The Farmhouse forms part of a group of Grade II listed farm buildings that date back from as early as c.1760. The building was originally owned by the Berkeley family, whose coat of arms can still be found above the buildings west-facing entrance. The farm has changed hands three times since the 18th-century, however in recent years the buildings were left vacant and fell into disrepair. In 2012, Hauser & Wirth received planning permission to restore and conserve Durslade Farm in Bruton, Somerset. The Farmhouse now forms part of Hauser & Wirth Somerset arts centre and is used as accommodation for visiting guests and artists.
In this unique renovation project, Hauser & Wirth have worked alongside concept architects and interior designers, Laplace & Co. and conservation architects, benjamin & beauchamp to sympathetically restore the building.
The exterior of the Farmhouse has been sensitively restored and conserved. This has involved re-pointing areas of the exterior walls, as well as completely re-roofing and renewing all lead work, using existing tiling with new or carefully chosen salvaged items. Considerable care has been taken to restore all of the building’s windows, including the original gothic windowpanes, and attic windows. Both the Farmhouse’s loft space and former washhouse in the back garden have bat-friendly access, enabling both sites to be used as a bat roost.
Full of character and bold innovative twists, the Farmhouse interior has been transformed in a way that compliments and celebrates the natural antiquity of the building. Although major construction work was required, the architects have made virtue of the fact that the house had not been touched in over 50 years, and have refrained from disturbing much of the existing look. Laplace & Co. have kept many original fittings, combining them with vintage furniture, sourced from local shops and salvage yards as well as other unusual finds.
All of the rooms have their own story to tell, and combine the historic and the contemporary, with the appropriate and unexpected. Taking the traces of original, uncovered wallpaper or paint as their focal point, many of the rooms contain a distinct colour scheme. These colours are echoed in the surrounding soft furnishings; of which a majority have been specially reupholstered using naturally dyed fabric. Often left raw, with unadorned plaster and exposed copper piping, the walls are hung with works by some of Hauser & Wirth’s most notable artists.
The interior is completed with unique artworks by two of Hauser & Wirth’s artists, Guillermo Kuitca and Pipilotti Rist. Beginning in a corner of the dining room, Kuitca painted directly on the walls, expanding from floor to ceiling and 360 degrees around the room. Having experimented with this working process on the walls of his Buenos Aires studio, this is the first instance that Kuitca has created a painted space that envelops the viewer. Primed with gesso and painted with Old Holland oils, the four walls of the room have been covered from top to bottom with intense, angular forms. Kuitca’s paint trolley remains and, at the artist’s request, so have areas of old-fashioned lino that can still be found in patches across the stone floor. Kuitca’s installation will remain permanently on display in the dining room of the Farmhouse.
Pipilotti Rist spent twelve months living in Bruton. In response to the surrounding landscape, Rist produced an installation now on display in the Farmhouse’s living room. The piece consists of a film projected in the main living space, sharing close-up shots of interactions with nature. The projection is fractured, screened through fragments of glass found on-site and hung from the ceiling. Large or small, unifying or splintering into a host of different elements, Rist’s installations are expansive, finding in the mind and body the possibility of endless discovery. The chandelier pieces used were collected as part of an archaeological dig that the artist performed in the nearby area. The room is full of other quirks including a taxidermy badger, gold painted walls, and an unusual doll’s house – a compliment left by the artist.
In the study, the most distinct feature is a collection of Victorian vintage stickers. Attached to the panes of an internal window, these collectable stickers have remained untouched for years and leave a trace of the previous residents of the Farmhouse.
The kitchen contains mismatched vintage crockery and furniture that seamlessly blend with contemporary kitchen utilities. Collections of plates have been hung on the walls, specially selected due to their historical reference to Bruton.
Upstairs there are passages leading off to numerous other bedrooms and ensuites, each full of distinctive features and attention to detail. There is a continuity of bold colours, original features and mismatched furnishings and fittings. In Bedroom 1, a previous owner of the bed has made carvings into the woodwork. One of the carvings is of a couple, yet in another, one of the figures has been scratched away. Unusually, there is also a bread oven located near the fireplace, which may indicate that this room was once used as a kitchen at one point. Continuing upstairs to Bedroom 2, a partition wall has been left as an original feature. This would have been added in the late 1970s in order to create a bathroom, which has also been left as it was. The decision to build the partition wall was likely down to plumbing restrictions. In Bedroom 3, one of the walls is covered in graffiti. This has been deliberately left as it leaves a trace of the previous inhabitants of the Farmhouse. Although it is pretty much indecipherable, it leaves you guessing as to its meaning. In Bedroom 4, the vintage wallpaper has been left untouched, although the walls have been treated. The antique American Victorian brass bed has an unusual design and a strong presence within the room.
In keeping with the vibrant blue interior, Bedroom 5 contains a section of wallpaper by Paul McCarthy – one of Hauser & Wirth’s artists. Up a second set of stairs is Bedroom 6, or ‘Niki & Jackie’s’ room. The attic room is full of charm and still features the name stickers of Niki and Jackie Gilling, who were previous occupants of the Farmhouse.
With finishing touches consisting of kitsch sanitary ware, cushions made of old tapestries and a hoard of other oddities, the house if full of surprises. The interior, both innovative and bold, is one big mix of the appropriate and the unexpected.