Pictures not words

25 September 2016
Ben Pentreath


Hanging on the wall of my office is a poster I bought a few years ago at the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, by Andy Warhol. I am sure you’ve seen it: “I never read, I just look at pictures”.  I think that’s my mood this evening. It’s been the quietest weekend imaginable down here in Dorset, a relief after two pretty intense weeks on the go (including Decorex and all that went with it last weekend… apologies for not having time to write).

I forgot to bring a camera this weekend to Dorset, a regular occupational hazard, luckily saved by my iPhone, which it turns out takes some nice photos just at the moment. I was sure you would want to see the latest in dahlia heaven, and a few updates of Mavis, Percy and Henry, so I popped out this afternoon. As for the rest, there’s not much I can mention – we hardly left the house. Bliss.img_4052 img_4053 img_4058 img_4059 img_4062 img_4063 img_4064 img_4066 img_4068 img_4072 img_4073 img_4075 img_4076 img_4077 img_4081 img_4082 img_4094 img_4095 img_4103 img_4106 img_4121 img_4124 img_4133 img_4134 img_4196 img_4199 img_4208 img_4220 img_4228 img_4233 img_4236 img_4237 img_4238 img_4239 img_4265


Also (quietly) this week… my latest book was published. Very exciting! If you haven’t bought a copy, I thought you’d enjoy seeing a few pages here.

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It opens with photographs of our flat in London.img_4141 img_4142 img_4143 img_4144

An innovation this time, I persuaded the lovely publishers and art director at Ryland Peters and Small that what we needed was page after page of full-size photographs – with no distracting text – all the better to absorb ourselves in Jan Baldwin’s beautiful imagery.  Captions are gathered together at the end of each chapter. Much neater:img_4145

My friend Maisie’s house, with its glorious 70’s kitchen:img_4146 img_4147 img_4148

Lulu Lytle’s kitchen with its beautiful turquoise tiles:img_4149 img_4150 img_4152

Kim Wilkie’s serene flat in St. James’s:img_4153

The next section is called ‘Country’, img_4154

and opens (surprise!) with the Parsonage. img_4155 img_4156 img_4157 img_4158

My great friend Kate’s parents’ house – up the valley – insanely beautiful.img_4159 img_4160 img_4161

Edward & Jane Hurst:img_4162 img_4163 img_4164 img_4165 img_4166 img_4167

Veere Grenney, dream house:
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We end with four country houses, starting with a romantic, incredible house in Northumberland….img_4170 img_4171 img_4172

Of all the pictures in the book, I’m obsessing over this chair at the moment. I think we might start doing every piece of furniture in the decoration office in loose covers (of fern printed linen).img_4173 img_4174 img_4175

Beautiful Herringston, which I have written about on this blog, as long-term readers will know.
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Wardington, home of Bridget Elworthy and the Land Gardeners, which will also be familiar to regular readers.img_4180 img_4181 img_4182 img_4184 img_4185 img_4186 img_4187

And Trematon Castle, home of Julian and Isabel Bannerman, who’s own ravishing book on gardens is about to be published this week.img_4188 img_4189 img_4190 img_4191

It was a lot of fun writing this book, and pulling together the houses and friends that make it.img_4192

But, if I am honest, it is even more fun reading it, and holding it in my hands.  I’ve been signing hundreds of copies, it seems, for the shop, so it’s a good thing I decided that I’d better not sign any copies elsewhere (with the rare exception).  And if you’d like a personal dedication, just let the nice people at the shop know when you place your order.

In the afterword, pictured above, I refer to that Andy Warhol poster – pictures, not words – because really, after all, that’s what the book is about, and what I think the blog is really about too. So having said all that, then… Thank you for reading this far.

37 comments on this post


I was looking at cookbooks on another site and your book came up as a suggestion. High reviews and one reviewer mentioned your blog so I thought I’d look you up. So glad I did! Thank you for being so generous and sharing so many beautiful pictures from your book! I definitely will be ordering and will be back to visit. Thank you!

Cyndia Msays:

Oh, what lovely photos you’ve made! I’m a fairly new reader so I was wondering what kind of dog you have! Cannot wait to get your new book; getting a glimpse of it in these photos is such eye candy!


Your dahlia border is gorgeous. I went to the other week and found myself wondering whether Charlie has seen the borders there? They had spiky (cactus?) dahlias in the deepest shiraz colour, set against black heuchera, purple sage etc, and it was joyful.

