IN our previous house we often felt not that we needed more garden necessarily, but that we were a bit
IN our previous house we often felt not that we needed more garden necessarily, but that we were a bit hemmed in between houses. In truth we were spoiled.
We had a wonderful house with an ample-sized garden. It’s just that somehow it wasn’t us. We’d outgrown it, and so we moved on.
The current house isn’t any bigger than the first in terms of floor space and it certainly is a lot more needy, but it seems to breathe in its surroundings, and with it so do we. Every day that we live here, I can’t believe how lucky we are.
There are some people who win every competition going — prize draws, bingo the lot. Well that’s not us. We have never won a sausage. Or even a chipolata. So to live somewhere we truly treasure makes our lives feel really special. And yet it’s not the size of the garden (it’s a good size — maybe a bit too big, even for me!) that drew us to the house. It just fits us and our lifestyle absolutely perfectly.
The balance between house and garden, inside and outside, the location (just on the outskirts of the village whilst still allowing us to walk everywhere safely), the views, the privacy of the garden...I could go on. We no longer need to go on holiday, we have our own perfect idyll right here.
But it’s really not the kind of place that everyone would want to live in. It really isn’t that pretty at all. What I am getting at is that a garden or a house does not have to be big and ostentatious and with everything finished perfectly, to be perfect for you.
One of my first proper memories from my childhood involved a friend’s house. Her mother was a single mum, with three children to look after. They lived in a teeny council house on a run-of-the-mill street, but her house was one of the most striking I had ever seen. She clearly had a great eye as everything was stylish and coordinated. A mixture of cheap and cheerful and the odd cleverly-chosen bit of fabric or ornament made the house a delight. The garden was simple, neat and pretty.
The whole thing said to me that no matter what your circumstances you can make your house a home. You just have to know what you like and what you need — to care a bit.
As a garden designer it can sometimes be tricky to get this personal touch when you are designing for someone you hardly know, but I make it the foundation of what I do. A successful project would be one where I’ve created a space for a client that is truly suited to them, their lifestyle and tastes.
All of us can create this, in our homes and in our gardens. Even with the smallest of spaces it’s good to think about what we need that space to do for us — a place to eat, to relax in, to grow in, or simply just to be in.
We can create something that makes us feel good whenever we are in it. Keep things simple, focus on a few things that are important and include those as your building blocks, embellishing only once the foundations are in place.
Over the bank holiday weekend we visited 2, Willow Road in Hampstead, the creation and former home of Erno Goldfinger, now protected and cared for in its original form by the National Trust.
Goldfinger, an architect and one of the fathers of Modernism, lived in what is a truly modest abode (albeit in one of the loveliest parts of London these days) with his family for most of his life. The design of the house allowed him to do everything he could have needed — cook, eat, relax, entertain, work, be outdoors and daydream. Whilst it is Modernist in style it’s also Shakeresque in concept. There’s nothing ostentatious, nothing that isn’t useful. The result is a beautiful, unique and timeless home, entirely tailored to his life.
There isn’t a lot of outside space, the windows of the house span the whole frontage, providing uninterrupted views of the heath and somehow making the space feel more roomy.
The back of the house has floor-to-ceiling windows, right across again, with doors that open back entirely to truly connect you with the landscape — the original bi-fold doors, I believe. And many of the walls of the house, particularly on the first floor (which houses the main living rooms), move around and even fold back to open up the space completely, allowing whomever lives there to tailor the space to the occasion.
A truly special place this is, and worth a visit for anyone in need of inspiration for their own home.
I’m conscious that it may appear that this article doesn’t focus that much on gardens. But what I am hoping has become apparent is that the garden is as much a part of the home as the house itself and is often forgotten or left out of sight and out of mind.
Even when we are inside we can experience the outside and vice versa. It doesn’t matter how big or small your castle, it’s making it your own that’s important.
lJennie Herrington runs The Green Room Garden and Interior Design in Wargrave. Call 0118 940 4204, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.jennieherrington.co.uk