An 18th-century farmhouse like no other, Durslade lies within the same estate as the Hauser & Wirth gallery in Somerset. Step inside and you’re in for full artistic immersion – sculptures surround the house and artworks lie throughout; in the morning you can eat your freshly sourced poached eggs within a dining room that also serves as a bona fide installation.
The house: The estate’s Grade II-listed buildings date back to 1760. When architect Luis Laplace – who is also responsible for the gallery – started working on the estate in 2012 it hadn’t been touched for 50 years. Restoration was sensitive – gothic windowpanes and flagstone floors were retained, for example, and the coat of arms of the first family who lived here, the Berkeleys, still presides over the west entrance.
The farmhouse, with a temporary installation by Martin Creed decorating its facade
Other inhabitants came after, and many of their decorative choices have stayed: the Victorian collectable stickers on the window panes of the study; the dizzying floral wallpaper in the Brass bedroom; and the signage on the door of the attic, which reads ‘Niki’s room’.
Dining room at Durslade Farmhouse, Hauser + Wirth CREDIT: AARON SCUMAN
This is, of course, layered with new additions, making for an eclectic, rich aesthetic – think granny-chic on acid. Taxidermy jostles for attention next to colourful artworks, mismatched wallpaper and Persian-style rugs, while the palette in different rooms spans the jewel-toned to Seventies-style avocado and dusty pink. It is unabashedly kitsch, and one for design aficionados who will appreciate the considered touches, such as original Bakelite switches.
Aside from the wall art, there are two permanent installations inside the house: the cubist-like walls of the dining room, painted by Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitea; and a video and light installation in the living room by Pipilotti Rist, which doubles up as very good disco lighting.
One of the distinctively styled bedrooms
The location: It’s a 10-minute walk from the centre of Bruton, an artsy haven for weekending filmmakers, artists and authors. The National Trust property of Stourhead is a short drive away.
Don’t miss exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth itself (free to all, and just steps from the front door), and especially its garden, the Oudolf Field, an expanse of snaking paths through wild flower-filled grounds, punctuated with a pebble-like monolith which was a former Serpentine Gallery summer pavilion.
For meals outside the house, you can stumble across to on-site Roth Bar & Grill, a farm-to-table restaurant with an emphasis on vegetable and meat from its own estate. Drive 10 minutes up the road to The Bull Inn, a revamped pub serving classics and local beers and run by the same team. Otherwise, At The Chapel, a hotel in the centre of town, serves wood-fired pizzas and cocktails in an architecturally impressive setting.
What to expect: It’s bigger than it looks on the website. The kitchen is the heart of the property – it is here you are greeted with afternoon tea, including scones, from Roth Bar & Grill. A loaf of sourdough, fresh eggs, local butter, Nespresso pods and store cupboard goods are also provided. You can buy more supplies, or chefs from the restaurant can cook meals in house (breakfast £15 per person; casual dinners £20pp; hosted dinners £80pp). Supermarket deliveries will be picked up by staff of the restaurant if no-one is there to receive it.
Amenities-wise, there’s enough crockery, glassware and utensils (though they could use more cutlery), plus a dishwasher. Unfortunately we had to go over to the restaurant for some tea towels and salt mid-way through cooking dinner.
It feels like the house itself is part of an art installation. There are sculptures on the lawn outside the house, so beware that Hauser + Wirth gallery visitors might wander towards the house during opening hours. As the house isn’t cordoned off, they may even peer into the windows — but at least your modesty will be preserved by one of the soft flannel dressing gowns provided in every room.
Making noise at other times isn’t an issue as it’s fairly remote (save for a few houses in the vicinity, but they’re out of earshot), which means the single-glazed windows aren’t a problem. Nor is the temperature – the heating is excellent. Overall, it’s fairly hands off and staff leave you to your own devices, though a welcome tour around the house would have been helpful.
Standout feature: Minimalist interiors and Nordic flair dominate many of the latest hotel openings, so this riot of maximalism is refreshing. It’s extraordinary to be surrounded by so much art. You can see the curves of Paul McCarthy’s bronze sculpture from all of the rooms, framed by the beautiful mullioned windows.
Not so keen:The living area and the study (home to the Apple TV) don’t have enough seating for the maximum capacity of the house. The former could use another sofa. The same goes for the wellies, slippers and bikes (of which there were only two) – the house sleeps 12 so there should be enough of each for all.
The attic suite
The rooms: All six bedrooms are different, though follow the same vintage vein, with floral wallpapers, antique furniture, statement chairs (a floral crocheted love seat in one; a Manila chair in another) and original art. Some have fireplaces and/or freestanding tubs. The bathrooms deserve special mention, especially the original 1970s retro-fit black-tiled bathroom in the all-pink Pipilotti Rist room.
Though aesthetically ‘undone’ in nature, with unfinished walls, exposed pipes and creaky floorboards, the house feels luxurious, with Egyptian cotton sheets and bespoke cashmere blankets on beds, plus full-sized 1000 Acre toiletries in all bathrooms. Those wanting to escape any noise should opt for the expansive top-floor attic suite.
The living room
Who it’s good for: Groups of friends or families who enjoy good local food and contemporary art. The dining room is a fitting place for a celebratory dinner. It’s available for wedding parties, many of which host their reception at Roth Bar & Grill. No pets.
Getting there: It’s a 10-minute walk away from Bruton station (if walking, be sure to follow the footpath signs – not the main road), with connections from Paddington via Westbury (two hours) and from Bath (one hour). Otherwise, it’s a two and a half hour drive from London and a 50-minute drive from Bath. There is plenty of parking.
Cost and how to book: Long weekends (minimum three-night stay) from £3,000, while the rate for the whole week is £4,000. Add £500 for summer months. Stays midweek range from £600 (one night), to £2,000 (Mon to Thurs). To book visit Dursladefarmhouse.co.uk or call 01749 814 700.