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Bohemian rhapsody: designer Alice Temperley’s whimsical Somerset home | Life and style

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Back in the spring, fashion designer Alice Temperley was scouring online marketplace Preloved for vintage fabric and ended up in the pet section. “Within an hour, I had driven five miles up the road and come home with a house rabbit. Florence is an amazing character, either very rampant or very cuddly. She lives under the piano in the sitting room, where we all hang out.”

“We” is Temperley and Fox, her 11-year-old son, any chickens who “just come into the house when they feel like it” and of course Florence. The four llamas live outside. “They’ve always got their heads just slightly over the garden wall.”

Freedom and flare are the watchwords in Cricket Court, Temperley’s Somerset home, a Grade II-listed stone folly built in 1811. She rented it in 2010 “when I was desperate to get out of London and have some space with my child”. She’d looked round it one “golden evening” with her father, who lives on a cider farm in the same town, where Temperley grew up. “The house seemed like a magic place. I hadn’t seen a house like it.” She eventually bought the eight-bedroom Regency manor house and, two years ago, moved down permanently.

The light-filled kitchen.



Window on the world: the light-filled kitchen. Photograph: Andrew Farrar/The Observer

There is a wonderful synergy between the rule-breaking interiors and Temperley’s romantic collections. “There is escapism in the house and in my work,” she says, whose fans include Florence Welch, Beyoncé and the Duchess of Cambridge. “It’s totally Alice in Wonderland, totally creative. It is fairytale, and I am not going to deny that.” There are even castle ruins – Plantagenet, no less – in the grounds that include paddocks and woodland.

The endless rooms work a kind of Britpop wit underpinned by a very grown-up English country house aesthetic. It’s all about mixing different things that work together, says Temperley. “It’s the same as when you are doing a collection – an eclectic mix tells a story.”

His-and-hers bathrooms make the point. “Hers” is reached via a small staircase that descends from the main bedroom. “His” bathroom is “up”, reached by another small staircase. The bath in “hers” is a classic rolltop, the walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Pelt – “deliciously deep purple and one of my favourite colours” – and there’s a traditional sink, gilt mirrors, a kilim and shuttered windows. So far, so safe and English trad. Except that the tub is covered in a mosaic of mirrors, working a disco vibe on a wooden floor painted with a Union Jack. “My friend [model] Jade Parfitt and I just decided to smash the mirror up,” says Temperley. “Four o’clock,” she adds, “is a good time to get in the bath with a bottle of cider. The light is great then.”

The ornate bathroom with rolltop bath



‘Four o’clock is a good time to get in the bath with a bottle of cider’: the bathroom. Photograph: Andrew Farrar/The Observer

Temperley is very partial to a disco ball. Her boyfriend, Marcus Cresswell, has made her “the most amazing pizza disco-oven. It sits out on the terrace by the blossom tree.” Another disco ball hangs out behind one of the portico’s four pillars, like a sparkling guest waiting to be asked for a dance. “It fell during a storm. I stuck it back together and glued flowers in it to hide the damage.” A fibreglass statue of a Grecian youth lingers nearby. “It’s totally out of place,” says Temperley. “I just think it’s entertaining.”

The youth might well feel intimidated by the house’s classical features that include a double-height entrance hall with domed ceiling. “You walk in and you’re surrounded by Venetian pillars and look up to the dome. The guy who designed the house [it was built by Stephen Pitt, a relative of Pitt the Younger] was obsessed by light, as I am. Every room has a ceiling detail. He was also scared about fire. A metal balcony runs all the way round the house.”

An ornate ceiling



Looking up: an ornate ceiling. Photograph: Andrew Farrar/The Observer

More light pours into the circular, wood-panelled library that features a domed ceiling painted in deep sienna. It’s finished off with an oculus, or glass opening. Winston Churchill held secret meetings here with British and American leaders in 1944, when the house was owned by the media magnate Lord Beaverbrook. A Tolstoy scion, Count Nikolai, bought the pile after the war.

Plaster roses are strewn across the coffered ceiling in the dining room, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Turkish Blue. Its French doors lead on to the gardens, which overlook the Quantocks. In case the view wasn’t bucolic enough, a mural of silver blossom and peacocks, painted as a gift by locally based artist Frederick Wimsett, enlivens one wall, and a pendant chandelier from Sunbury Antique Market at Kempton Park presides over the long oak dining table, originally from Wells cathedral and picked up from Glastonbury Reclamation.

