Monday, March 12, 2012

Bryony's House in the Pennines

I can't stand it a day longer! I've been sitting on this particular Domythic post for a little over a week now, waiting to share it until the Global posts were done. Now it seems as if a few of those posts are going to be indefinitely delayed while I do more research (and have the time to do the more research) and I simply cannot wait any longer to share with you the home of Bryony Whistlecraft and her husband and son. Bryony is the creator of Woodland Wild, and contributor to FAE magazine. (Bryony is also the creative mind who came up with the name for Domythic Bliss!!) Her husband, Bruce, aka Doktor A, is also a talented artist known for his sculptures and Victorian Retro-Futurist robots. Families don't get much more creative than theirs, and it shows in their amazing home! I asked Bryony a few questions about her house. Visual droolage to follow after the interview...

You describe your home as being "a cottage at the foot of a mountain in the beautiful Yorkshire Pennines, UK." This sounds delightful! Can you tell us more about the location of your home? Do you have any particular walking paths you like to take? How have you encountered magic in your landscape, and how do you try to bring the magic of the landscape into your home?

My home is on the outskirts of a small market town, nestled at the spot where three valleys meet. It is a very 'in-between' place, standing as it does on the border of Yorkshire and Lancashire. From all around you can see nature – steep wooded hills topped with purple speckled heathery moorland, and enigmatic rocky outcrops. There is evidence of human habitation going back to the Bronze Age on the moors, and they still retain a sense of wildness.

We've barely explored a fraction of the walking paths in the 5 years we've lived here, but one of my favourites is the lane which winds its way up the hill behind my house. It takes you through a beech woodland with streams and waterfalls, finally emerging on the moors at the foot of the Orchan Stones, a massive natural rock formation (a place of 'ancient druid worship and sacrifice' if the guide book is to believed, but then aren't they all!).

I recently began exploring the folklore of the area and it turns out to be quite a hotspot of strangeness, including a very famous alien abduction! In fact it is known as 'UFO Valley'. We have our own faery hill, Stoodley Pike, where a door is said to open into the hillside on foggy nights, and there are many reports of lights seen in the sky over it. From our attic window you can see another local landmark, Eagle Crag, which is the haunt of witches and a ghostly white doe and hunter every Halloween. All of this just confirms to me that I have picked the
right spot to settle down!

As for bringing the magic indoors, we keep a seasonal altar in the living room which always has treasures gathered on our walks throughout the year displayed on it, giving us a direct connection to the land.

Does your home have a name?

We've toyed with the idea of a name but nothing has seemed quite right so far, which is quite unusual for me since I like to name everything. I think a name will be revealed once the house is ready.

When you first bought your house, it appears it was definitely not in move-in condition. Please tell us more about how the house was when you found it?

When we first viewed the house we naively thought all it needed was a bit of sprucing up, but on moving in it was quickly apparent that everything needed re-decorating. It had been subjected to a variety of DIY horrors over the last 100 years, and no one had seriously touched it for the past 15 years. The bathroom and kitchen were usable but impractical and rather unattractive, and the vinyl wallpaper used throughout the house had caused damp patches. The living room had a 'feature' fireplace made of reclaimed brick, which was truly hideous and not even attached to the wall properly. Oh, and the first week we moved in the basement flooded.

What drew you to the home and the potential you saw in it?

The location was a major part, whilst waiting for the estate agent we had a little walk around and were immediately drawn to the adjacent woodland and views. Once in the house we were very excited it had a proper hallway (most around here have the front door open straight onto the living room). There were also a few original features surviving, including two fireplaces and a plaster arch in the hallway. Although it is quite a compact house the rooms are of a good size and have nice high ceilings, so you don't feel at all cramped. And very importantly, the kitchen was big enough to accommodate the Gothic dining table we owned!

What changes have you made to the house since you moved in, and what projects are still on your to-do list?

In 5 years every room has been stripped back to the brick and re-plastered, the bathroom and kitchen have been completely redone, we've installed a wood burning stove, replaced windows and doors, replaced the radiators with reproduction cast iron ones, replaced all the light fittings, switches and plug sockets, restored floors, the bedroom fireplace and hallway arch, replaced the modern doors with Victorian ones... There is not a single thing in this house which hasn't been carefully thought about and either restored or replaced. We've even created two new rooms by subdividing the attic and bathroom, meaning we now have space for an art studio and office. When we moved in we had virtually no furniture, so that was also something we needed to acquire.

Thanks to eBay, local antiques shops and salvage yards we've picked up some really stunning pieces including lots of original Arts & Crafts oak furniture. Now all that is left to do is the garden, which has become a little wild since we moved in, and continue filling the nooks and crannies of the house with more treasures. I desperately want a fender seat for the living room, and a vast pair of antlers to go in the kitchen!

