As I headed back from Bath, I thought to myself - 'there must be something in the water', promptly giving a creepy grin of acknowledgement of the lame (very good) joke. Like those before me, Bath swept me off my feet. I have been many times before, but not since I was younger, and the last time I was here I was laughed out of Superdrug by a pair of 15-year-olds. So I arrived in Bath with a bit of trepidation, speeding up as I passed the Superdrug on the high street.
Anywho, there was no need to worry. Bath and I spent a whirlwind two days together and got on famously. One of my first stops on the Bath tour was a place I have been yearning to visit - Berdoulat. Like any self-respecting House & Garden reader, I have been in love with Patrick Williams' (founder of Berdoulat) work for some time. I first remember his East London flat shot for H&G in 2012 by Simon Upton. I couldn't quite believe that a flat in London could offer up so much charm. As Patrick says: 'it was out with new and in with the old'. To this day, that flat has retained its beauty even without all of Patrick's exquisite finds. It is currently on the market with Inigo, and I can only think that the next owner will be fortunate to have been left such a detailed legacy. Then in 2017, after Patrick and his wife Neri and their new baby, Wren, had moved to Bath, there came a feature on their home and how it doubled as perhaps the most beautiful B&B in England. Even now, the photographs which I have seen
countless times elicit joy. This B&B set off the idea for them of one day having a shop, as all their guests were constantly trying to buy their furniture. They first thought about getting into antiques, 'but then Neri suggested that it might be more fulfilling to design our own pieces and have them made by local craftspeople.' With this kernel of an idea and through a process of haggling, a tireless amount of work, and a 180-page Heritage Statement along with their planning application, they made headway with the Grade II shop on Margaret's Buildings in Bath. Another building that Berdoulat has bought back to life. The shop is filled with their furniture and terrifically sourced pieces from artisans along with a healthy amount of wine; you can also get yourself a coffee as you wander the gallery upstairs. Downstairs, which had not been used since the 19th century, needed extensive work in order to make it useable. It is now beyond useable and offers up a handsome space to see the Berdoulat pieces in all their glory.
As ever, I am not sure where people like Patrick and Neri come from. Doing all this with two children exhausts me just thinking about it. But as ever, I am hugely pleased they did. The shop in Bath is a perfect example of what it is to be a great shop. Not only do I hope it's a successful venture for Berdoulat, but I believe it is a benefit to the neighbourhood, industry and Bath as a whole. As you can see, my fan mask has slipped and shown me to be a fanatic, making you realise how excited I am for this Tete a Tat.
Are you a morning or night person?
Morning. I am usually at my desk at 5am, as there are no distractions, and I can really focus.
Best Moment in your career so far?
I think working with Tim Whittaker (then) of Spitalfields Trust a few years back was quite a highlight. The client put us together, thinking we'd work well as a duo on a super derelict townhouse in Bath. He gave us free rein and we worked together on the design, which involved a fair bit of restoration of the original fabric, right the way through to installing the client's private collection of art and furniture. Tim is great, and I learned a great deal from him in the process. When the Spitalfields Trust committee came round to see it they thought my sink unit in the kitchen was original - that felt good. The project subsequently got shortlisted for an award by the Georgian Group, which was very rewarding indeed.
What is your favourite day of the week?
Probably Sunday, when the shop is closed, and we can focus on family. The day often begins with Neri's pancakes, followed by a walk to a pub with the dog.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Yes I do. Not just human ones. I really do think that buildings themselves carry a spirit. A few visitors to the shop have "felt something" in the basement - always a positive feeling. I once saw a ghost in the Red Lion Pub at Avebury Ring, a place I later learned is famous for being haunted.
Do you like poetry?
I do. I was lucky enough to be taught Spanish Literature at A-level by my father. He declared week one that he'd teach us the whole syllabus in the first two terms of the two-year course, and spend the remaining time teaching us the poetry of the great Federico Garcia Lorca. This involved a ghetto blaster with Flamenco music, and standing on the desks clapping in time, followed by a lesson in our family kitchen at home gutting squid and preparing tapas. He is so passionate about the way in which Lorca used language, and it was a real inspiration!
What would your autobiography be called?
I'm lost for words trying to answer this one... "Lost for words"?
There is a restaurant in Bebek, Istanbul where the waiters are so busy all the time they are just a blur. For a Turkish restaurant, it's quite a posh affair, with linen tablecloths and so on. The food is simply wonderful, and my favourite dish is their Fistik Kebap - made with pistachio ground into the lamb mince.
The Gers region in France, where I spent the happiest of childhoods growing up in Berdoulat, our family home which we gradually restored over 20 + years. Our parents got us all involved, mixing lime render, laying floors etc. I earned my first 10 franc coin wheelbarrowing a batch of reclaimed tiles from one side of the house to the other over the course of a day. Sadly the house is no longer in the family, but the region itself now feels like home and I have a constant longing to be there!
The smell of whatever Neri is cooking! When I come home and she's rustling something up, it really feels like home. We have a very open plan living space, that's open-plan in all directions, and the kitchen gives on to a balconied area above with rooms coming off this. I am not a fan of extractor fans, believing that if you need to extract the smell of what you're cooking, you shouldn't be eating it! Smells waft upstairs, and there's something so wonderful about waking to the smell of bacon sizzling, or being in the bath whilst a cake is baking...
What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?
Kubrick's Barry Lyndon is a film I'll never tire from watching. It's like a series of Hogarth paintings, with incredible evening scenes shot by candlelight. The way in which he integrates music into his films is incredibly clever.
Do you believe in Star Signs?
No I don't. I do often look at the sky in wonder though. I love that it connects people - not just everyone alive currently, but all humankind over the millennia. I get the same feeling when gazing into a lit fireplace.
A song that can always make your foot tap?
Naive Melody by David Byrne always gets us dancing in the kitchen. I love the arrangement, the man's a genius.