And I’m with you on the fern chair. My mind has been slowly filling with images of green and white botanical prints for a while now. Specifically an oversized headboard and chairs.

The book looks lovely – I feel in need of it.


The dahlia border in your garden is ravishing. I went to the other week and wondered whether Charlie had seen the borders there? They had the deepest shiraz coloured spiky dahlias, set against black heuchera, purple sage etc, and it was stunning.

And I’m with you on the fern linen loose covers – my mind has been slowly filling with images of green botanical prints for a while now. Specifically, an oversized headboard, and some chairs.


Beautiful Book! Can’t wait to receive it here in New York City when it is released in October!

Gabriele Liechtensteinsays:

Oh Ben, what a wonderful blog post this is! Everything I love is there – your beautiful house, the flowers, Mavis and the two so grown up kittens (they still have the look of funny and entertaining cats 🙂 … ) and thanks for showing the many pages of your new book!!! Great, I know now I MUST have a copy! So inspiring! Thanks for everything you share with us. Have a beautiful evening, all the best, Gabriele.

Diane Keanesays:

Thank you for the preview of your new book, Ben! It looks wonderful, looking forward to getting my copy when it comes out this month in the US. Dorset photos lovely as always, those dahlias just don’t quit (kudos to Charlie.) I laughed out loud at the photo of Mavis inviting Percy to play ball with her!! What a beauty she is growing up to be.


Charlotte Ksays:

Book lust. Ordering ASAP.

Say rather that YOU take good pictures, not your iPhone. I expect you would take nice pictures whatever the device.

julien devergniessays:

We love the book, Ben ! Even more than the first one.
Full size pictures on every pages is a brilliant idea
thank you very for signing it and thanks to the nice people at the shop for the extra gift ( love it )
Can’t wait to shop again at rugby street on november
julien from Brussels


Wunderbar! Thanks, your blog is pure happyness to me!

Jennifer Phillippssays:

Greetings from New Zealand
I pre-ordered your new book as soon as I knew it was on the way, so seeing a taster of the images it contains only makes me look forward to its arrival, in the next week or so I think. As always your images are spectacular both at home and also those of Jan Baldwin in the book. Such luscious interiors that you just want to wander into and have a slump into one of those lovely chairs! Well done

Sonya Wileysays:

what a beautiful post thank you for the book preview but I stopped midway so it will be a surprise!



Sarah Cayrafourcqsays:

You do yourself an injustice, Ben, when you say that the salient feature of your book is the pictures. They are wonderful, yes, but you’re also a brilliant writer, with a unique and immediately recognisable voice that is a joy to encounter. I read your work as much for the language as the photography; the cadence of your sentences and the emotions you evoke with your metaphors and reminiscences are at least as poetic as your interiors. Keep writing please. Your text sings.


Gorgeous. Just everything.

Jean-Bernard LASSERREsays:

I am looking forward to holding the signed copy of your marvellous book that I have ordered recently.Browsing through it will take my mind off the daily routine of teaching and marking papers.
Thank you for the glorious photos of your blog as well.


I had to avert my eyes as I scrolled down the page! I just peeked at the images. I had to force myself not to look for goodness sake. I’m waiting for my copy here in America! The perfect morning will be a hot cup of coffee, my easy chair facing out on the garden, an ottoman for my legs and all the time to read the whole book.
Congrats on another soulful book.


Can’t wait for my signed copy of the new book to arrive in the mail! It looks beautiful. Too bad I didn’t think to ask for a personal dedication 🙁

deby (in Canada)says:

Oh Ben…. you share pictures with the same hand that Charlie plants bulbs and tubers- with an uncommon generosity and zest…making us your readers so lucky. Thank you for a marvellous start to the week here…I tried not to look to hard at the images in the book- planning a good wallow when it arrives!
cheers Deby

Dorine Grimbergsays:


Pierre B.says:

Pentreath and Hall noticed me that your book was in the mail. Thank you for this first glimpse which, don’t worry, will not spoil my pleasure.
Your garden is paradise.


Love the peek into what looks like an idyllic week-end in an idyllic environment. So sane,peaceful and calming. Thank you.
Your new book is already pre-ordered on Amazon; can’t wait for my own escape- will be made possible through an immersion into your book .


