Converting a Cotswolds cow byre led to a new design business
Creating a family home from a cow byre was the impetus to launch her own business for textile designer, Vanessa Arbuthnott.
Vanessa and her husband Nicholas bought the 1890s cow byre and barn in the Cotswolds 18 years ago with planning permission to convert the barn. Fortunately, as Nicholas is an architect he applied for the planning consent to include the cow byre.
The couple decided to convert one half of the byre and the bottom of the ‘U’ into their own home and the second wing into self-catering accommodation for holidaymakers.
Faced with an abundance of windows and walls to decorate, Vanessa developed new skills and a style that for the last 12 years her customers have been keen to emulate. “Over time, I developed my own style without actually realising what I was doing.
“After we converted the second wing of the cow byre into accommodation we ran walking holidays but the combination of foot and mouth and September 11 brought this to an abrupt halt as the majority of our guests had been Americans.
“I knew we needed to find another way to make an income. When the children were small I started doing a morning a week at the local art college. I did surface print for four years and built up enough skills to do my own screen printing, which I’ve been doing here for 12 years.”
Vanessa also let the house for photographic shoots. “I did this for about five years until I had enough money to launch my business. One stylist gave me a tip on how to present my stand at The Country Living Fair and I took his advice and won the prize, which was a free stand at the next year’s show. Through that we received magazine coverage and a demand for the fabrics started.”
Eight years ago the barn was converted into a studio. “The house has evolved over time but it’s a very higgledy piggledy collection left over from photo shoots. It’s not self-consciously done – it’s a bit of a mish mash really.”
The furniture is an eclectic mix too with pieces from sales rooms and auctions juxtaposed with Ikea finds. “We’ve recently started making and upholstering our own furniture and there are some examples of this in our lounge.”
The décor has been kept simple with reclaimed, wooden floors and muted, painted woodwork.
This property has evolved over the last 18 years but its latest use is one that Vanessa is particularly excited about. “One of my daughters runs an artist’s residency here and the artists live in the wing where we did the holidays. We have up to six artists at any one time and they put on an exhibition every three months. It’s all free in exchange for them taking art into the community. They make themselves available for me three times a week when we’ll work with recovering addicts, stroke victims and take part in community projects. We only started in January, so we’re in our first year and the proceeds from the exhibition go back into the project and my business funds the rest.”
It’s something that Vanessa is keen to build upon along with using the garden for performance art and launching a new fabric collection inspired by lino cuts. One gets the impression she will be keeping even busier in the future. k
For more information on Vanessa’s latest collection and the artist exhibitions visit www.vanessaarbuthnott.co.uk
Vanessa Arbuthnott’s Favourite Things
What is your idea of sanctuary?
“My bedroom. I like to keep it calm and organised, unlike the rest of the house!”
Where is your favourite place to shop?
“Toast – I love their clothes. It is mail order and I don’t really do going to shops.”
What is your favourite meal?
“To cook, probably a curry and if someone else was cooking, a really nice vegetarian dish.”
Where is your favourite place to travel to?
“The Scottish islands, particularly Tiree.”
Which designers or artists inspire you?
“Lucien Day, Matisse, Winifred Nicholson and the Italian painter and printmaker, Giorgio Morandi.
How do you chill out at the end of a busy day?
“I like to sit quietly in the garden with a drink and a book.”
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west