A Cornish farmhouse filled with mid-century design
Christen Pears’ renovated Cornish farmhouse is the perfect setting for her favourite mid-century designs. Photographs Penny Wincer
'The most interesting interiors are the ones that have come together naturally, using pieces from different periods,’ says Christen Pears. ‘To me, a home that develops organically is far more interesting than one where everything has been bought to match an existing look.’ The farmhouse that Christen shares with her husband, Chris Blake, demonstrates her ethos beautifully, with pieces by Arne Jacobsen, Børge Mogensen and Ernest Race working in their rural Cornish home.
Christen was already an admirer of mid-century and Scandinavian furniture when she and Chris took on the renovation of this beautiful farmhouse and its outbuildings. Now, its pared-back spaces work as a suitable backdrop to her favourite designs. ‘If a piece is well-designed, its shape, colour or material will endure and work in different settings,’ she says.
The building dates from the 1700s, but 20th-century alterations had gutted parts of its original character. At the back, there was a tacked-on extension with a corrugated plastic roof and duct tape at the windows. On the plus side, a previous owner had also opened up the ground floor, creating an open-plan feel that is unusual for a farmhouse of this age.
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It was this layout – along with the set of outbuildings – that attracted the couple to the property. ‘In a way, the fact that the house wasn’t perfectly preserved was a bonus,’ says Christen. ‘I felt freer to do what I wanted, which was to restore the features that had survived, but then add my own style.’
Pale Dinesen flooring now runs through the entire house, replacing the old floorboards that were too far gone to rescue. Boards that were salvageable have been re-used as cabinet fronts in the scullery, a space that replaced the old extension. ‘It’s the newest bit of the house, but it feels much older and functions just like a traditional scullery,’ says Christen. ‘It’s where we store food, do laundry and I make jams and chutneys with the fruit and vegetables we grow.’
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Before moving to Cornwall, the couple had lived in Bermuda and Western Australia, places where Chris was based as a captain of tall ships and Christen worked as a journalist and then a pilates instructor. Some items dotted around their home date from their time in Australia, including immaculate vintage glassware, a Victorian chandelier and a Japanese antique chest. ‘I love how these objects once graced very different homes, but look fresh all over again in their new setting,’ says Christen.
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More recently, Christen has bought key pieces of mid-century furniture on eBay, specialist site Pamono and at local auctions and vintage shops. A trip to Stockholm reignited her love of Josef Frank textiles, which add vibrancy to the dining room and conservatory. ‘One of my rare concessions to bright colours,’ she smiles.
Christen particularly admires the designs of Børge Mogensen, but also added Arne Jacobsen’s Grand Prix chairs to the dining room and a vintage DA1 armchair by Ernest Race, recovered in emerald green wool, to their living room. It sits alongside a wall of Penguin paperbacks, a collection to which Christen is steadily adding. ‘My aim is to read all of them – the obscure ones, as well as the classics.’
These are the trimmings, though – after a complicated renovation that lasted for five years and included three holiday cottages near the farmhouse, collectively known as Middle Colenso. Two further barns were also renovated: one is now a sleek pilates studio where Christen holds classes, and the other is a library, where elegant chairs by Børge Mogensen and Hans J Wegner are placed around an open fireplace – an arrangement that perfectly sums up how Christen balances Scandi simplicity and Cornish rustic.
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‘I like Josef Frank’s theory of Accidentism – that the objects in our homes should look as if they have been accumulated by chance,’ she says. ‘Bringing together pieces that come from different eras but share a common thread is what makes a home feel natural.’
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