We explore minimalist designer John Pawson’s Home Farm in Cotswolds, UK; the backdrop for his new cookbook, Home Farm Cooking.
One look at British designer John Pawson’s Instagram account, with its staggering 369k followers, reveals one of his passions to be photography. The feed is a celebration of light and its effect on materials, landscape, interiors and buildings; there are few words, and only intermittently featured is his lock-down puppy – a cockapoo named Lochie. “Although the aesthetic strands running through my work are pretty consistent, the influences feeding into the design process are typically eclectic, and even the most unlikely subjects can provide food for thought,” he says. Of late, the images focus on Home Farm, their country property located in the Cotswolds, which forms the backdrop to a new cookbook, a collaborative production with his wife Catherine, named Home Farm Cooking. Once a derelict series of rural buildings including a 17th-century farmhouse, cottage, stables, a barn and pigsties sprouting giant hogweed, there has been a complete shedding of generations of detritus, an architectural paring back combined with a considered material insertion and careful planning of spatial flow.
The connection of the farmhouse and barn creates a 50-metre span, and so a kitchen was installed at each end to serve different purposes at different times of the year and for varying occasions. A small-scale traditional kitchen with a pantry in the farmhouse (cosy in winter) and a larger, more open kitchen in the converted barn suits large groups of family and friends, especially in summer. A third kitchen is in the guest quarters, in the Wainhouse (originally for wagons and carts). “Long before the work was finished, four generations of our family had sat down to eat together at the table in the barn, and the list of significant occasions that have been celebrated here lengthens from month to month,” Catherine says.
“We found an aggregate that is local, so it’s similar colours to the Cotswold stone, although it’s modern concrete and it bands,” he said. “We put down a concrete terrazzo floor that was the same greys.” Elm, a timber originally used in the house, was sourced; breathable lime plaster covers walls and furnishings throughout are restrained and beautiful – from Hans Wegner’s CH24 Wishbone chairs to a Swedish Gustavian sofa sourced by Catherine.
“I think that Catherine and I look at a beautiful piece of stone, timber or fish and essentially have the same response, which is that when a material or ingredient is perfect, do as little as possible to compromise or distract from that perfection. Placing value on simplicity is not only an aesthetic choice, it is an expression of an entire philosophy of living,” he says. While John creates the context, Catherine is the cook, and her words introducing each chapter are wonderfully evocative in setting the scene for the season.
“I love going out into the woods and hedgerows, to forage for wild garlic or blackberries, depending on the time of year. And being in the heart of the agricultural landscape, you are so much more aware of the arrival of new lambs and the planting and harvesting of the various grain and vegetable crops,” she says.
During the weeks and months of the various lockdowns, the UK has experienced the Pawsons have been totally immersed in Home Farm, by the architecture itself and by the surrounding countryside. “You find yourself quietly observing the house,” he notes, “the way the light moves across a section of wall in the course of the day – but there is also a sense of being reciprocally watched over by the house, as the new routines and rituals of everyday life become more deeply engrained.”
“Placing value on simplicity is not only an aesthetic choice, it is an expression of an entire philosophy of living.”