How did a self-confessed city lover end up living with no mains electricity, drawing water from a well, and with sheep for neighbours? Jo Wood says she asked herself that question every day in her first six months here. But after living in cities all over the world, the lure of the countryside proved too great to resist. Jo is CEO of her own organic beauty range, and one of her dreams was to live off grid so when this house came up, she took the plunge.
Three years on, Jo is a country convert and her old farmhouse – one of the world's best homes – and its garden are transformed.
There's an urban edge to this rural home that gives it the kind of cheeky humour, depth and sass that her friends say is so Jo. She took on a totally blank canvas, where all the walls were white, and has brought back the color and packed it full of personality. 'I wanted to bring London to the country with a mixture of old and new – Marie Antoinette and rock ‘n’ roll!’ she says.
Jo's dining room ideas for the revamped kitchen diner incorporated favorite pieces of furniture from her previous homes. Garden views through the French windows make these vintage Tolix chairs the best seats in the house. The table and chairs are from Petersham Nurseries. The chandelier is an antique.
Jo prefers the urban-loft-style look of open shelves, but says it's a struggle to keep these freestanding ones tidy.
Jo sensibly escaped the kitchen-diner refit with a trip to India. Before packing her bags, however, she talked through her kitchen ideas and layout with her carpenter, planning where everything should go. She designed the space and the shelving which is linked with scaffolding posts, painted black. ‘I knew exactly how I wanted it to look,’ she explains. ‘Open shelves had worked well for me in London and I found a Moroccan copper sink.’
When she returned from India, the new kitchen-diner was complete, just as she’d envisaged it.
A refreshing view of the garden links indoor and outdoor spaces. Open shelves ensure that everything is to hand. The grey range cooker is from Lacanche. Pink Metro tiles, Tile Giant.
Huge industrial style lights are the perfect complement to Jo’s metropolitan-look space, and came from a reclamation shop. The butchers block was an Ebay find. Jo’s son Tyrone gave her the batterie de cuisine above it. Cool Refrigerator, John Lewis of Hungerford.
Living room – mellow yellow
Jo was keen to inject colour into this room with its original inglenook, so living room ideas include a sunny yellow. Jo loves to use it alongside her favourite black furnishings to give a smart metropolitan look. Walls painted in Sudbury Yellow, Farrow & Ball. The paintings were auction buys and the George Smith sofas were bought in Los Angeles in 1978. Lamp, Vintage Shades. Leopard footstool, George Smith
The chair, also bought in LA in 1978, has been reupholstered in black velvet and makes a rock 'n' roll contrast with the ancient inglenook and weathered mantel above.
A pink-gloss ceiling reflects the light in this small boudoir-style living room. The throw and pouffe were eBay purchases. Extinctopia wallpaper in Slate, Divine Savages. Lamp, Vintage Shades. Yellow sofa, George Smith.
Hall and staircase
An earthy hue on the walls ensures a warm welcome, and Jo's hallway ideas include a gallery wall of vintage paintings and mirrors adds interest to the previously all-white home. Jo updated the blank glass banister with strips of wallpaper to give an unusual effect. Wallcovering used on stairs, Brooklyn Tin Tiles wallpaper, Rockett St George. Walls painted in Faded Terracotta, Farrow & Ball.
Anyone looking for bedroom ideas will be inspired by another of Jo's resourceful makes. The ceiling ‘beam’ in this bedroom is actually a wood-effect wallcovering that Jo's used to add character to the high ceiling. She also designed the skull rug herself and had it handmade in India. The round table is from a garden furniture reclamation yard, and the art nouveau chandelier (just seen) is an art nouveau fairy chandelier. Bed from And So To Bed with a lace cover from London's famous Portobello Road Market.
This bathroom has had a glamorous update. Bathroom ideas began with the smart copper bath from Catchpole & Rye, with a green pendant light and paintings from flea markets in Long Island and Miami.
The swimming pond
Jo’s transformation of the garden with its meadow is just as dramatic as what she's achieved inside the house and she loves it out here. ‘I’ve grown organic vegetables for years,’ she says, ‘but I wanted a pond to add another dimension. I had the natural swimming pond dug out and lined with organic blue clay.’
Then one day last summer, Jo, her daughter Leah, and son Tyrone planted it with aquatic plants and sowed the wildflower meadow that now hums with birds and insects. Jo recently added 70 trees near the pond and it’s a hit with her grandchildren as well as the wildlife. The jetty was built by Tyrone.
Marie Antoinette and rock 'n' roll
The pond is just one of the home’s many features that Jo appreciates after a trip to the city. ‘My friends and family all thought I was completely mad moving to the country,’ she says, ‘but I love it here – it’s not too big, it’s not too small and I feel very safe. I was always such a London girl, but the best thing about living here is being so close to nature – it’s so magical.’
Jo's special blend of city and country styles, with old and new furnishings is what makes this home so special. She calls it 'Marie Antoinette and rock 'n' roll', and we see where she's coming from!
Jo is pictured above in the kitchen diner, with the fire surround that's moved with her from her London home. The Marilyn painting is by Russell Young. Wallcovering,
Rockett St George.
Karen is the houses editor for homesandgardens.com and homes editor for the brand’s sister titles, Period Living and Country Homes & Interiors, and an experienced writer on interiors and gardens. She loves visiting historic houses for Period Living and writing about rural properties for Country Homes & Interiors, and working with photographers to capture all shapes and sizes of properties. Karen began her career as a sub editor at Hi-Fi News and Record Review magazine, starting to write album reviews just as they switched from vinyl to CD releases. Her move to women’s magazines came soon after, in the shape of Living magazine, which covered cookery, fashion, beauty, homes and gardening. From Living Karen moved to Ideal Home magazine, where as deputy chief sub, then chief sub, she started to really take an interest in properties, architecture, interior design and gardening.
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