Jumping ship from the safety of a salaried job is always a little scary, but our landing was as soft as we could have hoped for. Darren had been immersed in a lovely project at the large London practice Allies and Morrison, and when he announced he was leaving to devote himself fully to the fledgling George & James, that project promptly followed him out of the door and became ours. And this was no ordinary Allies and Morrison project. It was a new house for Graham Morrison, one of the partners.
With that vote of confidence, George & James was fully launched. The house was part of a bigger life-plan for Graham, Darren’s ex-boss and now our new client. As part of a gradual move away from London, he had bought himself a lovely plot of land in the heart of the South Downs, and – along with that not-insignificant project – he was setting up a bespoke furniture-making business with his friend and colleague Rupert Fisher. This was the start of something big for Graham, and also something big for us.
Both Graham and his partner Alice already had connections with the place. But now those were becoming deeper and turning into proper roots. For both of them, it was a hands-on passion project, a commitment to this little piece of the South Downs, and an ambitious and heartfelt vision for a different kind of life. It was impossible for us not to be sucked in.
The new house was carrying a lot on its shoulders, and not just as part of this wider story. Inspired by the local vernacular but with something contemporary about it, it’s been a chance to create beautiful joinery, cabinetry and furniture which ties in with our very bespoke approach to the design. We’ve pushed the limits of sustainability and celebrated materials and details. And since our vision has taken shape alongside Tom Stuart-Smith’s equally imaginative vision for the garden, it’s been very much a concerted creative effort.
As contract administrators for the project as well as its architects, we’ve been kept busy. We’ve had to navigate our fair share of delays, including the first lockdown of spring 2020 which caused the site to shut down completely. But even when the noise stopped, the thinking and drawing carried on. With such high stakes – in terms of life-goals and creative ambition, as well as time and money – the project was always going to emerge unscathed.
A lot has changed since Graham first took a punt on us in that pre-Covid autumn of 2019. Where there was just a muddy site now stands The Farmhouse, just as striking and as comfortable in its surroundings as we’d hoped (though there is plenty still to think about and still to do). Our working relationship with Graham and Alice has grown into something stronger and deeper than we expected. And our fledgling practice no longer feels quite so young. The Farmhouse has given us the chance to see just what we can do when we’re working from the ground up, quite literally.