Giewing his future home for the first time, Paul Reeve was struck by the two lime trees at the doubIe gated entrance. ’It had the most amazing kerb appeal I was sold before we even stepped inside,’ he says. Built in 1984 by a local master stonemason, using material salvaged from a nearby barn, the house offered both modern comforts and traditional charm. ’The look is almost Jacobean, but the structure is new, with benefits you don’t automatically get from period homes, like double glazing and central heating,’ says Paul. Unfortunately, while the decor was nice enough, the interior lost points in terms of space and flow. For Paul and Sue, who love to entertain at home, the small kitchen and separate formal dining room just didn’t work, but it was the orangery that eventually set major renovation plans in motion. ’You couldn’t get to it from the kitchen or dining room, and you had to trek right through the house to enjoy the garden views,’ he says.
The solution involved the removal of several internal walls and the addition of a small extension. ’We ended up with one, much larger L shaped room. Crucially, the kitchen was at its heart,’ says Paul. ’We thought we wanted a bespoke kitchen but when we popped into our local builders’ merchants and met in house kitchen designer Sue Crewe, we were blown away by her spatial planning skills. She showed us we could get everything we wanted using cabinets from a set range.’ By far the biggest challenge was deciding exactly how to arrange the newly achieved space to ensure Paul and Sue could cook together, without getting under each other’s feet. With the designer’s help, the couple settled on a long island unit, stretching nearly four metres, with a separate butcher’s block at one end. The usual advice is to allow a one metre wide walkway between an island and perimeter units or walls to ensure smooth traffic flow. ’We increased the distance to 1.2m wide, which may not sound significant but it meant we could pass each other with ease,’ says Paul. They also went oti—piste with their colour palette. ’Most of the options these days tend to be very neutral but we wanted a bit of colour. The blue shade feels fresh and uplifting] says Paul, who can now happily say that the inside of his home more than lives up to the outside.
The newly created room is an L-shape, with the kitchen and sofa area in the longest run, overlooking the haIf-acre of garden.The dining area is in the shortest run, with the pantry and fridge freezer located next to the dining table, making it easy to gather breakfast foods. There is a separate utility for storing bigger cleaning kit, such as the mop,vacuum, ironing board and clothes airer. Having grown up with an Aga, Paul oves the comforting ambient heat it provides
Unlike sliding or French doors, bifold designs stack neatly out of the way for easy, open access to the garden perfect for entertaining alfresco in summertime.
Aim to have as few doors as possible for uninterru pted views when the doors are closed. If everyday access is required, make sure there is a single lead door that can be opened without having to slide and stack the whole set. Finish with floor Iength curtains to make it cosy in the winter.
Paul can often be found prepping ingredients at this chunky end—grain chopping block that tucks neatly onto the end of the island. End grain surfaces are made by cutting the timber into blocks and gluing them together with the end grain pointing upwards. During cutting, the fibres absorb the impact of the knife blade, so the surface is much more durable than horizontal blocks. ’We like the way it breaks up the long island unit, bringing in a freestanding element and giving the kitchen a relaxed feel,’ says Paul.
While wallpaper is never going to be as easy to clean as tiles, you will avoid the issue of grubby grout and it’s a great way to introduce pattern. Best of all, if you fancy a change, replacing wallpaper is far simpler than retiling. Here, the worktops are extra—deep, which gives the wallpaper a little more protection from splashes. The Reeves also chose a washable design that’s suitable for well ventilated kitchens and bathrooms. For added peace of mind, you could finish it off with a coat of Polyvine Decorators Varnish.
Few of us expect to read an account of our gardens written by a previous owner so when Jean and Steve Jackman bought Five Oaks Cottage near Petworth in West Sussex, they were excited to discover that Mabel Constanduros, actress, playwright and radio celebrity of the 19405 had described living there in her memoir Shreds and Patches. ’She talks about "pale pink sweet—smelling violets", and "primroses on the banks under the nut trees",’ says Jean. The violets still glow bright in the dusk and the primroses self—seed wherever they will. WhatJean now describes as ’an acre of delicate jungle’, full of playful charm, unusual plants and striking gardenalia, was farfrom magical when the couple first viewed it in 1993: ’It was sterile, with just a few shrubs including two electric—blue hydrangeas, coloured by the acid soil,’ says Jean. ’However, it did have the five wonderful oaks that give the house its name.’ Though they both liked the way the garden wrapped right around the house, Jean felt it might be too shady to grow plants well. ’Nowadays I love the shade,’ she says.
