A mid-19th century country house enabled horticulturist Amanda Clayden to grow a business combining her passions for plants and design.
Born into a farming family, Amanda Clayden went on to agricultural college after leaving school rather than pursue her interest in design. It was only after she married Hugh that she followed her instincts and completed a degree course in design at Edinburgh University. But the catalyst that allowed her to merge her passions for nature and design was her characterful period home, from which she now runs Green Pea Studio and grows her own seasonal scented cut flowers and herbs for weddings, workshops and retail.
‘We bought the house 22 years ago but had been renting it for 2 years before that,’ reveals Amanda. ‘Our daughter Lauren was young at the time and having lost out on a house nearby we wanted to buy, when this came up for rent it ticked all the boxes – and luckily, the owner later gave us first refusal to buy. By that time we knew the house well – including what remedial work was needed and how we ideally wanted it to look,’ she adds.
For me, the essence of design is essentially rustic
Working on a budget meant the not-inconsiderable project had to be undertaken in stages, but over the next few years, the roof was completely reslated – replacing tiles that were not in keeping with the age and character of the house – internal walls were strengthened and replastered, while traditional deep skirting boards and architraves were added to ensure every room was completed in authentic period style right down to the last detail.
The Caithness flagstones extending throughout most of the ground floor level had to be lifted and relaid or replaced, and while the Claydens inherited the somewhat-worn powder blue oil-fired kitchen Aga as part of the house sale – now reconditioned and changed to a dark gray – the kitchen had to be fitted from scratch with bespoke hand-painted units made by a local joiner, who also fitted out the adjoining utility. ‘The kitchen is a great size and can comfortably accommodate dining furniture – the Aga also makes it a warm and inviting space, so it’s where we spend a lot of time.’
‘For me, the essence of design is essentially rustic,’ she explains. ‘Simple and organic – a contorted branch, hedgerow…nature inspires both my work and surroundings. We did make a few mistakes along the way – the one I regret was laying terracotta floor tiles in the kitchen, as they are more orange than I wanted. On reflection, we should have taken the flags all the way through.’
Most of Hugh and Amanda’s furniture is old and includes family heirlooms and antique or auction buys – quality pieces that have been reupholstered or revamped over the years – mixed with quirkier items like boxes, old bottles, crates, trunks, demijohns and all manner of interesting vintage finds that can be put to decorative use. And candles, Amanda loves natural wax candles, particularly slower-burning church candles, many of which are scented with essential oils – ‘I adore cedar at this time of year,’ she says.
A neutral colour palette – predominantly Farrow & Ball’s French Grey and Old White – gives precedence to the preponderance of natural, earthy elements and accessories. ‘I like to work with the seasons and the house is always changing – if I see something lovely I buy it, I don’t buy to fill a space. If something is old you have to buy it there and then. Hugh now works from home but we use the house very differently: I’m up early in the morning, while Hugh is a night owl. The kitchen is our meeting point for a catch up, but my favourite space is the sitting-room, which has a lovely ambience.’
Amanda initially worked in the retail sector with the idea of perhaps opening a shop one day, but was working on art installations when the Claydens were given the opportunity to buy a one-acre field adjacent to their home, a move that enabled Amanda to embark on her organic garden business growing key flowers for the year ahead – anemones, ranuncula, tulips, peonies, roses and dahlias. ‘By October I’ve had enough of flowers,’ she says. ‘I then go into foliage foraging mode for Christmas, gathering lichen branches, ivy, myrtle, mimosa, bark, scented rosemary and pine, juniper, eucalyptus…but not holly, it’s too sore on my hands.’
Winter workshops held in the old stone-built former barn next to the house switch from cut flowers to making decorative seasonal wreaths, Christmas table centerpieces and mantel arrangements. ‘Often I’m still out delivering until Christmas Eve. Foliage is a quick and easy way to fill spaces and fill a home with fragrance.’
This house has given Hugh and I everything we ever wanted.
‘I love Christmas and don’t get fazed by it. Lauren now lives in Newcastle but comes home for a chilled-out family day. We’re quite traditional – the Aga cooks the turkey, decorating the tree is Lauren’s domain and the antique table is dressed with grey linen and our wedding silver cutlery.’
Green Pea Studio has since produced an offshoot in Twine, a retail unit in nearby Kippen she runs jointly with interior designer Gill King, one of Amanda’s earliest clients. ‘We just clicked and work very well together sourcing stylish, rustic and contemporary home accessories, many of which we source in France. At home I’m quite a Plain Jane but do like a little bit of French jush.’
‘This house has given Hugh and I everything we ever wanted,’ she reflects. ‘We have put down roots and been able to create a country home and business working in harmony with nature…truly we are living the dream.’
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