House and garden tour: Indigo Rye owner Karen Kennedy shows me round her inspiring Oxfordshire home

Well before the UK design community had reconsidered Moroccan pattern and encaustic tiles as desirable for the home, Karen Kennedy, owner of Indigo Rye had them up as the surround to her reception desk in her hairdressing salon. Hanging above the desk are a couple of punched metal Moroccan pendent lights from Liberty. Not only that, but Niki-Jones home cushions sit on window seats either side of the front door to the salon and literally scream ‘come inside’ to the passers by of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. At least they do to those of us sensitive to exquisite decorative home accessories … !

Karen Kennedy is the founding owner of Indigo Rye in Caversham, Berkshire and Wallingford in Oxfordshire and has created exactly the sort of escape for an hour or two, away from the hustle and bustle of busy lives that means her customers just keep coming back year after year.

Impressively, Karen started the business from scratch 18 years ago and from the time it opened, it was a massive success because Karen instinctively knew that good customer service combined with creating an environment her customers would be inspired by would be a winning combination. Ten years after opening, Karen invited Mike Martin and Judith Hancock to become co-owners. This all takes an enormous amount of behind the scenes work and creativity from Karen and her well hand-picked team.

I was therefore, really honoured to be invited in to Karen and Ian’s home and to be given a ‘blog worldwide exclusive’ to share with you their beautiful garden too.

House tour

We’ll start with the kitchen, dining, living space on the ground floor (just click the underlined links in the copy to find out where to source some of Karen’s amazing style) …

Entertaining space

I am sure it will come as no surprise to those that know her, that Karen’s concern that everyone should have a nice time, follows through to her home as well. Entertaining is something Karen loves doing and she has created some really inviting and unique spaces – particularly in the garden.

The commodious dresser in the open plan kitchen came with the couple from their old house but was originally bought next door to the salon at Griggs & Mackay in Caversham. Karen painted the vintage country table she bought from Ebay and chose some chairs from French Finds.

dining and kitchen

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Karen’s very pretty table set for entertaining.

Light fills the ground floor with doors and windows that look onto the garden.

dining table angle

Entertaining style

Everywhere you look there are inviting vases of flowers and here on the kitchen island, a jug of mint and lemon water with one of Karen’s favourite cookery books Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros. The ceramic wall vases in the kitchen were bought on a holiday to South Africa.

Kitchen design

Luckily, Karen inherited a really well-made Shaker style kitchen from the previous owners, but Karen redecorated once she had taken down an internal wall at the other end of the room. Getting the right shade of paint for walls can take several goes. Karen says “I bought over 30 testers because of the light – they were either too lilac, too blue or too green but finally I chose Designer Guild’s Polished Cement No 21 which gave a nice flat grey.”

corner kitchen with window

The kitchen has low-level wooden cupboards with small Shaker-style knobs, black granite work top, high gloss handmade tile splash back, thick oak floating shelves to display a collection of white ceramics which includes Brissi vase with large ceramic flower and Sophie Conran china.

kitchen units

kitchen shelves angle good

From garden to table

A bounty of homegrown food and flowers brought from garden straight to the table …

Dark interiors decorating trend

Karen chose to go with the current fashionable ‘dark’ decorating trend when it came to painting the sitting room at the back of the house. The walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s ‘Downpipe’ grey. Karen pulled the scheme together with light grey and aubergine velvet upholstery and interlined thick linen curtains and Roman blind in a charcoal, light grey and white rose print. The glass cabinet next to the sofa in the main shot was from Graham and Green and the sofas are from The Conran Shop. 

Grey room 2

Perfect light and symmetry

The couple decided to have a wall taken down which had created a small side room off the kitchen/dining room. This instantly improved the light and made one huge kitchen/dining/living room with fireplace extending the whole width of the house (below).

The blue print roman blinds are made from Bizansio fabric (now only available in charcoal colour way) at Andrew Martin and the fashionable round mirror is from Brissi and the armchairs were from Graham and Green. Miniature Schnauzers Wilma and Winnie complete the symmetry with cosy fleecy beds by the log burning stove. Woof.

Symmetry cupboard

round mirror one chair

Dressing room heaven

Karen’s nieces and god-daughters absolutely love coming to Karen’s house because they are given permission to play dressing up in her rather fabulous walk in wardrobe/dressing room! The walls were painted in ‘Slate’ by Wickes.  The French style bed was from The French Furniture Company  which is beautifully made up from White Company linen and Designers Guild silk stripe cushions.

