Are you the sort of house hunter who knows straight away whether it is ‘the one’ or not? This was very much the case for Jo Beavan who runs her successful online ceramic oven to tableware business Polkadot Parsley. Jo and her husband Simon who is a chartered civil engineer, have a long-standing love of France and of period homes. So when Jo spotted an Oxfordshire farmhouse for sale with a Georgian frontage and a French-style walled garden, the contracts were as good as signed. The only slight sticking point was that their own family house wasn’t on the market yet…
Speedy lockdown house move
Not only was their house not on the market, but they saw the farmhouse in the dark days of December 2020 in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
A process that might normally have dragged on, all just fell into place as if it was meant to be. The urgency in the market meant that Jo and Simon sold their house within a week and had moved with their two daughters into the farmhouse three months later, “just as a sea of daffodils enveloped the house at Easter,” says Jo.
House and garden tour
A few weeks after moving in, Jo kindly invited me to look round the house and garden. It was a great privilege to see the house at this turning point in its history. The frontage of the 5 bedroom Grade II listed farmhouse is Georgian but belies a much older house and barn with areas that date back to the 15th Century.
The house really feels like it had been a much loved family home. What is interesting too is how perfectly Jo’s furniture and accessories have slotted into place as if they had always been there.
The house more than provides all the storage for the practicalities of family life including boot room, enormous utility room and pantry (which is a room not a cupboard) and walk-in wardrobe.
Jo says, “I almost bought the house for the pantry alone and especially this bespoke wall-to-wall storage unit which the previous owners kindly left us.”
Love of history
Jo has a love of history and has a great eye for vintage and antiques. Jo knew that I would also appreciate the juxtaposition of historical domestic details in the house. Particularly because some of these interior design trends have come back round again.
Vintage Laura Ashley wallpapers
The house has several 1970s/80s ditsy floral Laura Ashley wallpapers and borders. Apart from recognising some of the designs, we can actually date them to the day they were bought because Jo found a bag of leftover wallpapers in the house which also contained the previous owner’s Laura Ashley receipt.
At this time, Laura Ashley was a truly influential global empire. The successful fashion brand of the 1970s had translated into the home in the ’80s with effortless style. In the early days before they started manufacturing their own furniture, the colour palettes and designs worked well not only with British light but with both vintage and antique furniture. People were seduced by the aspirational catalogues which reflected the whimsical nature of the brand. And to put it simply, people wanted it in their homes because it represented soulful design at an affordable price.
11 December 1986
On 11 December 1986 Jo was living with her parents in Swallowfield, Berkshire who coincidentally had one of the above wallpapers in their dining room. Jo commuted to London every day to work for the celebrity hairdresser Joshua Galvin as a colourist while Simon (although Jo hadn’t met him yet) was studying property development at Trent Polytechnic.
On that same day, we know (rather sleuth-like from the receipt) the previous owner of the farmhouse would have driven into Reading from the Oxfordshire farmhouse to visit Laura Ashley’s Broad Street shop to buy new wallpapers and borders.
1970s kitchen design
Other areas that caught my eye were the cosy Aga which nestled amongst some 1970s German kitchen cabinets that are all still in good condition.
Matchy matchy styling
There is also a splendid example of 1980s ‘matchy matchy’ wallpaper and curtain styling in a bedroom. I highlight it because it is one of the trends from this time that is gaining popularity again with interior designers.
1960s exterior paint colours?
We wondered whether the now soft primrose paint used on all of the exterior doors might have been the height of ‘Doris Day’ fashion at the time it was done. Having said that, yellows were a popular choice particularly in the 1980s too.
In time, Jo may choose to change aspects of the decoration and the way the house functions but that doesn’t stop her from appreciating for now the style in which this very old house has travelled the centuries.
Secret spring garden
Magical gardens wrap around the house with different areas from a vegetable garden with greenhouse, which is overlooked by a large garage building with windows and verandah, to areas beneath the stone barn wall which has a very evocative French feel.
House and garden plans
Jo and Simon have some exciting plans for the house and garden but are going to take their time about deciding how best to implement them. In the meantime, rather than finding unpacking boxes a burdonsome exercise Jo says, “Every time I open one, I always think it is better than Christmas as I rediscover all the possessions I love and get excited about where I am going to put them!”
Thank you so much Jo for showing us around your beautiful new home and I wish you and your family every happiness in it.
If you have a house you would like featured in a magazine or newspaper or need help with any design aspect of your home interiors, please contact me regarding my affordable interior design service Styling Box. I would love to hear from you.
With best wishes,