Additions were made to the older part of the house, which, says Temperley, explains why there are five floors on one side and three on the other. “It’s a mishmash of floors and weird little staircases and windows.” Its history makes itself felt, however. “There’s a weird dungeon in the basement. I don’t go in there at night.” In fact, the cellars, thought to date from the early Tudor period, house a bear-pit, one of only a few remaining in the UK.

A vintage headdress



A vintage headdress. Photograph: Andrew Farrar/The Observer

The living room is a cosier affair, and classic Temperley. When she moved in the walls were painted “a horrible yellow, washed with sponges, and it was full of the worst English chintz you can imagine.” The walls and the curtains are now aubergine: “Really earthy and really calming.” A golden palm tree, found on Golborne Road, near London’s Portobello market, sits in one corner, just because. “It’s the dogs bollocks,” says Temperley, who likes to “plonk”. This explains the pirate ship, moored in front of the Venetian mirror that hangs above the Regency fireplace. Two lamps inlaid with glass and a chinoiserie screen bought in Hong Kong add more glitz, while the ottoman is covered in “amazing fabric with silver discs all over it” and sports a candelabra on a brass tray.

The messy luxe vibe continues in Temperley’s bedroom, the 9ft-wide bed, treated to a rotation of quilts: one day leopard print, the next, something floral. An ER insignia with Union Jacks poking out of it hangs over the bed, a pair of pink and crystal wall sconces either side on the Farrow & Ball Hermitage Pink walls. Temperley is also partial to a flag. Her latest, a whopper union flag from Portobello Road, is to hang in the courtyard.

Wardrobes aren’t much in evidence. “I have a beautiful vintage clothing collection and just hang pieces around. Otherwise you never see them.” A Turkmenistan bridal gown and a Japanese kimono hang by the window in the guest bedroom and over the ornate headboard hangs a framed fragment of Chinese embroidery that belonged to Temperley’s “amazing” grandmother, a collector of fabrics.

Fox is equally industrious. When he’s not practising in the piano room that adjoins the living room, overseen by Florence the rabbit, he’s outdoors. “He has to do his chores and feed the llamas in the morning.” Then it’s breakfast in the kitchen, its traditional units designed by Elliott & Co: Out of The Wood and painted a soft green to match the Fired Earth wall tiles, vases filled with flowers from the garden. The brasserie mirror was picked up at Clignancourt flea market in Paris. “Everything finds its home. That’s what I love about collecting.”

temperleylondon.com

Art direction and fashion styling by Violet Naylor-Leyland; photographer’s assistant Noah Sagum

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Forget trick or treat! 10 new ideas for Halloween family fun – from eerie origami to pumpkin spotting | Halloween

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Have a fiesta

John, copywriter, Gloucestershire
While the kids enjoy exchanging Haribo with the neighbours once a year, trick or treat has never been a big event for us as a family. This year, we’re taking inspiration from the Pixar film Coco, which both my children love, and attempting our own version of the Mexican festival Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). The idea of celebrating the lives of lost loved ones really appeals to me as I don’t think we’re great at dealing with death in British culture. My dad died last year, so we’ll be thinking of him, but we’ve also got lots of photos and items for our ofrenda (a sort of family altar), including my wife’s grandfather’s teddy bear, my uncle’s classy pink slip-on shoes, and various other keepsakes. We plan to tell some stories, eat some of their favourite foods, and basically have a party.

Make it work indoors

Sarah Manley, London
As an American, Halloween was a big part of my childhood, so I like to go way over the top, whether I am celebrating at home or with others. We are going to decorate the whole house outrageously, carve a bunch of pumpkins and throw ourselves a spooky, candlelit costume dinner party. Instead of them going trick or treating, my husband will send the kids on a twisty indoor treasure hunt to find a hidden candy stash. After the kids are in bed we will have a festive Halloween cocktail (the “eyeball highball” is a fave), and spook each other out with a Halloween-themed Scrabble game. Boo!