Your iPhone pictures look pretty darn good. I have decided to use a newly acquired phone camera when we go to India in November, rather than lugging around a DLSR, and I shall be taking pictures of rather larger cats than yours, in Ranthambore. Rather aptly we watched by chance a programme on its inhabitants (Natural World – 23.25 on BBC Four 22 September 2016). I’m salivating at the prospective visit, and hoping they wont be too much, when they encounter us. The book looks sublime. Your taste is extremely charming and beautifully layered, and you can certainly decorate my parsonage. But paraphrasing Mrs Beeton, I need to “first catch your parsonage”.

Debra Mooresays:

Wow! What a wonderful blog sheer indulgence.Y our home and garden is idyllic quintessentially English Dorset is my favourite county we have just returned from our holiday there and it was glorious autumn weather it was the best l had ever seen Dorset the colours were amazing. We visited Littlebredy the scenery was beautiful and so peaceful a little bit of heaven on earth. Cannot wait to read your new book thank you so much for celebrating English creativity through nature and design and for encouraging us all to create a home we love and tells the story of its occupants.You have immense talent but above all an appreciative and celebratory sharing of life.


as always your idea of a “few Pages” is very generous. I pre-ordered in U.S. and I think it’s due in late October. I am panting for it.

Jane Leonardsays:

First time I’ve had a chance to look at your newsletter and it’s cheered up my Monday morning no end. Particularly loved the shots of “dahlia heaven”. Would be interested to know what you grow in the beds under your windows for the rest of the year? Quite understand your obsession with the fern print chair, too. I have an abiding memory of a wonderful sitting room at a tiny hotel in Malvern Wells called The Cottage in the Wood where a very similar print was used on sofas, chairs and curtains – this was almost 40 years ago, but made a lasting impression. Will be buying your book very soon.



Excellent book; now to order the Allium bulbs and find a big Kraak bowl….

William Evanssays:

Sounds & looks the perfect weekend. The Dahlia’s at Decorex were something very very special as is your new book, thankyou !. Delighted to have a signed copy, I am a very lucky man.

Jane marshalsays:

apologises accepted.
bliss indeed.
waiting with ‘baited breath’ for the book to arrive in country oz.

Gillian Charlessays:

Congratulations on the new book – I pre-ordered in July so it’s been quite a wait but absolutely worth it. It now sits happily alongside your first book and others in vaguely the same ilk. (Can I recommend a book called ‘Decorate Fearlessly’? No – I don’t get royalties on it – just thought you’d enjoy it.) I have loved my first trawl though – some are familiar to me – The Temple in Suffolk my ‘died and gone to heaven’ place but all of them so inspirational. I went to Monk’s House in Sussex a couple of weeks ago – another fabulous place that belongs in a future book – we should all be painting our rooms Arsenic Green! Best wishes


Your book arrived on Saturday morning but I commanded myself to leave it unopened until I’d done some horrible jobs I’d been putting off – and worked all the more speedily to my reward! What a joy, Ben, on a wet Sunday afternoon to savour every page slowly, with occasional replenshment of the wine glass. The book is a delight – but it is not just the pictures! Your accompanying text is beautifully and thoughtfully written and adds immeasurably to delightful images. It is one of those ‘comfort’ books that I shall return to again and again. Congratulations! And, of course, Christmas is coming, and it will make a wonderful present for more than one on my list.


I have ordered a copy of your latest book and am watching and waiting for the postman. This post has me wishing your book was here now! Couldn’t agree more about the fern print. All my outdoor cushions are in a mix of blue or green fern printed linen-lovely.


Congratulations! Your new book looks lovely, I have to skim the photos, the pleasure (for me) is in absorbing your beautiful images s-l-o-w-l-y, will add it to my Christmas wish list.


Love your new book, it arrived Friday so spent the weekend reading and looking at the beautiful pictures! Impossible to chose a favourite house. Great to see the kitties and Mavis X

John Hartsays:

Lovely photos, your garden is looking wonderful. I just received your new book last week and I love it. The captions at the end of each chapter is a really good idea. Please can the next book be about some of your wonderful architectural projects hinted at on your website? Have a good week Ben and Charlie – lots of clearing work in the Dorset garden soon!


If I hadn’t a God already, I think you’d be mine

Nicola Lawrencesays:

Oh dear. My poor husband. When this book arrives in the mail it will be some time before he has any attention at all….. (wish I’d thought to have a personal dedication…) Congratulations Ben – it’s simply beautiful (that fern chair..) x

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