Renovation of Ivy House Farm in Froxfield
PUBLISHED: 10:04 16 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:04 16 November 2015
Renovated by the Carluccios and with a garden designed by Dan Pearson, what happened next to Ivy House Farm? Emma Caulton visits
It is almost a year since I visited Ivy House Farm, Paul Hawkins’ home, to scoff mince pies and be shown by Paul, one of the country’s leading floral decorators, how to create evergreen garlands and festive displays for a country-style Christmas feature.
Now I am back. This time to find out why, having returned relatively recently from the Cotswolds to Hampshire, the county of his childhood, Paul is on the move again. The answer seems to be property wanderlust: “I love to move every three years. I love the process of moving and finding another project.”
And he has found one: a period property, untouched for some 90 odd years, in the heart of a Meon Valley village, not too far from his current Froxfield home. However I cannot help but express incredulity that Paul could possibly want to leave his enchanting rural hideaway: a pretty flint and thatch cottage with only cows as neighbours. Ivy House Farm is special. For a start the previous owners were Antonio Carluccio (the chef) and his wife Priscilla (née Conran), who is credited with helping establish the style direction of the Conran Shop in its formative years for her brother Terence. Then there are the gardens, designed by award-winning celebrity gardener Dan Pearson - another of Hampshire’s sons.
Between Paul and the previous owners, it has had double helpings of care and attention. Priscilla and Antonio bought Ivy House Farm when it was dilapidated - its roof covered in tarpaulin, and set about restoring it. They created a home that Paul remembers: “Looked lovely, but it wasn’t me. It was very pared down, Very white. There was no kitchen here, just a sink and an oven. It was very simple and very Italian.”
It is now very cosy and very English. Paul originally trained as an interior designer with Colefax & Fowler (the epitome of country house style) and it shows. Out has gone Tuscan farmhouse simplicity and in has come English vintage country house warmth with a delightful and eclectic mix of Paul’s favourite finds (including the kitchen table discovered in the barn), combined with soft muted colours and rich fabrics while walls are crammed with oils, watercolours and prints. As Paul says, “I’ve had 30 years of collecting and inheriting bits.”
The comfort quota has been upped. A glossy black Aga has been installed in the kitchen (“It’s one of those intelligent ones that you can switch on from the other side of the world”) along with country-style kitchen furniture hand painted in Farrow & Ball’s French Gray. There are now Clearview woodburning stoves in both the sitting room and drawing room and new old-style heavy pewter cast iron radiators throughout.
The newly refurbished bathroom combines original roll top freestanding bath tub and on-trend walk-in shower with subway tiles. There’s a new en suite shower room to one of the bedrooms, and a new wet room downstairs which somehow succeeds in looking sympathetic to the character of the house.
Throughout, Ivy House Farm’s cottageyness has been enhanced. In the bedrooms, there are new oak boards in the master bedroom, original boards in another and painted boards in the third (“for a change”), as well as hand painted furniture, bespoke fitted wardrobes with country-style plank doors and big brass bedsteads. There are plenty of exposed timbers on display, including what would have originally been the back of the house which is now part of a long hallway running to the formal dining room. However Paul often entertains in the old barn –a vast vaulted space on the opposite side of the courtyard and another of Priscilla’s renovations. She lavished a fortune on it, and it now has a sprung beech floor with underfloor heating and is rigged for both cinema and sound. Paul has added a further woodburning stove and divided the space into a sitting area with deep Chesterfield sofas and a dining area with dance floor in the middle.
“That’s the great thing about this barn - it’s a space for anything. We’ve had great parties in here!”
There’s potential for the barn to be converted into separate self-contained accommodation. Paul suggests: “you could put in a kitchen at the end with two bedrooms and a bathroom on a mezzanine floor above and still not lessen the barn’s impact.”
Full height bifold doors allow the original barn entrance to be opened up to the gardens beyond – more than four acres looking romantic and just the tamed side of wild with the overgrown leftovers of summer. Dan Pearson’s legacy is evident: an orchard, a kitchen garden, a nuttery of cobnut and walnut trees, a woodland carpeted with bluebells in spring, a pond smothered in snowdrops in winter, and wild flower meadows filled with buttercups in summer, between them providing colour all year round.
Paul has developed the scheme. He has underplanted in the orchard with white foxgloves so that in spring it’s a profusion of white blossom and spikes of white blooms, and he has edged the courtyard with an elegant row of pleached limes and Annabelle hydrangeas.
“I love their clean line - they’re a nice foil to the overgrowness of the cottage garden at the front with its gunneras, which are taking over at this time of year...”
They’re also a contrast to the kitchen garden, hidden behind high hedging: “It’s so beautiful. I love the mix of fruit, flowers, vegetables and herbs.”
This is a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of a secret garden with oversized urns and a long table made from scaffolding planks - it’s lovely for lunch and magical in the evening as the sun sets. The beds are filled with alliums and artichokes, mint and thyme. There are arches of jasmine and honeysuckle, and cutting beds of greenery. The air is fragrant with the scent of dill. Even at this time of the year, when much has gone to seed, it charms: “I love the mixture and madness of it all.”
In comparison the back garden is very simple, all grass and greenery and apple trees, with a Rambling Rector rose, planted by Antonio, romping away over a spreading apple tree.
Mown walks have been cut through the fields – including one that Paul calls the long walk (“which sounds very grand”), leading down past a trio of whitebeam trees.
He knows every detail of colour and form, and whether arranging flowers, designing a garden or an interior, Paul delivers with style. He is now hoping to do it all again. Somewhere else.
• Autumn interior ideas for your Hampshire home - When there’s a nip in the air get prepared with everything you need to stay cosy right through until spring
• Visiting a stunning house in Hale - Visiting an unfamiliar corner of Hampshire, Emma Caulton is tempted by a life of solitude in a woodland wilderness