Scary sausage mummies wrapped in pastry bandages
Terrifying treat: scary sausage mummies wrapped in pastry bandages. Photograph: Nadia Borovenko/Alamy

Have a freaky feast

Ali Pearce-Smith, Rutland
Our kids love trick or treating; I think it’s a combination of the walking around in the dark and the sugar rush. Sadly, this year they won’t be going out because we don’t want the trick to be a super-spreader event in the community. Instead, we are treating ourselves to an Addams Family freaky feast, which my partner and I will be hosting as Gomez and Morticia Adams. After the food, we plan to play games and we might even have time to take them round a local graveyard late at night.

Create socially distanced scares

Katie Snape, doctor, Streatham, London
We’ve got a group of 22 children together from 11 households and we plan for each family group to do a socially distanced treasure hunt. Our neighbours have kindly agreed to host pictures in their windows and the children will move clockwise around the street ticking off the different pictures on a chart as they go. Once they have found all 20 pictures they can collect a goodie bag from their own home. This way we can have a fun treasure hunt, waving and smiling at each other while staying socially distanced and, most importantly, everyone will get to eat a ton of sweets at the end!

Origami Halloween decorations
Get cutting and make some Halloween origami decorations. Photograph: James Thew/Alamy Stock Photo

Do some eerie origami

Dr Lizzy Burns, creative specialist, Oxford
Obviously, we won’t be going out for trick or treat. Instead, I am running an online Halloween origami session in collaboration with our local library in Oxfordshire. I have been learning to fold bats, cats, witches and created my own pumpkins out of paper.

Hold a costume competition

Michelle, banker, Dublin, Ireland
We are in total lockdown in an old cul-de-sac in Dublin and the residents have agreed that there will be no trick or treating this year. However, we are doing a costumed parade on the evening itself, and I can’t wait to be spooked by the sight of the little ones in their scary costumes. We are also going to town on outdoor decorations and our front garden will be a dimly lit graveyard, complete with haunting tunes and a dry-ice machine.

A scene from The Exorcist
Freak yourself out: Halloween is the perfect time to catch up on horror classics such as The Exorcist. Photograph: Allstar Picture Library Ltd/Alamy

Host a scary movie marathon

Zia, barrister, Cape Town, South Africa
We will be doing a scary movie marathon in the lounge with some frighteningly delicious homemade snacks. I am still busy finalising the screening shortlist, but The Exorcist will probably nab the hallowed 8pm spot. None of my housemates have seen it and I can’t imagine a better time to show it to them. My girlfriend hates horror, so to coax her into joining I am appealing to her appetite: burnt broccoli salad with marinated red peppers and fried pretzels, crispy tofu sliders with radish slaw and mango with sticky rice for dessert.

Get spooked on Zoom

Cassandra, patent lawyer, France
My son’s class will have a Zoom meeting during which the households will turn out the lights and light candles or jack o’lanterns and we will tell each other spooky stories; I have threatened to read the three witches scene from Macbeth. Everything else has moved online this year, so why not Halloween?

A Halloween bucket full of sweets
Sweet success: a little imagination can help children still enjoy the celebration. Photograph: AMD Images/Alamy

Go pumpkin spotting

Amy, writer, London
I’ll be taking my little people on a walk of the neighbourhood, them holding buckets and me with a pocketful of sweets. Every time we see a lit pumpkin in a window or garden, they will shout “Hello pumpkin!” and I will drop a sweet into their bucket. The day before Halloween, I will also get them to plant pumpkin seeds in the garden for the Pumpkin King and in the morning they’ll wake to find lollies stuck in the ground, as if they have grown from the seeds.

Ditch the zombies

Martha Willette Lewis, artist/radio presenter, Connecticut, US
I will be running a crafting workshop on Zoom as a part of an exhibition I curated about the women’s right to vote. The workshop will focus on making quick and easy Ruth Bader Ginsburg costumes out of ordinary household materials. Frankly, we’ve got too many zombies and vampires in the US at the moment and I think it would be great to see young boys and girls dressed like RBG for Halloween. I will have some candy ready if treaters show, but I will keep a distance and wear gloves and a mask. Who knows, I may even use my gavel as an extension pole to hand out the treats safely.


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Cocktail of the week: Shop Cuvée’s clean margarita | The good mixer | Food

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Our margarita doesn’t feature triple sec or orange liqueur, which makes it a cleaner drink more like the ones they have in Mexico. Use a decent white tequila, rather than an aged one – something like Ocho or Tapatio will do the trick nicely – because it suits the drink’s profile much better.

