A TRULY INSPIRATIONAL REFURBISH
Roger Hall, award-winning film & theatre designer and latterly acclaimed interior designer for some of the most beautiful homes and hotels in the country, paused in his work this week, to discuss the latest transformational project at Thyme.
I meet him in Ox House West, a newly refurbished cottage suite, one of two that are to be found either side of the grand arch of Thyme’s Ox Barn. The agricultural heritage is evident from the exterior, yet as you open the door what now greets guests is an elegant, sleek modern interior of muted greys given a little zing with acid yellow in one and orange in its neighbour. Uncluttered lines throughout, the ground-floor bedrooms with contemporary four-poster beds, have a restful air, a subtle nod to the country setting in the decorative detail.
Roger is overseeing the finishing touches to the seriously sophisticated bath-dressing room upstairs. There is an understated elegance which runs through all his work and as he perches on the edge of the claw-footed bath, a palette of restful greys surrounding us, he looks thoughtful contemplating the view of quince trees from the window. He is very much at one with the interior he has created, silver-haired, stylish and considered in conversation, I’m intrigued to find out a little more about how he approaches his work.
How did your move from film & theatre design to domestic & hotel interiors come about?
I spent over 40 years as a designer of Film and TV, and simply reached a point where I had had enough of the film industry. We had decided to make a move to the Cotswolds and happened upon a derelict stable and coach house which we renovated as our family home. An article about the interior of the house was featured in House & Garden, which led to a commission for a large house in Sussex - Roger Hall Designs was formed and the rest is history.
When did you first meet Caryn Hibbert, Thyme’s founder, and how did you get involved with what she was doing here?
We have been friends with Caryn since we moved to the Cotswolds 15 years ago, although I had already met her husband Jerry through commercial television. I think she liked our home, watched the progress of that project and then the interiors we were doing with clients in the area. I worked very closely with Caryn and her architect, Bob Weighton, as the plans developed for Thyme House, it was simply a case of bringing their brief into reality – a palette of monochrome colours, nothing too precious but keeping a country vibe.
That makes the process seem very straightforward but ‘keeping the country vibe’ did not mean resorting to chintz. Realising Caryn’s vision for Thyme appears to involve balancing truly elegant grandeur with a relaxed environment where guests are happy to curl up & snooze on plush sofas, what is the secret to achieving this?
I studied theatrical craft at Art School, so there is something of the dramatic in everything I design; the quirkiness, that Caryn enjoys so much is part of that, it puts people at ease, making them smile. I think I know where the line is that we shouldn’t cross though, it’s important not to scare your client, or ultimately the guests, with something too challenging. When it comes to colour my favourite paint is one of Farrow & Ball’s originals, Pigeon, it creates a very calm backdrop. Really it is about the fabrics, starting with linens which I love, a little velvet, I am always looking for something interesting (nothing too shiny!) to add to a room.
The recent refurbishment of the cottage suites, from their very pretty ‘country chic look' to something far more sophisticated seems effortless – can you explain where the creative process starts that enables this subtlety to be so successful?
We needed to bring them up to date and in line with the hotel, they are a challenging space, given their position in the eaves of the barn, so it was essential to introduce class and real quality to the design. I plan to a degree on paper, starting with the furniture layout then the fabric, but it’s important to be in the space, really understand the light, so the process evolves as we work. We already have a theme at Thyme so we returned to the same fabric sources and colour schemes. Creating a sense of space with a limited use of colour and changes of texture, a little colour to jazz everything up. I easily get bored with colour, never use wallpaper, so I’ll introduce that through accessories. It is an on-going project, there are still some finishing touches and we have some exciting plans to lift the exterior space between the cottages.
If a ‘lay person’ wanted to capture a little of Thyme’s sophisticated feel in their own home, what one element would you recommend they start with?
All my designs start with the bathrooms, you can bring that country feel in through a washstand and an attention to the smallest detail, such as hooks for bathrobes. They are often neglected spaces, the materials hard; so I would say introduce fabric, a small chair and interesting textures for curtains.
He needs to get on, tape-measure in hand and so I leave him discussing full-length mirrors with the carpenter. What I realise after our interview is that the creation of an impressive yet restful interior is reliant upon an uncompromising attention to detail and when Roger Hall & Caryn Hibbert harness their creative forces the end result is truly inspirational.
Olwynne Goodrich was in conversation with Roger Hall of Roger Hall Design