Step inside the Cotswold idyll created by architect Richard Parr, with a self-sufficient rural lifestyle and home working in mind
At Home With Richard Parr
What’s the story behind your home?
15 years ago I was looking for an opportunity, project and a hub for the family. I drove down to this house for a quick recce on a foggy November evening and saw the remote setting and large collection of redundant agricultural buildings, and my mind started racing. I wanted to combine a home with remote working, and for the children to grow up with a lifestyle where they were free to roam safely outdoors. Plus, most importantly, grow and produce our own food. We’ve subsequently had pigs, sheep, cattle and all types of poultry. We built a kitchen garden in one of the courtyards, planting orchards and trees and we’re almost self-sufficient. Now our diets are much more plant-based and our focus is orientated towards growing and preserving. A barn gets used for my son’s artistic practice and his creative cooking (@lando_cooks), and the life that the four of us have is a magnet for our friends. The HQ of my design business (richardparr.com) is also here.
What was your inspiration when it came to designing it?
Inspiration is twofold. Firstly drawn from local culture, as this area of the Cotswolds has a wealth of craft and creative tradition – I hope in a small way I’m continuing this. Secondly, from my travels and time working in Spain. That experience has injected an eclectic approach to the different buildings and the different spaces. I didn’t use an interior designer – I don’t believe in separating architecture, interior and landscape design, it’s all one environment. The interior aesthetic is forged with our collection of life, in particular the things that we find, need, acquire and incorporate into the house. My personal preference in a house is to design the structure and bones, and the rest evolves over time.
Do you have any interior brands that you love and always go back to?
I like Once Milano for linen and bedding, and Rosenthal for simple white china – I use the TAC china designed by Walter Gropius. For bathroom products and kitchen linen, The Newt in Somerset. Recently, Antiqbr has been a favourite and feeds love for 20th century Hispanic classics. Charles Burnand for fantastic handmade Murano glass lights and furniture. For kitchens and especially kettles I like Alessi, and John Julian does some excellent white kitchenware. I also have to mention Artist Support Pledge (@artistsupportpledge), who have given artists a boost during lockdown.
What’s your favourite room in the house?
My studio, which I designed last year in an old grain loft. It takes me out of the house but visually it’s connected, forming a bridge between the house and landscape. The dovecote-inspired square room is all about light, views, and the connection with nature and the weather. It’s very airy and uplifting. The adjacent larger studio is a darker space with controlled views. Recycled rubber gym flooring and mid-century furniture make it a cosier and more focused – the two studios work together in harmony.
What’s your best view?
The kitchen is perfectly situated, with views down into the kitchen garden – which used to be a concrete courtyard. The house sits on a hill, so we have long views across the Cotswolds and overlooking Woodchester Valley.
What’s your signature dish – can you share the recipe?
Risotto is my speciality and I can always find something to throw in, whatever the season. My newest creation is red risotto with spelt farro rather than rice. Start by sautéing some finely chopped red onion, a clove of garlic and chopped red chard stems in butter. Add the spelt farro and some olive oil. Then add vegetable stock to more than cover, cooking slowly and adding chopped beetroot. After a bit and before cooked, stir in red orach leaves, lots of parmesan, salt, pepper and some more butter.
Share your top five books with us if you were to start a book club and why:
I actually started a book club some years ago with some of my greatest friends. It was a cook book club and every month we’d meet for a jointly cooked tasting menu, sharing successes, discoveries, and occasional disasters. My library of food books is huge but I’ve selected five books that I have loved and returned to many times:
- Moro: The Cookbook
- The French Laundry Cookbook, by Thomas Keller
- The Modern Pantry Cookbook, by Anna Hansen
- A Year in My Kitchen, by Skye Gyngell
- And any of The River Café cook books – but the 30thanniversary book is a great round-up
Share your must-see TV and movie list:
I love Abstract: The Art of Design on Netflix. I’ve also started enjoying Succession on HBO.
If you’re working from home at the moment, how have you designed your space and any tips for other home workers?
I’m fortunate to have had a working hub at home for many years, and last year I completed a new studio and library. The space has two interconnecting areas with different atmospheres. A corner of the kitchen table doesn’t work for me – so however small the room, it’s important to contain the area you’re working in, and to turn it into a place you want to be in: light and air are essential. I like my glass table as it makes the room feel more expansive. A great chair is a must, I highly recommend Eames office chairs.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I’m an early riser. In the week I start the day at 6.20am with tea and a stretch before exercising for an hour at 7am. During lockdown I enjoyed being able to exercise outside, I love running in the countryside. Then for breakfast I have fruit and nuts before heading across to my studio, where my first action is making an espresso.
How do you love to spend your evenings at home?
Evenings are a break from my day, so they’re always social and centred around family and food. We grow most of our own food on the farm so an evening is about picking, creating something in the kitchen, and eating together.
If you were to throw a party at home, what are your key ingredients to make it go with a swing?
For me, both the setting and generosity are the key points. Good cocktails essential to start, a feast to eat, and a memorable setting. We are lucky to have empty barns, farm courtyards and fields, so we always pick a different spot for each event. A fire is a key ingredient.
What gadget could you not live without in your home?
I guess my Sonos, I always love music!
How do you keep fit at home?
I live adjacent to Woodchester Park, which is a National Trust valley containing the remains of a Capability Brown landscape. Every other day I run cross country around the lakes and along the old carriage drives.
How is your garden behaving at the moment?
We have lots of different spaces in our garden because they are really formed out of the areas leftover between the buildings. Our kitchen garden is our lifeline and biggest effort time wise. We plant for a 12-month supply of food and there’s never a day when we can’t eat something from it. At the moment we are planting up our pumpkin patch and planting out all the brassicas for the autumn and winter.
Whose home would you love to be a fly on the wall in?
I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when one of my architectural heroes was taking a brief from a client or selling their first concepts. Gio Ponti would be fascinating to listen to, or Adalberto Libera when conceiving the Casa Malaparte. I’m fascinated by post-war Italian design that broke from tradition with daring and adventurous ideas.
Where is the first place you’re headed now that lockdown is easing?
I am looking forward to everyone returning to the studios. We have one in the Cotswolds and one in Westbourne Park in London. We always enjoy after work drinks, so I’m looking forward to regrouping and celebrating. The whole team has been extraordinary and we’ve been able to continue to be inspired and focused throughout.
What makes a house a home?
Creating the spaces and mood to do everything that I want to do, without ever having to leave.
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