Colours of Winter

16 December 2012
Ben Pentreath

It’s been a simultaneously quiet and hectic weekend in Dorset. Perhaps an occupational hazard for the time of year?

I went to three birthday parties, no less: my lovely neighbour’s 70th birthday party, which completely proves that being 70 today is roughly being like 50 a few years ago; my godson’s 6th birthday, which proves that nothing is more exciting if you are a bunch of 6 year old children than a visit from a crazy guy who owns hundreds of giant spiders, lizards and snakes (and if you live in the southwest, you can book him here); and today, to a friends 50somethingth birthday that proves that, well, there’s nothing like a kind and happy person to make sure that if you turn up to his party where you know hardly a soul, you still have a brilliant time. Then I drove to London (giving a lift to one of the party-goers, my new friend) and went to another party, this time a Christmas Party in a tall Bloomsbury townhouse, which proves that… you can probably go to too many parties in one weekend, however fun they are (and it was fun).

So, you get the hectic part.

Well, that was just the start. I moved office yesterday morning. Not quite such a dramatic thing as it sounds, but we’ve run out of space in the shop and I’ve been buying furniture like crazy that has no place to go. So at 8.45 on Saturday morning two strapping lads from A Van Man (yes, the best shippers I know) arrived to help me shift things around for a couple of hours. I’ve taken over the dining room as my new office. Still a room one could have dinner in, but I figured for the 359 days a year that it is not being used for dinners, what a nice place to sit at my drawing board:

or at my new desk:

and even the Regency sideboard (that, at £200 at auction, will I think always be the best piece of furniture I ever bought) looks not too far out of sorts:

It’s brilliant. The funny thing about my old office was that it was north-west facing, so it was rather dreadfully dark; the phone didn’t work there, and nor did the internet.  Which I used to joke was a great way of getting on, but in fact it was a bit of a pain in the neck. I think this has been a move in the right direction. For very very careful readers of my book, you might know that I love a dining room all of its own; but I hope you will agree that you can break your own rules from time to time. I think in the new year I would like to paint the walls a very dark colour, and of course you will have noticed that there are no pictures hanging, which one of these days I will maybe get around to. And you will agree, I should get around to buying a rectangular, William IV dining table which will feel a bit more desk-like than that spindly Georgian number.

So what of the old ‘village room’ which I used to work in? It’s becoming The Antiques Room and will be a department on the website coming to a screen near you soon. Well, soonish. Here’s a sneak preview.  Let me know if you spy something you are interested in and I will take more photos and details when I am next down.  But anyway, I’m rather happy. It feels a handsome space. Oooh, now I rather want to get a giant warehouse; the crumbling stable wing of an ancient dusty country house would do nicely. Could you let me know if you have one going spare?

Anyway, Bridie and I have some exciting plans for furniture next year. So far, so exhausting (although I do always say a change is as good as a holiday).

So what was quiet?

Well, this morning, I woke to the most beautiful December light; pale, watery, lemon-yellow sunshine streaming across the valley and garden.

I love this time of year; when everything you look at is so gentle and muted; a soft, grey-green-brown palette, devoid of strong colour; a landscape of absence. And later, leaving the house, I drove to my friend’s house at Wardour. The road runs across marvellous Cranborne Chase, that wonderful piece of Wiltshire-meets-Dorset which I touched on a little while ago in a blog that you can read here. I was running late, but that didn’t matter. I stopped the car a couple of times, and got out, and drank in the view, and thanked God for the quiet moments in-between; and for days, and places, like this.



Please don’t forget: we are hiring for two roles at the moment and I would be very grateful to receive your applications if you think you match our requirements.  Details here.


22 comments on this post

OMG, what about those chippendale chinoiserie chairs in orange, are THEY part of your new year plans, yummy.

