On Saturday mornings I wake up at 5am and drive straight to Somerset. I have a house in a village called Priddy in the Mendip Hills, a few miles from Wells. For most people the perfect weekend is probably about doing very little, but for me work is both my passion and my hobby, so it never really stops. In the five years I have owned this house, I have spent one day in it not working.
En route, I swing by Rolfey’s, my favourite antiques shop in Bath and one of the few left that manages to get continually fresh stock from country house auctions and the like. I arrive at about 8.30am and have a cup of mint tea with Rolfey while looking at all the surprising and wonderful things he has saved up for me during the week. That’s my first hit of the day.
Then I drive up to Priddy, where my 10-week project to refurbish my house has already run on for 10 months. Essentially, I have found out how very annoying I am as a client – totally obsessive about every detail. The house is still quite ramshackle, because I like to keep architecture as raw as possible. I love to see a beautiful old farmhouse with plastic window frames – it reminds me there are people out there just getting on with life. The problem with too much good taste is that it irons out eccentricity – it gives me pleasure to see things that are not consciously designed but are still very beautiful.
Saturday mornings are usually spent talking to contractors about the house or on my other passion project, transforming the local pub, The New Inn, which I bought a year ago. I would like it to have its own microbrewery and specialist bakery and am currently investigating local suppliers and old Somerset recipes.
I don’t bother with lunch but detour into Axbridge, where they have a fantastic market. I pick up breads, cheeses and salads that will keep me going over the weekend – and plants for the garden. My pick of the stalls is Taylors Traditional Bakers, a third-generation specialist bakery.
Then I am off again to visit my three favourite reclamation yards: Wells, Glastonbury and Frome. Wells Reclamation [pictured] is probably my favourite, because it has amazingly eccentric pieces, such as crazy old bits of fairground rides. Frome has a brilliant selection of reclaimed flooring and well‑priced fireplaces. Elm is like gold dust nowadays but I found enough there to do my entire house. Glastonbury has slightly more industrial items – great if you need to retile your roof – and fantastic garden planters.
I return home at about 7pm for a potter around my garden and a light supper. If I fancy a drink or some proper pub food, I go to the other Priddy pub, The Queen Vic, where I enjoy the local Butcombe ales – or to The Somerset Wagon in Chilcompton, which my parents used to run. They retired many years ago but it still retains some of the interior features I designed for them. I don’t have time for books and I rarely invite people to stay, so I am usually in bed by 9pm, which is bliss.
Sunday mornings are dedicated to working on another passion project, the Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company. To be able to work from home, at my own speed, is a real pleasure. Then for a really good country walk, I head to Brean Down, at the very end of the Mendip Hills, which I have loved since childhood.
I leave Priddy about 2pm to drive back to London listening to Radio 4, often bringing back paintings or pieces of furniture from storage. I never actually get home until about 9pm – there are always projects to visit on the way.