When her eldest daughter Poppy was a baby, Brooklyn-based landscape architect Miranda Brooks stayed in London with her friend India Jane Birley at Thurloe Lodge.
Among the embarrassment of very fine objects in this treasure house belonging to Birley’s late father, Mark, the famous London club maestro, were a pair of Wedgwood soup tureens in the kitchen printed with 1939 magic realism designs by the artist Eric Ravilious – a motif aptly called ‘Garden’. Remarking how Brooks “coveted them like crazy,” as she admits, her hostess told her, “If you ever go back to England, I’ll give them to you.”
Sixteen years later, Brooks and her husband, French-born architect Bastien Halard; and their daughters, Poppy, 16, and Violette Grey, 14; a quartet of horses; Coucou the whippet and Toto the Jack Russell; the cats Caliban and Tempette; a batch of broody dwarfs – all named after the New York friends the couple miss – and a flotilla of remarkably well-socialized Indian runner ducks (named after the family’s favorite Van Leeuwen ice cream flavors) all settled in Catswood , a 17th century farmhouse in the scenic Cotswolds of England. These soup tureens take pride of place on the kitchen table designed by Halard.
The journey to this bucolic scene, however, was long and complicated. Halard had, he said, “visited houses in England for years and years”, but inspired by the French chateau of his grandparents, had limited himself to 18th-century Georgian examples with high ceilings and high ceilings. windows, “because”, as he argues, “it’s all I’ve seen that I could possibly tolerate.”