Hi Ben..I am a newish reader of your lovely blog and having just returned (today) from a week long visit with my mum in Huntingdon, just outside Cambridge, I really appreciated your lovely images of a sunny winter’s day….there is a particular stark beauty in the English countryside and the lack of colour really accentuates the soft contours of the landscape…I live and work in Dubai and arriving back after all that lovely crisp air and gorgeous scenery has been a bit of a shock! Thank you for sharing your pictures and giving me a reminder of the lovely places we just left!

Robert Rowandsays:

I wish I had known, and they look great painted green.


Dear Ceri – how kind! I think that little table (in the last of the photos of the Antiques Room) might be a bit on the small side for a serving table. But we are always finding that sort of thing so I will keep my eyes peeled! Ben

We’ve taken to eating at our kitchen table, while our dining room table has become our all purpose table — homework, crafts, teatime, general hanging out — I think we’re using the table more than ever, even though we’re not really eating on it so much anymore!


Wonderful blog. I noticed the side table in the third photo of your Antiques room — we are looking for a serving table for our (new) dining room having done the opposite and finally created a dining room after years of eating in the kitchen! Would this be suitable? Happy Christmas

Robert Rowandsays:

I have six of those red laquer 70’s chairs around my dining table in my flat in Chelsea, sourced in a second hand shop in Joburg and shipped over, but now I note Jonathan Adler has repros in his shop in Sloane Avenue!


Dear Robert – we also have some rather fine 1970s Green chairs for sale here!

Love your photographs of the trees along the road , and the colours there reminds me of landscape depictions by Ravilious. Loved seeing your book on The Style Saloniste. I have just ordered it. Warmest,


Dear Philip, thank you – I hope you enjoy the book! All best, Ben


Dining room colours: I predict a dark ( but still warm) olive green with plenty of mustard and red to keep it lively! Those red Chinese Chip chairs might work well there ?


Wonderful website – certainly a chap of refined taste & style. I’m enjoying browsing through you old blogs too, great inspiration & design ideas! On your interiors webpage – where would one purchase something similar to the large landscape wallpaper used on the fabulous Chichester showhouse – used in the sitting room? Best wishes, Matt


Dear Matt, you’re very kind: Wallpaper from Surface View


The dining room debate could go on, we have a similar table to yours in the antique room, with hinged sides and two drawers but it has 4 legs not a central one. But really it is too wide for our 1930s room so may have to get rid of it. It does seem strange having two tables within a few feet of each other, I would like to make our dining room at the front of the house into our sitting room and then create a big dining kitchen at the back but the other half is not keen, mainly due to the cost, how to persuade …….By the way your pics make me realise why I love this country so much and could never live anywhere else, thank you.

Oh sigh and sigh again! You have made me home sick for muted countryside colours. Where I live now (Australia), all is turning brown with the approaching heat of summer.

You have a lovely antique room, Ben. By the way, thank you for showing us a peek at the landscape and the garden valley. Very beautiful scene for a bright morning. I can feel the spirit of Christmas there.

More intriguing are the holes in the grass leading to the apple tree in the centre. Do your badgers wear hobnail boots? Thank you for the beautiful pictures by the way, always a joy to read your blog. I think you’d love it up here in East Yorkshire too.


beautiful. sigh.

I agree with you about the lack of usage of dining rooms these days, and yours makes a very handsome office. If you have one for that specific purpose I suppose it doesn’t matter that it’s rarely used, but I found when we did have a separate one that guests were almost intimidated by the concept of actually dining in a dining room; they much preferred eating in the kitchen. I suppose nowadays we much prefer informality in all functions, and so the lines between designated rooms becomes blurred.

Sophie Garlandsays:

Hi! What’s planted in the wire squares? Love the pics! Thanks.


Ah those are my apple trees and they are in willow lattice squares which are collapsing under badger attack


thank you, ben, for the photo of such a peaceful & lovely landscape! i can almost feel the chilly, fresh, clean air in my nostrils and on my face. which, for a monday morning, is a wonderful thing…

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