Slow recovery

13 December 2015
Ben Pentreath

Well, we were never going to feel very well this morning – but it was BAD.  Charlie and I went to the amazing, beautiful wedding of our friends Jasper and Oisin, which was bonkers and crazy and moving by turns (Oisin, your dad’s speech was the one that really got me). We danced and drank and ate and talked the night away. We were staying with Edward and Jane Hurst. Jane (saint Jane, for not drinking) drove us all back through narrow Dorset lanes in the dead of night and we got to bed at five in the morning.

Despite waking to this beautiful hand painted chinese wallpaper in Edward and Jane’s guest bedroom, the morning was grim. I don’t think I’ve had a hangover like this one for a while. Truly, I think, a case of you reap what you sow, and at my age with a vengeance, let’s face it.


I include this little photo of a corner of Edward and Jane’s incredible house (which I have blogged about before, as you will remember), with great excitement as it will be one of the chapters in the new book I’m writing at the moment – with Ryland Peters and Small, again, as publisher, which will come out next Autumn.  The book will be called English Houses.  Watch this space (as they say). Their house really is one of the most serene of them all. It is magical – and such a treat to stay, whether one was feeling well or not.

Edward’s wonderful cooked breakfast, eaten off idyllic 19th century kitchen china, and several cups of tea and strong coffee later, we were just about recovered enough to make our way to the Pentreath family pre-Christmas lunch over in Somerset. Crikey. Talk about a bad diary collision. But we were only 40 minutes late.  As I think I might have mentioned, Charlie and I are off to New Zealand next weekend, so it was time to say good bye…   We are going via L.A., which is very exciting, as it’s a place I’ve never been and long to see. I know that probably sounds crazy but there you go.  If you’re a blog reader in L.A. and you have a good piece of advice for us I’d love to hear it!

We got home as the afternoon light was fading.  It was one of those incredibly still winter afternoons. The air is mild, though; all over the garden, seedlings are popping up, primroses are beginning to push through – and on the outskirts of Yeovil great swathes of the verges are covered in bright yellow early daffodils…. the sight of which was frankly… weird.  I’m longing for a bit of serious winter (although I can’t wait for a dose of NZ summer either).

Charles’s new flower beds look as if they have been there for ever.


Primroses on the bank:P1050832 P1050833 P1050835

His veg garden is neat as a pin:P1050844

Rows of tulip bulbs are all planted:P1050846 P1050848(those are nasturtium seedlings, which will probably have a rather short life one suspects).  But everything is in and ready to go.

I walked across the green to look at the fading light over the valley. However many times, however many days I look at this, I absolutely never tire of this view – which is ever-changing and utterly constant all at the same time.

P1050852 P1050854 P1050858 P1050860 P1050861

As the light fell, and evening settled in, the little house seemed very content indeed with all the changes that have been taking place. When I was a child, I had a book that had been my Dad’s when he was a boy, in the 1930s, in Australia. One of its stories was about a little house which could quite definitely feel happy and sad, depending on what was going on around and about.  One of these days when I am next at home I’ll try and dig it out.

I’d say the Parsonage was smiling this evening.

Have a really great lead-up to Christmas wherever you are, wherever you are going. What a year 2015 has been. I’m not quite sure when I’ll next be posting – maybe in Los Angeles, maybe in New Zealand; maybe when we are home in the New Year. Either way – have a great holiday.

Bridie and I would just really like to thank so many of your for all your support this year. It’s so great to have so many loyal readers, and I can’t say how much I enjoy reading comments on a blog or two, especially when controversy reigns. Thank you too, especially, for your custom in the shop itself, either in your visits to Lambs Conduit and Rugby Streets, in our little corner of London, or into the website from where we send parcels literally around the world these days.  Without the shop none of this could all happen, and it’s great to report that it has been a good year for Pentreath & Hall.  We truly are very grateful.  Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, if I don’t get a chance to say it again.

_ _ _

We are recruiting for a new interior decorator in the office, for which you can read the job profile here (by following the link and scrolling down the page).  We will also be recruiting for new architects early in the New Year.  Please bear this in mind if part of your holiday is to write a New Year Resolution saying “GET A FAB NEW JOB”.  Thanks!  Ben


30 comments on this post

Philip Stewartsays:

Happy Christmas to you both and thanks for the blog.
I spend half the year in LA. I second the comment about Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach – my favorite street in LA. Highly recommend Feed for cocktails or dinner and Djelina for brunch or lunch.


Just in LA in August. The Griffith Observatory was stunning inside and out, and the view was spectacular. Bon voyage!


thank you again for sharing Dorset; makes my heart go ‘skippety skip!’ Season’s Greetings!


