Do you have a passion for collecting artwork and handcrafted pieces? You'll love this historic and idyllically located Cotswold rectory, which filled to the brim with fascinating pieces collected over the years. Be inspired by how homeowners Lucy and David have woven cherished artworks into their everyday lives, commissioned bespoke, one-off pieces of furniture and found creative ways to display handcrafted objets d'art.
Read on to find out how they went about updating their home and making their mark on it, without compromising its many original features, then browse the rest of our real home transformations. Don't miss our guide to house renovation, too.
- Check out our how to display collections guide for more ideas
Owners Lucy Abel Smith, an art historian, writer and tour organiser, lives here with husband David, an engineer, their dachshund Ottie, and two Parson Russell Terriers Puffin and Nuts.
Property Built to serve the Grade I-listed St Swithin’s church, parts of The Old Rectory originate from the 16th century, but most dates from the 18th and early 19th centuries. The property was partly remodelled in 1928.
What they did David and Lucy added a circular Cotswold stone library and boldly redecorated many of the rooms to stamp their unique style on the space.
Nestled beside the River Coln, on the edge of the historic village of Quenington, The Old Rectory couldn’t boast a more idyllic setting. The building itself, built of honey-coloured limestone, smothered with climbing roses and wisteria, dates back to the 16th century. A picture-postcard of quintessential Cotswold beauty, it looks as if it has always been there, but step inside and the house tells a different story.
From a dramatic red lacquer kitchen and a dining room inspired by medieval France, to an elegant Georgian drawing room with a twist, and bathrooms that exude 1970s glamour, the house is a colourful and quirky labyrinth of rooms that are each a celebration of art history. Indeed, why opt for one interior style when you can have many?
This diverse variation can in part be attributed to its tapestry of owners. The property was bought by David’s relatives in 1928 from the church, and has been in the family ever since, with each generation contributing to its rich heritage. Remodelled by a cousin in the 1930s to create the deceptively classical riverside facade, the property was later bought by David’s father and stepmother, who redecorated throughout the 1970s.
For the past 35 years Lucy and David have lived here and have gradually filled the house with the fruits of their collecting, from heirloom paintings to contemporary furniture.
As eclectic as it may seem there is a thread of continuity: a shared and deep-rooted love for the decorative, the handcrafted and the imagination. The couple have been collecting art together for as long as they can remember. ‘I started buying ceramics when I was around 18,’ says Lucy.
‘It comes from being born into a family of collectors. From an early age I was always taken around galleries and museums.’ A fascination later nurtured with a stint working at the V&A and a career in teaching art history.
Of all media, glass is a particular favourite, reflected in their numerous exhibits, from decorative stained-glass panels and sculptures to functional objects such as light fittings, room divides and candlesticks. ‘I collected glass before I got married as I visited the Czech republic a lot,’ says Lucy. ‘Over the years we’ve added Hungarian, American and English glass.’
It’s an extensive collection, but is far from a dusty, lifeless museum; instead the couple really live with the art. While pieces picked up from contemporary craft fairs mingle with inherited heirlooms, many functional items and pieces of furniture have been commissioned by artists and designers specially for the house and are in constant use, from the dining room table to the cutlery.
‘There’s a thrill in working with an artist,’ says Lucy. ‘It’s one of the most exciting things you can do and it’s no more expensive than buying things already made. But of course the artist can chose equally not to work with you!’ she laughs.
Her comment is so typical of the couple’s bohemian attitude to creativity that it can’t be forced. Indeed the house has grown organically over the years, with new pieces added gradually as and when they are needed or inspiration comes.
In fact, their collections now extend beyond the walls. Since 1992 the grounds have been host to the biennial Fresh Air Sculpture exhibition, run by the Quenington Sculpture Charitable Trust of which David and Lucy are founders and trustees.
For three weeks every two years, The Old Rectory’s grounds turn into a hot bed of creative talent showcasing a curated selection of contemporary sculpture throughout the gardens. Visit Fresh Air Sculpture (opens in new tab) for more information about the event.
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