing stone­ma­sons Fran­cis Tate Mar­ble Works made by re­pur­pos­ing an old trough found in the gar­den.

That’s not to say the fam­ily didn’t make the odd mis­take. Katja bought a vel­vet sofa feel­ing that it would age grace­fully with the house as in so many stately homes – but didn’t count on it get­ting milk spilt on it in the first week. She’s now look­ing for more fur­ni­ture and wall dec­o­ra­tions. “It’s the fun bit,” she says. “It all has to fit into the big­ger pic­ture and tie to­gether.” She has been ex­plor­ing the likes of Lewes’ vin­tage store Lovely and Co for suit­able finds.

“I love my stu­dio,” she says of her favourite space in the house. “I’m quite sen­ti­men­tal, but I can be­come a ter­ri­ble hoarder. My part­ner is very un­sen­ti­men­tal and keeps me in check. But that room means I can have my lit­tle Syl­va­nian rab­bits with their nib­bled ears on dis­play. Vir­ginia Woolf talks about hav­ing a room of one’s own – and this is mine. It is my folly, a place I can in­dulge in my whim­si­cal thoughts and cre­ations, away from the pres­sures and re­al­ity of my job at Brand­watch. In the fu­ture I’d like to think I could qual­ify it as a work­ing stu­dio.”

HKS is a fam­ily busi­ness spe­cial­is­ing in de­sign­ing and in­stalling qual­ity fit­ted kitchens, bed­rooms, bath­rooms and stud­ies. HKS of­fer a full ser­vice in­clud­ing ini­tial sur­vey, de­sign, project man­age­ment and in­stal­la­tion as well as a ‘sup­ply only’ ser­vice and deal with a range of care­fully se­lected sup­pli­ers of­fer­ing out­stand­ing value for money to suit a wide range of bud­gets.

For 35 years HKS has been pro­vid­ing every cus­tomer with the high­est level of per­sonal ser­vice, de­sign and crafts­man­ship. HKS is an ap­proved mem­ber of the KBSA (Kitchen, Bed­room, Bath­room Spe­cial­ists As­so­ci­a­tion) mean­ing you can buy with com­plete peace of mind and be as­sured of the ut­most in pro­fes­sion­al­ism and qual­ity stan­dards.

From the first time you step into one of HKS’S four show­rooms you will be greeted by one of our de­sign­ers or sales team who will be very happy to show you around and an­swer any ques­tions that you may have.

LEFT: The re­fur­bished for­mer vicarage seen from the gar­den RIGHT: Katja Gar­rood with the pa­tio in the back­ground

ABOVE TOP: The din­ing room look­ing out over the view of Ditch­ling Bea­con LEFT: Katja’s stu­dio and pro­tected stairs ABOVE: Katja Gar­rood with Brand­watch’s snails and Fab­tas­tic Scoopa­li­cious

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