Autumn Turning

6 September 2015
Ben Pentreath

This is a strange tale, but very funny…

If you happened to read last week’s blog, I said I’d be posting some photos of the new shop. Last weekend, Bridie and I did a massive re-vamp in the store.  We closed for a couple of days, brought our builder Adam in, ripped out display cabinets, installed a beautiful new (old) shop counter, repainted, and displayed masses new stock. It was such fun… the sort of day that is hard work and a bit scary at the beginning but which leaves you with one of those ‘worth it’ feelings at the end of it all.

But the story really starts a few months ago.

“Guys”, started an email from Colin, our friendly technical whizz who runs all the I.T. in the architecture studio and manages the shop website… “Guys, we have a problem”.

“We’ve received this review on Google…. I’m very sorry… not sure what we can do about it….”

Colin attached a copy of the first review below, written by someone called Sacheverell Pei.


Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 21.25.02

(you won’t mind my including the two reviews that followed – thank you Nicholas, thank you Daniel).

But I read Sacheverell’s review.

And I thought to myself….

You’re right.

From time to time in shopkeeping, as Bridie and I have learned so many times in the last 7 years, you magically get things right – and then they go wrong.  A bit like cooking, a bit like gardening – sometimes it works perfectly and sometimes it doesn’t.  Why?  Well, if we knew the answer to that we probably wouldn’t just be running a little shop on Rugby Street, let’s face it.

But I saw Sacheverell’s review and if I’m really honest, 3 months ago, I suppose we are talking about back in June, the shop was in a lull moment.  Things weren’t perfect.  I had masses on my plate in the architectural and decoration office (oh, plus a wedding to plan with Charlie) – and I must admit, that when everything gets too much, the shop sometimes becomes the orphaned child of my attention. Bridie had masses on her plate too, what with one thing and another. And somehow, the shop was in an off moment.

I wouldn’t go quite so far as Sacheverell to call myself a “blogger”…. if I’m really honest, the blog feels like a very very tiny part of my life as a whole – albeit a fun and important one. And I am really not sure that I would have called our loyal readership “gaga housewives” although that did  make me chuckle.  Sacheverell, watch out….. hehehe.

But as I read Colin’s rather concerned email, I thought to myself… I do love a little wake-up call – however inconvenient the timing.

Bride and I sat down for a drink that evening and agreed that when the moment was right, we’d press that most satisfying button… and have a shake up.

One of the things I’ve learned in life is to be very, very self-critical. That’s the only way to really get anywhere. In the architectural studio, we’re constantly ripping things up and starting again – or at the very least, tweaking and tweaking and tweaking drawings until the guys in the office are completely sick and tired of me.  In decoration, it’s a question of thinking again and again… of never just sticking with the first or the second or the third scheme, but letting ideas settle and mature in response to each step in the magical dance of putting together rooms.

And in the shop, it’s a question of listening hard when people think we’re doing well – or badly.

If you’re able to pop by, We’d love to show you the beautiful new shop.  If you’re not, then I thought you might enjoy these pics.

It’s all about pumpkin orange walls in the shop this autumn – a beautiful colour (The Long Room,  by my friend David Oliver over at Paint Library).

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Black-framed engravings look very good against The Long Room.
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New suzanis in stock:P1020457

John Derian & Astier de Villatte take pride of place in the centre of the new shop (and of course our shop is an homage to both – both our good friends…)P1020271 P1020265

Bridie’s new marbled plaster obelisks are completely bonkers. I love them:P1020269

Peter Hone’s plasters look stunning against the burnt orange walls…

Bits and pieces.P1020238 P1020213

I think the whole world is in love with Bridie’s new brush pots. This time they’re dotted around and about rather than a massed Alphabet. Because that’s how I think you’d use them at home.P1020214

(obviously you’ll have guessed that that’s a homage to C.Z. Guest).


Rarer than hen’s teeth these days, we were thrilled to find a few original copies of Osbert Lancaster’s London Night and Day…. which of course, has been reprinted, but that’s not quite the same (is IT?).

And I’m obsessed by Wedgwood glass candlesticks by Ronald Sennett-Wilson, and I’m very glad the obsession has made its way into every corner of the shop just now.  I can’t quite count up how many Ronald Sennett-Wilson candlesticks we’ve got at home.

Well… anyway…. it’s a nice new start to the autumn. The blog isn’t often about the shop, not least because I never really like these pages to get too commercial, but I hope you’re happy to see what we’ve been up to.

And Sacheverell if you’re passing through London – call in and say hello. If you dare hehe.

Well – that was last week. It was a hectic week – and on Friday afternoon, I was so happy to catch the train down to Dorset, resting on the bring of late summer and autumn. When I’d finally finished work stuff, Charlie and I went for a beautiful walk. The valley glowed.

