Cotswold artist Jeremy Houghton invites us into his idyllic country cottage and gardens
On the horizon at the highest point is the Broadway Tower, which used to be used as a studio by William Morris, a leading member of the Arts and Crafts movement.
“This area was a significant place during the movement and many artists came to work or live here, including Morris,” said Jeremy, whose family has lived in Broadway for three generations.
Famous for his striking watercolours of flamingos as well as work at the Royal residences of Highgrove and Windsor Castle, Jeremy spends time travelling and visiting the places he paints.
He was also one of the commissioned artists for the 2012 London Olympics and his recent exhibition in Broadway’s Haynes Fine Art gallery, focuses on horses from the meadows of the Cotswolds to the fields of the First World War.
But home is where his heart is and, at the end of the day, he always looks forward to coming home to his picturesque Cotswold stone cottage which he inherited from his grandparents seven years ago and shares with wife, Jess, and young daughters Honeysuckle and Martha.
The cottage started life as the stables and grooms’ quarters behind the neighbouring big house, which was once also owned by Jeremy’s family.
They were converted into a cottage in the 1970s and Jeremy’s parents lived there for many years, before moving to another house in the village, where Jeremy now has his studio in an old barn.
“My grandparents eventually decided to move out of the big house and into the cottage, where they lived for 20 years.
“They were very keen gardeners and really made this garden what it is today – many of the plants are quite mature thanks to their work.”
Today the garden has a main lawn area, bordered by flower beds – ideally suited to a young family.
“When we moved into the cottage after my grandparents died, there were lots of flower beds and only a narrowish path between,” said Jeremy, 40.
“We had moved the beds back so that there is far more lawn, partly for the girls to play on and also because it’s easier to maintain.
“We have someone who comes in and helps us with the garden as we’d never be able to keep it under control on our own, but we have designed it so it needs minimal maintenance.”
The cottage is surrounded by six or seven acres of land, including the garden, a field beyond where sheep owned by a local farmer graze, and out the front, a wild flower meadow, vegetable patch and orchard.
There are also chickens that provide the family with fresh eggs every morning.
“They have a thing about bright colours like pink or orange and tend to peck at you if you’re wearing them,” said Jess. “That includes a lot of the shoes the girls wear!”
Although he obviously appreciates the loveliness of his home, Jeremy is adamant that homes and gardens should be practical as well as beautiful.
“Part of the ethos behind the Arts and Craft movement was that things should be useful as well as attractive,” he said.
“For example apple and pear tress are often found in Arts and Crafts gardens as they look lovely and also give you food.
“And our vegetable garden is kind of like this with its meadow-like qualities.”
When Jeremy and Jess moved into the cottage after their marriage, they began to restore the building, knocking down walls to make the rooms more spacious and light.
“The kitchen used to be two rooms, separated by a wall that was more than a foot thick, but we found a builder who had experience dealing with such walls and he managed to knock it through, creating a big kitchen,” said Jess.
Long and thin, the cottage seems to go on for ages, with rooms leading into more rooms and two staircases at each end of the house, leading to the bedrooms upstairs.
On top of one of the cupboards in the kitchen is a solid and enormously thick old wooden butcher’s block, which the couple picked up from a reclamation yard.
It’s surface is uneven after years of use and the couple use it as a giant chopping board.
“I’ve got to know its curves and indentations well now and it is so useful,” said Jess, a primary school teacher.
They also made one of the back windows into a door that leads out on to the patio and garden and they try to keep it open as much as possible.
“It’s a way of bringing the outside and inside together so the garden feels like an extension of the house,” said Jeremy. “The girls can also run in and out of the garden safely as it is fully enclosed.”
A playroom dedicated to the girls’ stuff leads off the kitchen but, as in any home with young children, their play things end up scattered everywhere around the cottage and garden.
“I don’t like to live somewhere that’s too perfect,” said Jeremy. “I like a home to look as if it’s lived in and loved.
“I don’t know how some families with young children manage to keep their homes so pristine, it’s not really a natural environment with youngster around.”
As a prolific artist, Jeremy has his paintings on the walls throughout the cottage, including many of his drawings and paintings from his time as a teacher in Cape Town.
“I love Africa and when I was there took the chance to travel round and see everything it had to offer,” he said.
“Like any country it has its different parts, some safe and some not so. I lived there for six years but you don’t have to live long in Africa for it to get under your skin.
“My time there was hugely influential for me and my work and I am very fond of all the paintings and drawings I did while I was there.”
A large canvas he painted while in South Africa dominates one of the walls in the drawing room, where Jeremy has his home-based work desk.
“I do my smaller pictures from here and set up an easel behind the desk,” he said. “The girls can run in and out of the room and it doesn’t bother me at all; I love it that I can work with them around.”
A grand piano from Jess’s family stands in another corner and, in stark contrast to the Cotswold stone picture window and older pieces of furniture, is a table with two bright blue Perspex chairs.
“We inherited them from a relative and I really like the way they catch the light from the window and contrast with the more traditional things in the room,” he said.
Up the wooden staircase are the bedrooms, leading in a long row on from each other as you move from one end of the cottage to the other.
“They all have the most stunning views from the windows,” said Jeremy. “It is wonderful to wake up to these views; we count ourselves very fortunate to have that.”
Around the cottage are all the quirky touches you would expect in the home of an artist; an unusual sculpture here, a wall hanging there; all of them helping to turn the cottage into an individual and fascinating family home.