New beginnings

15 September 2013
Ben Pentreath

I love this time of year. I’ve probably written it already in the last couple of weeks; I’m sure if you delve back through previous blogs written around about the mid-September time, you’ll find me saying the same thing again and again.  

I sometimes wonder, in retrospect, if every time of the year is my favourite (that moment when the first buds of spring break; that precise moment of May when the countryside is vivid green; even that darkest moment of the year, in the depths of January or February, when it seems like Winter will never end?)… but I make no secret of the fact that the shift from late summer to autumn really is one of the moments when I am most content.  I think what I enjoy is the luxury of that combination of something ending and something new starting at the same time. The end of summer, but the beginning of a new school year (which I still adhere to)… it’s autumn – but I’m about to order spring bulbs.

Talking of new beginnings, on Friday I had one of the most inspirational days I’ve had in a long time.  

I well remember, a few years ago now, being approached by a lovely crazy girl, Catherine Lock, at one of our early shop parties, who wanted to start an exciting venture discovering the further extremities of the world of British craft.  Could we collaborate? We began to chat – but – can I be very honest? It was pretty clear to me that logistics were immediately going to get in the way.  It was a brilliant idea – searching out makers of interesting things and bringing them to new markets – but I just couldn’t see – if you will excuse me talking so early on about the dirty subject of money, how there could possibly be room for a middle woman (Catherine) bringing stock to a middle man (me) before finally these beautiful things arrived in front of you (the customer).  In order for each of us, starting with the chair maker or basket lady, to make a living, I think those things would have had to be so very very expensive that you would have looked, and enjoyed, and quietly moved on.

I didn’t think a great deal about Catherine’s idea after that, although we kept in touch and chatted from time to time. So  I knew that things were beginning to happen, and that made me very happy, and I confess I don’t often meet someone with quite so much passion, so I wasn’t surprised when the idea got off the ground. And the other day, out of the blue, I got an invitation to lunch. The lunch was on Friday and it was being held in the New Craftsmen Garage, 14 Adams Row, Mayfair, at 12.30.

Oh dear oh dear.  Friday turned out to be a bit of a manic day – did anyone else encounter the crazy London traffic that I suppose is what happens if you combine the first day of London Fashion week with the closure of Hyde Park for some cycle event with Friday 13th? 

Well, suffice to say, I was at least an hour late. I arrived at the garage (sorry, I forgot to take a photograph of the outside), and gingerly opened the door. This is the scene that greeted me.

A beautiful stable, a giant kitchen table. A lot of happy guests – and thankfully – it appeared, the food was only just being served. All was not lost.

Immediately of course I was distracted. Bunches of flowers above. In a little room to the right was this:

What was this place? Incredible. I took my seat.  Opposite Catherine – here she is:

I was still in a different mindset. A bit too much to take in all at once:

The butter: perfect. The cider jars, perfect, the hand blown glasses, perfect:

The lunch, perfect:

Honestly, things like this don’t happen to me very often.

Natalie Melton, one of the three co-founders of the New Craftsmen, in the middle of the picture, makes sure everyone’s food is on the table and starts a fascinating discussion about what craft means today and why. The sort of thing which in other contexts I can find, I don’t know, a bit worthy. But this was fun. Real fun.  An amazing group around the table, and the conversation flowed.

The time flew, and eventually people had to move on, back to real life.  I wasn’t ready to leave.  Here are some views of the stable:

I am happy to say I left with this beautiful hand woven cushion

And with some of these buttercup yellow napkins.

I fancied a trug, and a cushion by Cameron Short

who really must be one of the names to watch these days?

Catherine, and one of the lunch guests – maker and weaver Catarina Riccabona – describing the throws that Catarina makes from some bizarrely rare sheeps wool from some outlying islands of the Scottish Isles (forgive my fact checking: enthusiasm and cider get the better of one sometimes).

And then it really was time to leave.

Now – for the sad news, insane but true. For some reason to do with our daft planning system their stay at this beautiful setting, on the Grosvenor Estate – who, I understand, as landlords have been nothing but encouraging – is coming to an end very quickly… in a matter of weeks.

