We started ‘Somerset cool’ to write about the unique places and people of Somerset. Places and people doing things differently. Ones that make us step back and say, “wow that’s cool"… and Durslade Farmhouse is definitely one of those special places. Last year it won 'Art Hotel of the Year' at the LCD awards and if you’re looking for a Grade II listed, six-bedroom getaway - somewhere that your family and friends are unlikely to forget in a hurry - then you’ve probably just found your perfect match.
Nestled in the Bruton countryside, at the heart of the grounds of art gallery Hauser & Wirth, Durslade is a stroll away from the creative exhibitions, landscaped gardens and the very tasty Roth Bar & Grill!
The farmhouse is a total one-off – a place to stay that’s full of character, imagination and style. In parts, it’s also a little bit nuts and that’s why we love it! :) It’s a place that’s full of surprises and the mix of bold personality, stylish vintage quirks and contemporary art (created by some of the artists who’ve exhibited at Hauser & Wirth) definitely put a big smile on my face when we explored the farmhouse.
The building itself dates back to around 1760 and you can still see the Berkeley family’s coat of arms above the side entrance (they were original owners). After a few changes of hands and the buildings falling in to disrepair, Hauser & Wirth secured planning permission to conserve them and they worked with concept architects and interior designers, Laplace & Co. and conservation architects, Benjamin & Beauchamp, to sympathetically restore the lot!
On the outside, we love the original gothic windowpanes that have been painstakingly conserved and as our heads always turn when we spot a cool doorway, this one made us stare for a while.
You also get a front row seat for anything awesome happening at the gallery – like Djordje Ozbolt's Brave New World exhibition. It was in full swing when we were there and you can see it until May 7, 2017.
Anyway, ready to take a look inside Durslade? Let’s do it!
It’s a real privilege discovering the unexpected twists and turns of the huge farmhouse. It’s bursting at the seams with stories… stories of the artists who’ve helped to create the rooms of the home, stories of the original property engrained into every wall, ceiling and heartbeat of the restored building - and then there’s the stories of the people who once lived here, encouraging you to wonder what life was like when the rooms were their playground.
No room does this more than Bedroom 6. Up at the top of the house, several rooms have now become an all-in-one cool attic retreat - somewhere to lay your head, relax in the freestanding tub, or lounge with a vintage book or several.
This big expanse of painted white and exposed wall used to be the bedrooms of Jackie & Nikki Gilling - two little girls who lived in the farmhouse many moons ago. Their names are still on the doors up there and I have to say, I felt a bit like an excited child myself, waiting to see what was around each Durslade corner!
Here’s a little taste of some of the things that gave us goosebumps of the great kind:
We know. It might seem a funny thing to mention first, but believe it or not the walls define the feel of the whole house. They definitely prepare you to ‘expect the unexpected’ as they’re often left totally raw – with bare plaster and traces of uncovered original wallpaper that catch your eye and make you wonder!
The idea was to celebrate the old building, with the striking walls becoming an unusual canvas for the new, original artwork on show in the farmhouse. It’s a pretty brave move by architect Luis Laplace. Some people will love it, some might not, but we’ll admit we’ve got a serious style crush on it! :)
Vintage furniture, sourced from local shops and salvage yards, also works brilliantly with the walls and adds to the sense of story in every room you spend time in.
They say (whoever they are!) it’s the heart of any home and the kitchen here certainly is.
It’s a big, bright, rustic space with mismatched local vintage crockery on those walls, as well as all the lovely contemporary bits you’d expect from a luxury character retreat.
We're loving the retro fridge and the hob that's built into the old kitchen fireplace. We can also just imagine a big Sunday lunch for all the family around the huge table, maybe even delivered to the door from the Roth Bar & Grill. Hmmm... now there’s an idea.
The dining room
Here’s a question for you. Where else could you have dinner surrounded by a specially commissioned mural, painted by Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca? Only at Durslade Farmhouse!
Kuitca started his work in one corner of the dining room, painting directly on the walls from floor to ceiling - and the effect of the bold angles is stunning. They spread all the way around the room and almost wrap you up! It’s the first time Kuitca painted this kind of 360 degree art and it feels incredibly special. His paint trolley is still here too, along with patches of old-fashioned lino across the stone floor. He insisted they should stay.
The sitting room installation
Can someone please call Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist and persuade her to create something as beautiful as this in our home? It’s definitely our favourite part of the farmhouse interiors – an art installation including video of the Somerset landscape and close-up shots of flowers that slowly bloom on to the walls of the sitting room.
You view the video through a handmade chandelier, hanging from the ceiling. Rist made it from pieces of antique glass bottles and fragments of China she collected in the woods behind Durslade Farm.
Each piece catches the light from the video in different ways, creating splintered shadows that let you see something new every second you watch it. After living in Bruton for 12 months, this was Rist’s response to the landscape she experienced and it’s definitely a thing of beauty. It’s mesmerising, delicate and I could probably stretch back on the sofa and look at it for hours!
Each of the six bedrooms are full of their own character and surprise. Bedroom five has a flash of Paul McCarthy wallpaper that creates a very quirky wardrobe corner... take a closer look when you stay! :) Bedroom four has an amazing Victorian bed that dominates everything in its' presence…
…but we simply love the relaxing feel of Bedroom one, so on a weekend stay away we’d definitely fight our friends for it! It’s next to the Dining Room, so we could easily slip away after dinner – and SURPRISE! It’s complete with a bread oven next to a fireplace that has the same statues in it that protect our favourite outside doorway.
The bathroom is right up our street too, with a tall exposed stone wall and big burgundy tub. Pass me the bubble bath!
The hallway of red!
Do people usually get excited about hallways? Not sure, but this one worked some magic on me. We love Twin Peaks, so any room that's red and sultry usually gets my vote and I have to say, I wasn't expecting this when we headed for the staircase. It's a real contrast with the other downstairs spaces, but it's another Durslade surprise that adds a bit of mischief and drama.
The vintage details
The story of the Farmhouse is really brought to life by the attention to detail - the dollshouse in the sitting room that Pipilotti Rist left behind as a gift. The collection of stylish books and retro board games you can find in various rooms in the house. The intricate wooden carvings on the bed in bedroom one and the preserved graffiti in bedroom three - it's barely legible and a bit of a mystery! Some of the private bathrooms (there's one attached to every bedroom) feel like perfectly preserved retro daydreams and in the Study, the most distinctive feature is a collection of Victorian vintage stickers.
Attached to the panes of an internal window, these collectable stickers have remained untouched for years, leaving another trace of the previous residents of the farmhouse.
All in all, staying here at any time of year would definitely be a unique Somerset cool experience. In the colder months, we're imagining snuggling up by the wood burner in the sitting room after a leisurely dinner with friends - me getting teased about wanting to watch the art installation for the millionth time! :)
In the summer, chilling out with a cold glass of wine in the private back garden after discovering everything that Hauser & Wirth and Bruton has to offer would be fab - and I'm pretty sure that at some stage, any conversation would turn back to the stories of the farmhouse... over another bottle of wine!
Our review in three words - Stylish. Bold. Surprising.
Durslade Farmhouse is available for week-long, midweek and weekends stays. Catering can be provided by onsite restaurant Roth Bar & Grill. There's a minimum 2 night stay midweek.