Great post – love the watercolour shots of the valley.
LA: get to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena if you possibly can – visit late morning to early afternoon so as not to get stuck in traffic. Brilliant building, brilliant collection.

Pierre B.says:

This has been an other great year of “inspiration”. May you have the happiest hollyday wher’ever you spend it in UK or New Zeland. Can’t wait fot this new book!


We’re stopping off in LA also on our way to the Cook Islands. Make sure you have the esta.


Merry Christmas. Have a great holiday.


Thanks for all the fun and informative posts over the past year. Give those little grey cells and your liver a break. Realy looking forward to your new book. I’m hoping to see some delicious new houses (that is to say – old houses) that don’t feature in any other architecture/interiors books. Have a cool Christmas and Happy New Year! Best, Nicola


I was just saying to my husband that a trip to LA in early August would be great – grab Adele tickets, see the Getty Center (so good I would fly down just to see it again), stay at the Erwin on Venice Beach for the evening rooftop cocktails as the sun sets over the beach, visit Small World Books on the boardwalk, have dinner somewhere on Abbot Kinney Blvd. (But not at Hal’s, alas, as it has closed). And then I opened up your blog post to see you are going to LA. I used to just see freeways, strip malls, and ugly sprawl when I went to LA but then I got out of a car and started seeing neighborhoods. The bus ride from Venice to Santa Monica is a nice slice of the city. Wherever you go will be great – but do go to the Getty.


Other museums to check out if time allows – hammer museum and the very new the broad. Enjoy.


A NEW BOOK! The thought of that, although we have more than half a year to wait, makes me so happy. Cheers to your holiday travels.

Welcome to LA. I would recommend the Walt Disney Music Hall by architect Frank Gehry, the shops on Larchmont Avenue, a drive around the Los Feliz area, the beach in Malibu. There are a plethora of art museums, the newest being the Broad. If you do go to the Huntington Library and gardens, nearby is the Gamble House, a famous Greene and Greene craftsman home, the Norton Simon Museum and Caltech campus is a pretty stroll, Dinner at a lovely, small restaurant, Gales. Regardless, have a wonderful stay.

Nicola Lawrencesays:

Shades of our weekend Ben.. A good time was had by all. How exciting to hear about the new book and I can’t wait to see it.

Have a wonderful trip and all the best to you and Charlie – and Bridie for a joyful Christmas. I would imagine Christmas in NZ for the first time for will be very special. Thank you for all of the lovely things you have brought to life for me this year.

Safe travels, Nicola x


If you have time in LA, do try to see the Bradbury Building (304 South Broadway downtown) – the ironwork is gorgeous, and it will speak to your inner Bladerunner.

As a historic landscape architect who loves your writings and photographs and books, may I strongly recommend a visit to Rancho Los Alamitos at 6400 Bixby Hill Road, Long Beach, California. You have never seen such massive estate trees, framing the old rancho house. One can look right through the house from the front through the central hall and out to the back where these trees frame the house. From there you can look down to sequences of garden rooms below… lovely at any time, I remember late afternoon golden sun…


It looks like you have many good recommendations for your stay in LA so I won’t add more but traveling around the area is extremely difficult. Places like the Huntington Library and Gardens in Pasadena or the Getty (LA or Malibu) are wonderful and would take up an entire day of your visit. You might also think about hiring a car and driver for the days you are wanting to travel about.

Enjoy your travels to NZ and have a wonderful holiday.
A fan from the Central Coast of California


I second the Huntington Library and Gardens! If you find yourself in downtown Los Angeles, the main hall of Union Station is worth a look. And then you’re a three minute drive from Guisados on Sunset, some of the best tacos in LA (almost as important as good architecture don’t you think?).
For design shopping: Nickey Kehoe, Galerie Half and Hollywood at Home (all West Hollywood-ish) and Lawson Fenning in Silver Lake.
Happy New Year to you. Your blog is more entertaining and inspiring with each year!


Thank you so much for the nice blog, I can really imagine how your weekend was.
I just discover your shop last november, and I love it very much, all the things you sell and the good atmosphere. I am looking forward for the new book English Houses, I will wait till next Autumn.
All the best for a Merry Christmas in the sun, and see you back in the New Year.


Happy christmas, dearest darlings. Travel well. Withl xxx from all of us at Wharton Towers


I love your photos of Parsonage gardens and your Valley. There is no place I would rather see.
Sometime in the New Year, would you take some pictures of the organ in the Church there and tell me who made it and when it was installed? Was a parish organist for 35 years and am interested it .What a thrill it would be to start over there! A nice dream as the sun goes down on one’s life! Thanks for your blogs and photos.