Being a wife and a mother, how does your family help in the decoration of your home? What are their favorite parts of the house?

The look of the house is very much a collaboration with my husband. We are both very visual people, with an irresistible compulsion to decorate everything so it fits with our style! Luckily we have quite similar tastes - I veer more towards Arts and Crafts, Pre-Raphaelite, and faerie while he likes Gothic Revival and neo-Victorian, along with modern pop surrealist art. And of course our house is also home to our son, a lively toddler, so we have had to find ways of meeting his needs whilst also having things arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way. We've learned not to be too precious, and that breakables can always be moved out of reach and that you can never have too many toy baskets! The house evolves as time goes on so we can always accommodate Max's current developmental stage and still have a pleasing look.

We all gravitate naturally to the living room, it is definitely the heart and hearth of the house. Most of the playing, reading, making and dreaming that characterises our daily life goes on in that room. Max is also very excited to soon be moving into his own bedroom, so we've had
lots of fun decorating that in a whimsical, faerie inspired way with lots of red spotty mushrooms!

You are also extremely artistic. What are some of your favorite projects you had a hand in that are on display in your home?

Strangely there is not much yet! All our energies have gone into practical projects like building cupboards and shelving. There is a large vintage shop cabinet in the bedroom which houses all of my husband's production toys (he is an artist and toy designer), but most of the artwork throughout the house is by other people. I like to knit and have a long list of projects to do, like blankets and cushions. I'm also half way through a William Morris inspired embroidery which will one day hang in the living room.

What would be your favorite room in your house, if you had to choose a favorite?

The living room, closely followed by the bathroom. The living room is absolutely perfect on a chilly evening when the fire is lit and the lamps are giving off a warm amber glow. It is also where the majority of our books live, and I find it deeply comforting to be surrounded by
books. And the bathroom is just luscious! If bathing can't be a decadent experience I don't know what can!

And now on to the droolworthy visuals. I strongly encourage you to click the pictures to maximum size to see the creative details of this gorgeous home.

We start in the living room, with its warm glow and William Morris curtains & pillows:
Love the creatures under the domes, by Chris Ryniak. And the artworks by Brian Froud and Julia Jeffrey. The shadow box is an 'Evidence of Faery' display Bryony put together, with " elf bolts, a hag stone, a tiny spoon and twigs from an oak, ash and thorn that are growing in my garden."
So many beautiful details...the overhead Art Nouveau lighting, the seasonal mantel display, the statues and books and warm inviting feel...
Bryony's kitchen with her Rangemaster. I love the juice squeezer on the looks like a little robot or alien up there. It is the 'Jucy Salif' design by Phillipe Starck for Alessi.
Her absolutely jaw-dropping kitchen table used to be a church altar. Heading upstairs, be sure to acknowledge the shelf of Cthulhu on your way up.
The bedroom is a perfect place to dream. Love the F.A.O. Schwarz Froudian Goblin, Bimble, on the bed. And of course the bed itself. And the wide-planked wood floors. And the wall art. And the sheer organza curtain. Ok. Everything.
"The mushrooms in the bedroom [on the wall] are real tree plate fungus. They were sliced off and dried out, and a small hole made in the back to hang over a nail."We've already seen a glimpse of the gorgeous wall of Green People (men and women) in a previous post, but here it is in context in the bedroom:Prepare to drop your jaw at this gorgeous bathroom:
"The gentleman's grooming station was made by Bruce using a salvaged Victorian gas light fitting, scrap brass and a plastic picnic bowl from TK Maxx."
We'll end our tour in the attic studio where, if you'll pardon the 'cribbed' phrase, 'the magic happens.' So many little details up here to look at and inspire. Fond farewell from this bewitchingly beautiful home!


  1. One of the most beautiful homes I've ever seen… *sigh*

  2. So lovely... Love the Cthulhu shelf! (I may have a slight weakness in that general direction, though. ;) ) Thank you for sharing!

  3. Mags, I enthusiastically concur!! I've spent this past week poring over these pictures and asking Bryony details about what I see. :)

    Melissa, I love where she has it too...a great subtle spot for a collection :)

  4. Thanks for your kind words Grace!

  5. Sigh....................and sigh perfectly stunning.x

  6. One day i'll get round to visiting Bryony's house myself to get a real feel of their home, but for now, i've got decorating my own home to contend with, hopefully with as much grace and love that Bryony has put into hers. ♥

  7. Jennie, I hope to visit it next year myself! :)