Display ideas

The TV room at the front of the house is where Karen and Ian gravitate in the evenings. Karen displays picture and prints with narrow picture rails which were made by the same carpenter who made the shelves and cupboards. (Similar picture rails available from IKEA).

TV room

Karen’s welcoming hall with oriental style lacquered console table and black Venetian mirror makes use of a small recess for display shelves.

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Designer wallpaper

Inspired by my Scottish Style post on the blog in January, Karen sourced this designer White Moth Circles wallpaper from Glasgow based Timorous Beasties for her downstairs loo. Hoorah! It works really well with the basin and tiles and the pretty circular mirror from Griggs & Mackay.

Garden tour

When Karen and Ian (who works in the financial industry for Siemens) moved with their two miniature schnauzers, Winnie and Wilma to their Georgian house three years ago the garden was rather plain and a bit of a blank canvas. With bags of ideas – although Karen admits at the time little knowledge of plants – Karen employed two guys to completely strip out the garden and build it from scratch. Karen marked out where she wanted everything with a white spray can. “I am now passionate about plants and find myself having lots of conversations about them with customers.”

The lawn leads down to a section near the end of the garden which is screened with espaliered fruit trees. Behind the trees are the raised beds containing vegetables and a cutting garden (to fill flower vases in the house). This is also where a really sweet National Trust shed sits with additional table and chairs. On the right hand side of the garden near the old wall is a waterfall feature and an extremely stylish sunken fire pit seating area and a really beautiful outdoor dining area with pizza oven – all perfect for entertaining outdoors.

geranium bed

Containers for plants

Vintage garden chairs, with pom pom throws. Plants dress the patio in various pots from baskets, to galvanised basins and glazed terracotta.

backs of 2 garden chairs

You can pick up recycled french wash tubs (below) from Fanny’s Antiques Reading (Tel: 0118 950 8261 and at the antique shops in Lille Road, London SW6. Garden Trading also stock reproduction ones but they are so popular they go out of stock pretty quickly!

Waterfall feature

Karen and Ian moved from a house in the countryside where not a sound could be heard in the garden and although they now live in a village, there is the occasional sound of traffic in the lane next to the garden. To counteract this, Karen came up with the idea for a water feature which would distract from the odd car noise. The tiles although not outdoor have been sealed so that they can be and the whole effect is stunning. The softness of the pale blue stars looks quite magical amongst all the greenery (a stronger colour/design would have jumped out at you and not have worked as well) and the lapping of water is very soothing …

waterfall almost front

Tiles for water feature, similar available from London Encaustic.com.

tiles and waterfall

Raised beds

Karen came up with the idea of using painted decking for the raised borders. The effect is more feminine than using recycled sleepers. Sweetpeas entwine with pink roses on wooden topiary frames.

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Herbal fragrance

Thyme flowers grow between slate stepping stones near the firepit.

thyme closeup

Mixed border

mixed bed pretty

Vintage style shed

Karen chose a ‘Felbrigg’ shed from Crane Garden buildings’ National Trust range and managed to buy it end of season at a reduced price. It looks so incredibly sweet next to the raised beds where Karen grows vegetables and has a cutting garden for flowers for the house. It’s another spot too, for cafe-style table and chairs.

karen shed and beds

Outdoor pizza oven

Karen designed this area with stepping stones and box balls – leading you to this wonderful outdoor dining area with pizza oven.

Pizza Oven. Photo: Karen Kennedy for Charis White Blog
Karen and Ian’s pizza oven and outdoor entertaining area.

Firepit – chillin’

The fabulous firepit is dug into the ground a little and creates a very relaxing outdoor living space.

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Karen and Ian’s outdoor firepit

Thank you so much Karen and Ian for sharing your beautiful home with us.

Charis x

Charis White, interior stylist
Charis White – interior stylist/blogger

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5 thoughts on “House and garden tour: Indigo Rye owner Karen Kennedy shows me round her inspiring Oxfordshire home

  1. Fabulous house and garden. We need to declutter! Homing in on the water feature and fire pit! Working on AA. A fire pit would be great near my bath in the woods! Don’t need a water feature there!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gorgeous – expected just to scroll down and look at the pics but was drawn in by your writing. I’m a patron (what a word!) of Indigo Rye in Wallingford, so nice to be nosey too.

    Liked by 1 person

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