So if you are able, can I urge you to get yourself to 14 Adams Row within the next two or three weeks and enjoy the fantastic environment that has so fleetingly been created by the New Craftsmen here? I know you will not leave empty handed. They are closed on Mondays but otherwise you will find them there.

For those not able to dash to Mayfair, there is a lovely website: The New Craftsmen – which itself is beautifully, simply, and plainly designed – just like everything it displays.  Part of the lunch conversation was how cutting edge technology can team with hand made, small batch, local producers for the benefit of both. You see what I mean.


Well. That would almost be enough, but I came down on the train to Dorset and have had the happiest weekend – catching up, sorting out, and a wedding to go to in the pub last night.  I won’t bore you with any more text, but just as I was leaving to head down there the late afternoon sun broke through the clouds and there was a moment of great peace in the garden. Something told me it would be one of the last of those moments before the first of the autumn storms blew in. So I’m afraid you’ll have to indulge me (or perhaps I’m indulging you?) with more garden photos one more time. 


Not to completely change the subject, but there are new changes afoot inside too. I’m finally honing in on the pink that I’m going to paint my sitting room this autumn (Mr Patrick Baty of Papers & Paints is on the case… mixing something just in between the two sample colours that have been living on the wall for a few months now). 

And even more controversially. Check out what I’m doing in the Dining Room. Guys – I’m bored of tasteful greys. THEY ARE OVER.

(The colour is Plum, from Patrick Baty’s 1960’s range… read this blog and scroll down to the bottom).  Well – I like it. And a different sort of New Beginning!

Back outside for the last rays of the sun.

It’s an exciting week this week. On Wednesday evening – please come to the shop for our party launching my friend George Saumarez Smith’s beautiful new book – A Treatise on Modern Architecture in Five Books. Bonkers. Details on the shop home page. But even more exciting for Bridie and me… the arrival of our new patterned papers… and a new look for the shop… on which – more news very very soon.

18 comments on this post


Dear Ben, Thanks for the preview of the new colors. It looks like some of the beautiful colors of your garden have come indoors. Since you are saying goodbye to the greys, I wondered if you could tell us what colors they were. Thank you for your wonderful blog. Best wishes, Katherine

David Sanderssays:

It is so refreshing to hear from someone, such as yourself (originally from New Zealand), who has such a fine appreciation of past architectural styles, and is carrying on that legacy in your design work. In Christchurch NZ we have lost most of our charming old Victorian and Edwardian buildings: Gothic Revival, including some lovely Venetian Gothic examples, not to mention the many fine Classical buildings. Sadly some as the result of our catastrophic earthquake in 2011, but most through draconian measures taken to have them demolished, when so many could have been saved by restoration, and earthquake strengthening to bring them up to the new earthquake codes. I’m not opposed to some contemporary architecture, but many of the new buildings going up are very uninspiring, lacking good design and look cheaply built – acres of glass and tilt-slab concrete. I have fled to the country to avoid the despoliation of our once pretty, and very English city on the other side of the world. Many of us are still fighting to retain what has been left, but is still under threat.

thank the gods you are also over tasteful greys! Let’s banish them to the back of the shelf and move on to colour…yahoo!


Ha, well you are really going to splash out with the new colours. Can’t wait to see how you pull it all together. I love the colours in the lounge, and am curious to see how the yellow sofa will work in there with pink. Lots of fun!

Very excited to see the pink living room and plum dining room. I love all of your saturated wall colors. Which makes me wonder, will you show us more of your apartment? I remember swatches of brown and green when you were first moving in, but I don’t think you ever showed us the finished product. Please?

Hello Ben, this is my first visit to your blog and find myself transported. Thank you for sharing these delightful images. What a wonderful party and your garden pictures capture the very essence of the delightful shift into autumn. I feel I may spend the rest of my afternoon losing myself in these beautiful images, thank you again.

Hi Ben, this is not a comment on this post, rather flamboyant Di taking another opportunity to congratulate you on your entry into the Power 1000! “How sweet it is,” as fabled American comedian Jackie Gleason would have said. I do, however, wonder why they label you an “architectural designer” instead of a straightforward architect? Is that a Brit thing? Anyway, congratulations!!