I love those greenhouse style cloches in your garden Ben and Charlie – where are they from, as I would love to purchase some for my (far less impressive garden).

Happy Christmas and travels!



Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, Charlie and the Pentreath and Hall crowd! Once again some amazing posts this year, so we feel that we actually know you. Thank you for sharing. Looking forward to the autumn of 2016 already and the new book! Have a great holiday x

I’m a regular visitor to LA as I have a sister living there. The Getty Center in LA is a must. Incredible views over the city, beautiful gardens, not to mention the exhibits. The restaurant there serves excellent food. Try and have a meal by the pool at the Sunset Tower Hotel on Sunset Strip. The views of LA are fabulous and the food is excellent.

Wishing you and Charlie a wonderful Christmas in NZ and a happy and healthy New Year. It was great to finally meet you, Ben, at Charlie’s pop-up shop.

Angela x

Andrew Beansays:

A very Happy Christmas and New Year to you both and all you love.
The Huntington museum & Botanical Gardens should be a must go for you… the grounds are amazing and the contents inside astonishing some of the UK’s greatest will see more on their website.
Wherever you go…Safe journey and very happy wanderings..

Annie Dsays:

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and Charlie and all your family and friends! Thank you for your beautiful blog and sharing your photos and thoughts. It is amazing that I feel that I know you and all I have ever done is connect on Sunday nights via the internet. I visited Persephone Books back in September of 2013 right before I started following you. Next trip to London I will definitely be visiting the shop. All the best from NJ to London, NZ, and beyond.

i would love to offer my services as office decorator or architect but i will settle for suggesting you have a look at my blog under the l.a. label for ideas. l.a. is vast – don’t know how much time you’ll have but i do look forward to seeing it through your lens. the venice canals and beach are probably a must. you might love its neighborhood blend of craftsman houses and daring modern things. anyway that’s a good place to start! LACMA is worth a visit. happy xmas and 2016 too!


Beautiful photos, as always. I believe the body wants salts and sugars after a bender like that – at least I read that somewhere and I’ve found it helps immensely. I put a tablespoon of good raw organic honey into a large glass of cold water, a teaspoon of good sea salt and mix it up till the honey dissolves. I often squeeze a lemon into it too, or use some good lemon juice (Italian Volcano brand is amazing). It’s basically a homemade version of the drink called pedialyte, for children who are ill and need easily absorbed calories and re-hydration. I’m not sure when to drink it though – right before bed or first thing in the morning. I usually drink it the first time I wake up then fall right back to sleep. It really helps.

For Los Angeles, there is LACMA and the James Turrell exhibit on now, “Breathing Light,”

And for food, I usually hit the farmer’s markets (there are tons of them) and cook, but I’ve heard the Malibu Farm restaurant is lovely:

as well as The Tasting Kitchen in Venice, great wine especially:

The Getty museum is wonderful, Manhattan beach is my favorite beach so far (but not much of a scene there, just beautiful)…I think it’s a wonderful town. To be honest, my favorite thing to do there is to have a coffee at the Conservatory coffee shop in Culver City on Washington Street, then drive down Washington Street to Rainbow Acres market for groceries, then back on Washington Street continuing right out to the beach. The pavement itself is paler than normal streets, whitewashed from the sun, it all feels very 1950s Los Angeles, from a movie.

Two books about Los Angeles that might make you feel like you are really stepping into a story book, in a great and sometimes difficult way, Mike Davis’ “City of Quartz” is brilliant, and Reyner Banham’s “Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies,” is wonderful.

I hope you love the city – I was very prejudiced against it before I moved here but it is a great great town. Happy New Year to you too!

CM Greensays:

You will find clear days, moderate temps (60’s F) during the next +week. As a former resident, now occasional visitor, I can strongly recommend these things:
1. The Getty remains LA’s biggest jewel in its crown of museums. Must not be missed for the variety of its collections, inspiring architecture & gardens. And a view of the city & sea second to none.
2. Try not to travel on any freeway before 10 am or after 2 pm. If taking cabs, make sure your driver tries to stay on surface streets as much as is practical & possible.
3. Very important, no matter how little time you might have: get out of town. Head for Malibu reasonably early in the day, and see the remarkable Malibu Getty. A classical Roman villa filled with the truly great pieces from the ancient world. Charlie will find a perfectly re-created 1st century Roman garden. The museum restaurant is quite good for lunch.

Art, architecture and California’s greatest natural gift, the vast Pacific. Have a wonderful 1st visit, and happy holidays with family in NZ.
CM Green
A devoted fan from Northern California

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