Jean was working as a plant buyer at a garden centre when she and Steve moved in, bringing her collection of unusual shrubs. Their first project was a fenced vegetable patch. ’We love to grow salads and vegetables and knew the local deer were going to be a challenge. Now the garden is mature they do far less damage and I like hearing them snorting and rutting in the valley in autumn,’ says Jean. ’My aim was to make a garden for wildlife and to divide it into differently styled areas. I originally wanted colour—themed areas but I’m not disciplined enough, and the natural evolution through self—seeding fascinates me so I don’t like to be too controlling.’ Areas were gradually shaped and planted, incorporating plenty of places to sit and enjoy the space. When she was made
WE LOVE THE WlLD LlFE SOUNDS
Rusty old tools, like spanners and wrenches, get a new lease of life made into decorative gates
All sorts of materials usually seen as rubbish can be used to create textu re and interest outdoors. The redundant, Jean began her own nursery, specialising in insect
attracting wild flowers and plants. ’The raised beds outside the back door are remnants of the nursery that I filled with rubbly soil when I stopped selling. I use them for things that need good on|y limit is your imagination...
drainage and don’t like the sticky acid clay we have elsewhere.’ . Choose materials with patina: old Silver and grey leaved plants th rive here, as does the terracotta or pottery, rusty metal, intoxicatingly fragrant Daphne bho/ua ’Jacqueline Postill’. Shells: driﬁWOOd or empty bottles. About 15 years ago, Jean and Steve started to leave some - Use redundant containers as areas of the lawn uncut to encourage wildlife. These buzz with Planters“ Old alrbrles o'terracoua pipes for succulents; large olive oil actIVIty In July as bees, hoverflles and butterflies feast on the cans filled with herbs. knapweed and common hogweed now flourishing in the resulting
meadow. From the house, the long grass and wild flowers stand out against a dark, gently undulating, woven hazel hedge that echoes the form of the South Downs beyond. Create patterns or simple images on blank walls with pieces of metal, pebbles or bits of stone.
Influenced by Ivan Hicks’ Garden in Mind in Hampshire, and broken china;string a con of Keith Wiley, former head gardener at the Garden House in Devon, metal with holed pebbleS.or Jean likes to clear the lower stems and branches of shrubs and aﬂaCh Pieces Of C°loured glass trees to emphasise shapes or to lift their canopies. Black—stemmed and hang 't from a tree' bamboo Phyl/ostachys nigra and golden P. vivaX ’Aureocaulis’ have lower side shoots removed, revealing smooth, gleaming culms. Jean’s favourite garden is Sarah Raven’s at Perch Hill in East Sussex: ’I love the way she uses colour and can surprise you with ' Old tools look striking tied to a
simple chicken-wire fence or gate. ' Use old wooden stepladders, or an old wooden shelving unit on a wa||,to display pots of succulents a bright pink seat, or green flowers, or a fantastic display of gourds or small bulbs at eye level. in the reenhouse. It’s so imaginative and a visit always inspires me . Use repetition: bigger groups of
to go home and review my own garden with fresh enthusiasm.’ similarthings are always more Five Oaks Cottage is not short of imaginative touches, too, eﬁedive than J'USt one or two- like the gates and fences made by Steve, using vintage garden tools, or the galvanised drinkers and watering cans that create a still—life on a flat roof. Faces made from the rims of sieves and bits of wood bring a plain wall to life while Steve’s metal cut outs of hens, cats and rabbits are fixed to fences and gates. Even rusty old toys rescued from a vehicle the couple flagged down on its
way to the tip are used as decorative props. Jean and Steve’s love of quirky things has now extended into their working lives. The couple run the Floral Fringe Fair, an annual event which brings together specialist plant nurseries, wildlife stalls, local
makers and artists, vintage style, live music and good food, held in June in the nearby village of Amberley. Jean revels in strangely scented plants like pink flowered bedstraw, Phuopsis sty/osa, which is supposed to smell of foxes, and Himalayan balsam, Impatiens glandu/ifera. ’lts seed head has a strange incensey smell.| like the way it pops up in places that Iwouldn’t have planted it, and it’s really valuable for bees in July and August’. She loves thistly plants like teasels, particularly the small flowered Dipsacus pi/osus, and umbellifers too, like angelicas, Feru/a communis, and striking greeny yellow Smyrnium perfo/iatum. Nowadays Jean sees herself as a steward ofthe garden, facilitating nature’s design and editing where necessary. ’In spring lwork hard taking out things growing in the wrong place.’ She is inspired by the philosophies of landscape designers such as American Rick Darke whose exhortation to ’listen to the garden’ strikes a chord: ’| thinkthat’s what I’ve been doing all along.’ Five Oaks Cottage, near Petworth, West Sussex opens in aid of the National Garden Scheme (ngs.org.uk) in July, by appointment.