PS -I was surprised to see that Nicky Haslam is also a “New Entry.” Would’ve thought he’d been in there years ago. Go figure! (No one will be able to say this about Ben P 🙂 )

Ben, beautiful photos of the garden in the gentle autumn sun—softly burnished brass to summer’s blinding gold. A more civilized kind of light. Imparts a mellowing feeling as the heat and glare of summer recedes. And next will come the quietness, as the bug chorus dies down and windows are mostly closed against the chill nights. Then, time to start cocooning for winter. And what a lovely cocoon you have!

I had the colored pencils out this weekend, finishing up a piece for my exhibit next month, and one color was spot-on (as you Brits say) your vivid color for the dining room. It was called, not plum, but “dahlia purple.” What could be more appropriate for you? It will certainly shake up the prim architecture of the Old Parsonage!

Best of luck to the New Craftsmen. They are obviously a jolly lot, as most artists are. 🙂


I never tire of pictures of your garden and if I have a room I can paint plum I will. It is just fantastic.

Nothing better than a Monday morning spent with you! All I can think of are the beautiful bouquets you can put in your newly painted rooms. Hope you are ordering some special tulips to go with those plum walls. Check out the bulbs at Old House Gardens for pix of things like Adonis, Black & White, Demeter, Gloria Nigrorum. They would be stunning against that wall color. I can’t grow tulips (too shady) so I just love your spring borders. We are getting ready to paint our pale gray living room (sitting room?) a deep olive green with a dark teal wall at the far end. I can never see too many pictures of your house, garden and travels.


Dear Ben, really 15 quid for some cosmos and brown paper!!! Trugs are lovely. An old friend had 2 sets of graduated Sussex trugs that had belonged to her mother. Apparently her mama would sling the largest of the trugs over her wrist, gloved, of course, and with her gardner in tow, tour the herbaceous borders pointing to what she fancied cut for the house. Oh the blythe ways of the landed gentry.
I also rather fancy the fox fabric on the Cameron Short cushion, but I am also a little “f#*k your graphic cushion look”. Still very partial to a kelim cushion, or a nice Kashmiri chain stitched number..and dare I own to it… two rather posh needlepointed rose numbers with fringed borders..okay and the ones with dogs on….cushion traditionalist and proud of it.
Love your sitting room with the light flowing gently through the fretted music rest. Lucky sod having the room for a goanna, and the restraint not to smother it with stuff.
Anyhow, gone on long enough.. but, also love Living in Vogue, have owned a copy for 20 yrs or so. Do you love the stair case in the late Roderick Cameron’s house. Wasn’t his mother the famous Lady “Killmore”? A dangerous femme fatale from Down Under.
Love your blog, it’s like a mini rest-cure after the rigours of Monday, Cheers, Scott spent Sunday past looking at blog entries I’d missed, and damn you Ben for showing Looke Farm. I am consumned with LUST.

Amicia de Moubraysays:

I love the idea of a pink drawing room. I have always dreamt of a pale pink kitchen. Your blog is great and full of interesting images and information.


I, too, love this time of year, Ben. The idea of new beginnings stirs me. But, ruddy Nora, Ben; I think that the posies, at The New Craftsmen, have gone to your head! I’m going to say yes to the dining room, but reserved on the sitting room. Unless you are planning on switching out your furniture, I think that you should stick with what you have.

Dear Ben,

I visited your store a few weeks ago when I was in London. It was just as beautiful as I imagined. I adore your work and your divine home and garden in Dorset. It has been so inspiring reading your blog over the years. I wish you would join Instagram!!


Hello Ben, Love all your posts, the garden and links. Fascinated to see Living in Vogue mentioned. I have had this wonderful book forever and adore opening the pages. It is like a good friend, comforting and special. The colours are super andI wish you a happy journey into Pink and Plum. Thanks and keep sending out the good vibrations.

Adoring the plum colour… Although I love F&B’s “grey in everything” palette, I too am becoming just a tad, dare I say it, bored-bored with grey. I long for colour that makes a room sing and makes me smile each time I open the door.
Can’t wait to see the plum colour finished. Love the green you’ve used in the hallway of the welsh cottages.
Best Wishes,


sigh. perfect.

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