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I’m constantly grateful to have this beautiful country on our doorstep.P1020311 P1020313 P1020330 P1020339

The garden, too, is turning – the vegetable garden thick with dahlias and harvest. The borders have gone a bit mad – that time of year.P1020352 P1020357 P1020360 P1020362 P1020363 P1020370 P1020372 P1020374 P1020376 P1020378 P1020390 P1020402 P1020406 P1020410 P1020412 P1020413 P1020415 P1020417 P1020426 P1020427 P1020428 P1020433

Sunset was soft… as we walked up the road for supper with Jim and Nic.P1020440 P1020442 P1020443

Our time in Dorset was brief. Yesterday night was the CRAZY (the only word) marriage of Ashley Hicks and Katalina Sharkey de Solis…. at The Grove, Ashley’s extraordinary house in Oxfordshire, the gardens planned and planted by his father David.  Bonkers.  For those very sensible comments on last week’s post about Instagram – Ashley and Kata met on Instagram. You see what I mean?!! It was a magical, happy, crazy night.

We’ve been feeling a little bleary eyed today in the sparkling sunshine of London.

29 comments on this post


Hi Ben,

I cam across your blog via Instagram through the Land Gardners. I’ve enjoyed reading old posts and pinteresting your images.

Curious – is there any significance to the small terracotta pots on bamboo poles?

Washington, DC


Dear Daryl, Charlie uses them to catch snails!! I won’t say what he does once he’s caught them. Love the land gardeners. All best, Ben


Well. Hello from a Pentreath admirer from “the land that produced Lady Gaga” (and Ella Fitzgerald, but nevermind). To respond to the comment, it seems to be going a bit too far to assume without evidence that Mr. Pei is American. (Indeed, If one wanted to look at the evidence, “Sacheverell” is a name from English history that few Americans would recognize.) More importantly, congratulations to Ben on a truly impressive post.


Visiting London from N. Ireland last week, I googled Pentreath and Hall for directions and this review appeared on my screen. I have to say, I found it so harsh and dismissive, it hurt MY feelings! Very gracious of you to parlay it into something positive; for myself, I found the shop a delight and the whole area so charming, unlike Sacheverell Pei ;-))

What was Smallweed’s unforgettable line in Bleak House? “Shake me up, Judy!” That is what goads us toward excellence. Your reaction was entirely appropriate.

I have been a shopkeeper, and based on my experience, your sales are about to go through the roof. Shaking it up always kisses you back.

Good overhaul. Time for a sundowner. Party on.


This gaga housewife with a masters degree is so busy with my one woman exhibition this week hadn’t had time to respond quickly and my Sisterhood of the G.H.s have said it all! Again, well done for your response and to have made things in the shop look even more wonderful. Excited that I will finally be able to visit before autumn is over. Your garden looking Septemberly exquisite.Thank you, as always, for the delight your blog gives me.


Shop looks GORGEOUS but as usual at this time of year I am suffering severe dahlia envy. xxx

Wonderfully dealt with Ben – have you had a response? GAGA housewife! I run 2 companies and I’ve got a newborn. He can P off. X


Not very nice and from the looks of things inaccurate. John Derian’s things are grand but it’s your store I look forward to visiting one of these days.


Silly Sacheverel, he should take more pleasure in life. Still, the update looks lovely. And I can take pleasure in the small fact that I do have an original copy of Night & Day!

The new pumpkin walls are perfect ! Keep up the good work and the wonderful inspiration you provide for your ‘readers.’ If you can’t say something nice-then don’t say anything at all!
xo, Lissy

I am SO getting a t-shirt made: “I’m one of Ben’s Bitches”
Gaga Housewives of the world unite!
P.S love the new look

Oh, dear Me indeed! Someone who would choose a moniker like Sacheverell Pei could only be a troll, and a very conflicted one at that. While there is a bit of overlap between your store and Mr. Derian’s, they are very different. His store has an atmospheric Castaing-meets-Wes Anderson feel while you and Ms. Hall have an architectural Soane/Hicks/Festival of Britain thing going on. Both are original visions.

I really like the new look of the store – my first apartment was painted that shade of orange (my landlady didn’t return the deposit).

Nicola Lawrencesays:

I live in a house. I am a wife (recently, surprisingly and very happily). I am, at times, gaga (historically, not surprisingly, and mostly happily). So, I fit the (somewhat ignorant) psychological profile assumed by your reviewer relating to your readers. Regarding his/her shop concerns, I look forward when next in London (next year hopefully – and I am gaga about that!) to visiting it with my househusband and making my own assessment.

As to the the photos from your walk, as someone who used to live in a beautiful, treed environment, for which I too was grateful everyday – and who now lives in a place where our official name of ‘town/city/suburb’ is One Tree (because there was only one tree – for many kms – and that tree blew over in a howling wind about 100 years ago) – I could just crawl into your photos and stay there….. Heavenly.


