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Moving to a dilapidated farmhouse with 140 acres of land wasn’t part of Lisa and Toby’s life plan. They had just had their second child and were ensconced on a country plot near Brighton. But when an estate agent’s email alert arrived with details of a run-down property in an East Sussex village, everything changed.
The house and its outbuildings hadn’t been updated for about 30 years, and the land hadn’t been farmed for a similar length of time. This didn’t daunt them, however. ‘It was actually a great benefit to us,’ says Lisa. ‘It meant we had a blank canvas to work with, and that we inherited ancient wildflower meadows and woodland.’
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There was a strong emotional pull, too. Lisa’s great grandmother had a farmhouse in County Kerry, Ireland, and the farm had a similar feel. ‘It really felt like coming home,’ she says.
‘We didn’t have a masterplan and knew nothing about farming, but we saw a house with potential, and outbuildings that could make holiday cottages,’ says Toby. Soon the granary and cowshed were turned into accommodation decorated in a stripped-back style with environmental consciousness at its core – think self-regulating wool duvets and pillows, and organic clay paints.
There was little to do in the farmhouse itself, as Lisa and Toby loved it just the way it came: dark and cosy, and with all its original doors and beams. ‘We fitted new windows and gave it a lick of paint, but largely let it be,’ says Toby.
Keen to bring in more space and light, the couple added an eye-catching extension. A glass walkway links the old to the new, and an arched zinc-clad roof on the upper storey holds the main bedroom, dressing room and en suite, and a light-filled kitchen and dining area below.
The kitchen is a bright and modern contrast to the original farmhouse, but one that sits comfortably alongside, thanks to its use of natural materials including wooden wall panels and furniture. Rattan shades over the oak dining table add rustic texture and warm lighting.
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A corner sofa and rich colour palette create a cosy feel here. Lisa and Toby have used colour and pattern to bring the scheme to life.
The king-size white cane bed enhances the period feel of the beamed space.
The curved room shape creates a cocooning feel, while painted wooden floorboards complement the raw wood ceiling. The wall of glass creates an incredibly light space. The Danish rocking chair was a flea market find.
Simple pattern used in fabrics adds to the elegance here.
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The hut has become an essential space for children’s sleepovers. Lisa’s friend, textile artist and block printer Molly Mahon, decorated the interior of the hut in her signature bright and cheerful style.
The house has more than delivered on its promise of ‘possibilities’. As well as the holiday cottages, Lisa runs her botanical beauty business, Amly (named after one of the wildflower meadows) from here, and Toby brews beer from their own spring for his business Gun Brewery.
They have planted an orchard, and Lisa holds weddings in the woods as part of her Foxtail Weddings business. ‘Now, we feel increasingly connected with the land and are outside much more than we thought we’d be.’
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This is especially true in the summer when doors are flung open and children and pets roam freely. ‘The children go dipping in the river that runs along the bottom of the land,’ says Lisa. ‘In summer the wildflower meadows come into their own and reach their peak on the longest day of the year, when it’s a cacophony of sounds and smells. It’s a special time of year and such a lovely place to be.’
To stay at Hawthbush Farm visit hawthbushfarm.co.uk
Words by Clare Gogerty