Durslade Farmhouse is a triumphant and bold restoration project (and the perfect place for a big birthday or celebratory stay) made even more special by its connection to Hauser & Wirth, says our Travel Editor Rosie Paterson.
From the outside at least, Durslade looks like your quintessential West Country farmhouse — all wizened grey stone, crumbling at the corners like a block of particularly good cheddar cheese, arched and leaded windows and even the matching farmyard buildings surrounding it. Some that date all the way back to the mid-18th century.
The inside, however, is an entirely different story. Renovated by Argentinian architect Luis Laplace (other public commissions include museums spaces in South America), the interiors are entirely devoid of stylistic references; it is impossible to ascribe them to a single era or style. It makes for an interesting effect: this is a house that doesn’t impose moral boundaries and visitors are free to, for the duration of their stay, be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do.
The house is part of Artfarm — a hospitality and development company owned by Manuela and Iwan Wirth of Hauser & Wirth fame — a multi-disciplinary site that also includes an events space and farm shop, and the Hauser & Wirth Somerset gallery. The shop is primarily supplied by the five working farms (arable and livestock) — also owned by ArtFarm — which sprawl across a 1,000 acre-size piece of countryside. It’s farmed according to a regenerative model and managed as an end-to-end business (the abattoir is only 20-minutes away).
The most interesting addition is a small vineyard on a sloping piece of land. The vines are susceptible to frost so during chillier times the vignerons cut small holes in the hedgerow at the bottom of the valley to allow any cold air tumbling downwards to pass through. On the other side there are the remains of a Roman settlement and…vineyard. An unearthed Roman coin informed the design of the present day bottle logo.
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The six en-suite bedrooms sleep 12 in total. They’re all in a state of romantic disrepair: one of the walls in mine, on the first floor, was covered in indecipherable writing and doodles. They were drawn by one of the previous occupants and left exposed in a sort of homage to them and their part in the Farmhouse’s story. Trying to figure out what they might mean beats counting sheep to get to sleep any day of the week.
Some of the other rooms have scrubbed floors; others have perfectly preserved 1970s bedrooms; two have vintage floral wallpaper. One, somewhat bizarrely, has a bread oven in it. Logic dictates that the room must’ve once been a kitchen — but you’re never quite sure at Durslade. The one thing binding them together are the beds. They’re not similar in design (are you surprised?) — one is wooden and carved, another is American brass — but are all wonderfully comfortable and very easy to fall into after a day’s gallivanting round the Somerset countryside or partying downstairs.
Eating and drinking
Durslade is, quite literally, a few steps away from the Roth Bar & Grill — a 30-yard former milking parlour. The menu focuses on seasonal fare — plenty of it sourced from the farm and the immediate surrounding area — and cooked over fire. It’s completely unpretentious and delicious.
In nearby Bruton, there’s At The Chapel and Michelin-starred Osip.
Alternatively, stock up on farm-fresh produce at the on-site farm shop and whip up your own feast in the Farmhouse kitchen.
How they’ll keep you busy
Hauser & Wirth is famous for its art the world over — and the Somerset gallery is no exception. In fact, the 360 degree-style experience became Hauser & Wirth’s go-to model for their Menorca and LA iterations. Your first port of call should be the gallery where there’s always plenty to see. The curators decided not to erect plaques next to the works, so you’re free (or forced) to interpret each one as you see fit.
Next up, there’s the garden — or Oudolf Field, to give it its proper name — designed by Dutch landscaper Piet Oudolf, the brains behind New York’s High Line and the 2011 Serpentine Pavilion garden. Some 26,000 plants, grown by Orchard Dene nursery in Oxfordshire, were required to fill the curvy beds, resulting in a 1½-acre patchwork quilt of colour and texture. It was described by Country Life contributor Non Morris as a ‘wonderful combination of wilderness and calm’ (August 15, 2018).
What else to do while you’re there
Spend a morning in Bruton or Frome, or make for Stourhead, a Palladian mansion that boasts a Regency library, enviable collection of Chippendale furniture and fairytale-esque garden dotted with neoclassical temples, grottoes and rare trees.
Who is it for?
Anyone and everyone is welcome, but the Farmhouse itself is better suited to adult guests. Ideally ones who know how to throw a really good party. If walls could talk… An interest in art wouldn’t go amiss either.
What gives it the ‘wow’ factor
It has to be the design. In a world where the phrase ‘each room has been individually designed’ applied to a hotel or house normally means ‘one of the throw cushions is a different shape’ Durslade is in a league of its own.
The one thing we’d change
Some of the ensuite bathrooms come with baths and hand-held shower heads — which might not be to everyone’s taste.
Exclusive use of Durslade Farmhouse from £500 a night — visit www.dursladefarmhouse.co.uk for more information and to book.