A Georgian coach house country retreat
Designer Katharine Pooley came across the coach house 15 years ago and decided to take it as the family’s country retreat in Oxfordshire because of the stunning countryside around it and the generous, light-filled inside.
“I wanted to find a country retreat with as much space as possible. Living in London always involves a degree of compromise on this front,” Pooley said. “With two adventurous sons and dogs and chickens, room to play and run and live happily is key.”
The house is a Georgian coach house, which means it has fabulous large arched windows and doors, where the grand horse-drawn coaches would have resided. It is listed as being of historical importance so any changes have to be carefully undertaken, if allowed at all.
“Luckily when I first came across it, it didn’t have that old dusty feeling but was in good condition and just needed to be made more personal, comfortable, luxurious and homely, in short given the full Katharine Pooley treatment,” she added.
Pooley has made small changes to the space but generally she didn’t need to change very much as the spacing already had a perfect flow to the house. As the architecture is listed there is little that can be changed with the layout as well.
Inside the house, the large curved arched windows ensure every room is bathed in natural light, and this is particularly attractive in the main living room where she has created a soft tonal scheme with gentle colors for a graceful, elegance aesthetic.
The views from every room are also quite breathtaking so she has tried to keep the window treatment as simple and uncluttered as possible so nothing breaks the view of the exterior vistas.
“I visualized an interior that was peaceful, layered with detail and that would feature interesting personal objects, art and antiques from my travels. Having spent many years in Asia — I previously lived in (China’s) Hong Kong and Singapore while working in investment banking and now travel in Indonesia and Malaysia for my studio design projects. By combining the interest of Far Eastern objects with soft European furnishings and the timeless proportions of the classical architecture, I have tried to create an effortless balance of new meets old, that is very personal to my life and travels,” Pooley said.
The formal living and dining rooms are full of her favorite artworks and accessories, many collected during her time in Asia mixed in with family antiques and fresh new pieces from her favorite suppliers.
“It is an eclectic balance and one that perfectly mixes elegance and comfort for day-to-day living,” she said.
Central to the living room is a beautiful turquoise writing desk which was purchased from the Battersea Arts and Antique Fair in London, butterfly artwork by a favorite artist of hers, Susila Bailey–Bond, and a beautiful Rosewood Ralph Lauren “Duke Bar.” Accessories from her boutique are dotted around — in particular she loves to have many different frames containing photographs of her family and friends.
The dining room is a beautiful space. It has a traditional marble fireplace as its heart and is dressed with some of her favorite antique crystal ware — perfect for intimate entertaining by candle light on a summer’s evening.
A large piece of artwork by Charlie Barton, of a moon, creates a graphic contrast with the soft blue and grey fabrics and lime washed oak used throughout the space.
“I have added warmth and interest with soft tonal botanical patterns to the curtains and a woven ikat to the back of the dining. A traditional gilt and wrought iron chandelier and antique silver candelabra sourced on my travels add luxurious and formal touches to help elevate the space and connect the design to the history of the architecture,” Pooley said.
In the master bedroom, she wanted to create a serene and grown-up retreat in peaceful and soft shades of duck egg blue, celadon and ivory. Antique oval mirrors sit above walnut and marble chests either side of the bed, while hand-printed linens, soft wools and cashmeres are layered throughout for a tactile and inviting mood. As with all her designs she has commissioned bespoke bed linen to perfectly match the colors in the room.
“My favorite piece is a painting by Canadian artist Joseph Adolphe of my dog piglet on one wall. Personal touches complete an interior and every time I look at it I am reminded of our happy years together in Singapore, China and London. We traveled the world together.”
The gardens are where Pooley feels her design has really come alive — she has worked on them over the years and now the all-organic vegetable patch, outdoor dining area with formal box hedging and surrounding flowerbeds, are a glorious haze of color in summer and the perfect backdrop for an idyllic family life.
The shepherd’s hut is set within the gardens and is the perfect place to come for inspiration or to relax. Like a secret room set amongst the flowers and leafy trees it is the epitome of elegant camping and is both for the children to enjoy and play in and also as a luxurious outdoor retreat for guests to stay in.
“I am always on the look out for interesting, unique and beautiful pieces and, with projects all around the world, I often spot furniture and accessories in far flung places. My belief is if you love something, and it speaks to you, you should always buy it immediately. I’m blessed with a very good visual memory so it is easy for me to see something in a market, antique shops or gallery and know instantly where it will work perfectly in style and size,” she said.
Though Pooley also has a family home in Scotland “Forter Castle,” as well as a beach home on the coast, the coach house is where she and her family resides in the summer and much of the time all year round.
“As it is the children’s main home, it is very much a family home and I have designed it with family life in mind,” she said.
Ask The Owner
Q: What is the best thing about living in the coach house?
A: The garden — it is a complete joy and a total escape and peaceful retreat from the frenetic pace of my working life, travelling the world and undertaking important and complicated projects for my clients.
Q: Describe the coach house in three words:
A: Elegant, peaceful, home.
Q: What is the first thing you do when you get into the coach house?
A: Visit the garden to pick flowers for the house, see if vegetables and fruit are ready to eat and check how my chickens are.
Q: How do you unwind?
A: I love to cook and, from my time living in Asia, love to experiment with spice and flavor. So to unwind after a long day you will find me throwing together a masterpiece in the kitchen.
Q: Where do you spend most of your time at home?
A: In the summer, outside exploring in the garden, often with my Jack Russell puppy Herbie by my side.
Q: What’s the view outside your window?
A: Of parkland covered in buttercups and wild flowers spread out below the elegant stretching arms of ancient oak and pine trees.
Q: What is the favorite object in your home?
A: The beautiful gold Myanmar Buddhas in the dining room. They remind me of my wonderful time in Asia.
Q: Where do you source furniture?
A: Everywhere to be honest. However there are some wonderful shops in the Cotswolds, Oxford area where I am always a regular visitor.