Gaga housewife? Whats that? I have two degrees, read masses each day, can string a grammatically correct sentence together (which is more than most people in the business world seem to be able to do these days), engage fully with the world and spend much time on nurturing important relationships in my life. This is my choice. I have committed to it and I think I do it well. It is also ‘gaga housewives’ who make the majority of decisions as to where the nation’s disposable income is placed. Think on.


Well. Please consider yourself, Mr Sacheverell Whatsyername, beaten briskly about the ears by the rolling pin of this gaga housewife. Constructive criticism is one thing; cheap sneers are another. Go and stand in the corner until you’ve learned some manners.

Congratulations, Ben, on your magnificent and magnanimous response to this pipsqueak. The shop looks lovely – but it did before. And you’ve done me a great favour – the pumpkin walls are just the colour I’ve been looking for to transform my hall. Many thanks!


All you have to do is add some contrast pieces in check and sepia to the shop if you wish to apeal to those persons that probably see the dress as black and white. These will be the same people that do not score well on the pantone test, and are unable to see the tints and tones that you dare to experiment with. Perhaps there is a colour we cannot see, that would be gaga. Perhaps it is a colour combination we have not seen yet….
Thank you for the beautiful photos of the landscapes. I would love to buy a paint brush pot and visit the shop one day. Till then I will be making fennel soup, in my small but wonderful marble kitchen looking at trees and sky out of the window.


Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. When the inarticulate and misogynistic, presumably emanating from the land that has produced Donald Trump and Lady Gaga, have to resort to insulting half the free market economy. Shop looks very well. And anyone who resorts to abbreviations, is, in my very humble opinion, a complete g*. There. Best, Nicola

Albert Premiersays:

Gaga housewives? Housewives perhaps (what is wrong with that, pray?), but gaga? Are any of your followers gaga? I think not, judging by how & what they write I think they are quite sound.
By the way, I am sure there are other ways to express critisism. Sacheverel’s is pure spite & makes him look like a gaga “househusband”.
Anyway I am all admiration for the way you take it Ben, I couldn’t, I am totally devoid of self-critisism (lol!)….


Miaow, miaow. Very noble of you to be so nice Ben – personally I would cheerfully have taken Mr Whatsisface down to the Paint Library and hurled a few pots of the pumpkin paint at him; I’m sure a few other members of the Gaga Sisterhood would have joined me as well. What a load of sneering old nonsense. It looks great (as it did the last time I was in.)

I came to London last Thursday and your shop was on my to-do list, so we visited on Friday, and I must say I really rather liked it. I was particularly enamoured of Peter Hone’s plasterwork, but unable to slip a capital into my already overweight luggage when it returns with me to Bangkok in a couple of weeks. The visit coincided with one from Luke, so it was nice to meet him too. I took a photo of the shop front, so I will post it in due course when my life is less London-hectic.

I did see Sacheverell’s comment and I gasped when I read it. I have to say that you are much better dealing with criticism – deserved or not – than I am. The shop looks lovely, though I thought it did before. I can feel another visit to purchase another Peter Hone cast (amongst other things) coming on.

Garden is looking lovely. I cut back some stuff this weekend and wished I had waited.

Ben, the new look shop looks fantastic; but I shall have pop down and have a look in person – just to make sure. Perhaps buy something too.
I bought ‘Living in Vogue’ last we and it’s pretty damn good – it’s currently nestling on a bookshelf between you and Mary Gilliatt. There’s a wonderful portrait of Angus McBean, the photographer, inside. Shame he doesn’t get the recognition, both as a photographer and interior designer, he deserves.


The way you took advantage of a rudely expressed comment and transformed it into good work goes to your credit.


Dear Ben

What a delight! Someone who is self critical and honest; for once. So refreshing. Being self critical in concert with constant reinvention is the only way forward. Your ‘blog’ is a joy to look at and read by the way. L x


I’m liking those pumpkin walls. Especially with that bit of red chucked into the mix to make everything jump and jiggle just a little.

I’d also like an entire hallway crammed with things by Mr Hone. Chockers. Stuffed to the gills.

As for Sacheverell – great name. And good that you could take his comments and use them constructively. But housewife? Schmousewife. And gaga? Nothing wrong with a little of that.

Rage on, Mr Pentreath.

Sue Tattersallsays:

Yet another Gaga Housewife who buys online and loves the look of your newly arranged shop.

The sisterhood of the Gaga Housewives your new fanbase perhaps or your old fanbase, we are certainly loyal x


The shop is looking lovely – I hope to visit one day but in the mean time will continue to buy online.
From a Gaga Housewife!

Please let Charlie know that the garden looks amazing still. I love this time of year when everything looks a little crazy in the garden but I can’t bear to cut things back just yet. X

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