Clean margarita

Serves 1

50ml white tequila
25ml freshly squeezed lime juice
, plus 1 lime wedge to garnish
10ml 2:1 sugar syrup
1 drop orange flower water
(or rose water; optional)

Put the liquids in a shaker with a decent fistful of ice, and shake hard. Pour the whole lot, including the ice, into a rocks glass (salt the rim first, if you like), garnish with the lime wedge and serve.

Max Venning, Shop Cuvée, London N5


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My soulmate married someone else. Am I wasting my life waiting for him? | Life and style

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I live with a man I don’t love. But I once loved a man I met at university. We had a few nice holidays together and cosy meals out. He always paid for everything, which made me feel special. I imagined that I was his soulmate, but he wasn’t one to express his feelings, and my countless cards declaring mine were seldom reciprocated.

We parted, and he married someone else, which hurt. But I was thrilled when he still wanted to meet occasionally. I convinced myself he had rushed into marriage, in need of children and stability. I had a couple of significant boyfriends, but neither asked me to marry him and children never happened for me.

At first, we continued to meet platonically every year. I sent cards via his work. Then, after 10 years of cards but no meet-ups, he wanted to see me again. We kissed and arranged to take things further. A few Travelodges later, and I knew we were meant to be together.

We hatched a plan where I would accompany him on a sporting trip for a week. I spent long days watching him do his sport or reading: I felt slightly used, but the bliss of having him to myself outweighed my misgivings. I allowed him to take naked photos of me, which his wife later found. I thought at that point he was surely mine. But when he called, it was to say it was over between us.

Since that day, two years ago, I have heard nothing. I can only think it is because of the photos and the embarrassment to him. My friends say I have been used, but I can’t accept it. If I could just turn this around, it could be the difference between a wasted life and a perfect one. What should I do?

Your letter – much edited here – both saddened and infuriated me with its millefeuille of excuses you’ve made for this man. There is a simple truth, which is that if someone really wants to be with you, they will be. No distance, or person, or circumstances will stop them. If you could have told yourself this, and believed it, some years ago, you would have spared yourself all this angst.

But we can’t go back, only forward. Please don’t send him any more cards, delete his details from your phone and all other records. Let him go. Look at his actions: they are entirely selfish. Paying for things is not caring deeply for someone; it is being able to afford something and, for a while, he could afford to have you there, as his ego boost. And then his wife found out.

The only real anger you showed in your letter – and yet you must have so much anger towards him – was directed at his wife, who, let’s be clear, has done absolutely nothing wrong. She hasn’t taken your life away; if anything, you have impinged upon hers.

I consulted psychotherapist Rebecca Harris (psychotherapy.org.uk), who said, “The first thing that struck me was that there was something very passive about [your attitude to] your own life.” She also wondered why you were so caught on this man. “Our choice of partner often tells us a lot about how we see ourselves. What did being in a relationship with him tell you about yourself? Deep down, do you believe you deserve to be treated with so little care? Or are you hooked on the idea of the person you could be, if only he would accept you as his partner. And who is that person?”

Harris said that if you could find the answer to this, “You may be able to understand what is missing from your own real life.” We all have better relationships if we go into them as whole people.

Harris advised you to“focus on what you can control, and change that – instead of focusing on what you can’t control. Could it be that the idea of leaving this man behind scares you because it makes you vulnerable to new hurt? There’s safety in what’s already known.” Would you consider therapy? It would really help you, but I understand it’s not always easy to access.

Talk to the man you live with; find out a bit more about yourself. If you’re frustrated at the lack of communication from your ex-married-lover imagine how your actual partner who you live with feels.

“You still have so much life to live,” said Harris. “And you do have the ability to take control of it and change your future, if you could only stop looking to [this man] for your happiness.” Write that on a card, and send it to yourself.

Every week Annalisa Barbieri addresses a family-related problem sent in by a reader. If you would like advice from Annalisa on a family matter, please send your problem to [email protected]. Annalisa regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence. Submissions are subject to our terms and conditions: see gu.com/letters-terms.

Comments on this piece are premoderated to ensure the discussion remains on the topics raised by the article. Please be aware that there may be a short delay in comments appearing on the site.


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